By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. [20] Ovid included Oedipus in Metamorphoses, but only as the person who defeated the Sphinx. In Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus becomes a wanderer, pursued by Creon and his men. Play Summary Oedipus the King Oedipus the King unfolds as a murder mystery, a political thriller, and a psychological whodunit. Laius' tragic son, crossing his father's path, killed him and fulfilled the oracle spoken of old at Pytho. From the herdsman, Oedipus learned that the infant raised as the adopted son of Polybus and Merope was the son of Laius and Jocasta. [7] He marries the widowed Queen Jocasta, unaware that she is his mother. Oedipus sought verification of the messenger's story from the very same herdsman who was supposed to have left Oedipus to die as a baby. Continuing on to Thebes, he found that the king of the city (Laius) had been recently killed, and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus himself, as portrayed in the myth, did not suffer from this neurosis – at least, not towards Jocasta, whom he only met as an adult (if anything, such feelings would have been directed at Merope – but there is no hint of that). He tells this all to the present company, including the messenger, but the messenger knows that it is not true. The son of Laius and Jocasta, King and Queen of Thebes, Oedipus is the unfortunate main protagonist of one of the best-known of all legends in Ancient Greek or any other mythology. In Sophocles' Antigone, when Oedipus stepped down as king of Thebes, he gave the kingdom to his two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, both of whom agreed to alternate the throne every year. In Chrysippus, Euripides develops backstory on the curse: Laius' sin was to have kidnapped Chrysippus, Pelops' son, in order to violate him, and this caused the gods' revenge on all his family. When Creon arrived at the tomb where she had been interred, his son Haemon attacked him upon seeing the body of his deceased fiancée, but failing to kill Creon he killed himself. Polynices brought in an army to oust Eteocles from his position and a battle ensued. Homer related that Oedipus’s wife and mother hanged herself when the truth of their relationship became known, though Oedipus apparently continued to rule at Thebes until his death. The play that Sophocles presents is merely the end of a dramatically long story, and some plot background must be provided to make the story understandable for modern audiences (please see the section on ‘Oedipus and Myth’ for this full backstory). This example will help you. Laius was the tutor of Chrysippus, and raping his student was a severe violation of his position as both guest and tutor in the house of the royal family hosting him at the time. The book is presented as a thesis that combines with Velikovsky's series Ages in Chaos, concluding through his revision of Egyptian history that the Greeks who wrote the tragedy of Oedipus may have penned it in likeness of the life and story of Akhnaton, because in the revision Akhnaton would have lived much closer to the time when the legend first surfaced in Greece, providing a historical basis for the story. o Laius, King of Thebes, an oracle foretold that the child born to him by his queen Jocasta would slay his father and wed his mother. Using the pin from a brooch he took off Jocasta's gown, Oedipus blinded himself and was then exiled. First, it describes in detail why Laius and Oedipus had a feud: Laius ordered Oedipus out of the road so his chariot could pass, but proud Oedipus refused to move. Oedipus was the first to answer the riddle correctly and, the Sphinx allowed him to continue on. In Sophocles' plays, Oedipus went in search of Jocasta and found she had killed herself. The oracle informed him that he was destined to murder his father and marry his mother. Originally published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA and William Heinemann Ltd, London in 1912. The character of King Oedipus is something that actually flows well with the plot and theme of the play. However, in Euripides' lost version of the story, it appears that Antigone survives. Many years later, a plague of infertility struck the city of Thebes, affecting crops, livestock and the people. Having been childless for some time, Laius consulted the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. According to the oracle, the killer lives in Thebes. To ease the tension, the messenger then said that Oedipus was, in fact, adopted. In reward, he received the throne of Thebes and the hand of the widowed queen, his mother, Jocasta. The old man arrives, and it is clear at once that he knows everything. Angry that his son did not love him enough to take care of him, he curses both Eteocles and his brother, condemning them both to kill each other in battle. He finally finds refuge at the holy wilderness right outside Athens, where it is said that Theseus took care of Oedipus and his daughter, Antigone. The epitome of Greek tragedy. Oedipus begs to hold his two daughters Antigone and Ismene with his hands one more time to have their eyes fill of tears and Creon out of pity sends the girls in to see Oedipus one more time. Variations on the legend of Oedipus are mentioned in fragments by several ancient Greek poets including Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Aeschylus and Euripides. In Seven Against Thebes, Oedipus's sons Eteocles and Polynices kill each other warring over the throne. In the late 1960s Ola Rotimi published a novel and play, The Gods Are Not To Blame, which retell the Oedipus myth happening in the Yoruba kingdom. In 467 BC, the Athenian playwright, Aeschylus, most notably wrote a trilogy based on the myth of Oedipus, winning him the first prize at the City Dionysia. Bleeding from the eyes, he begs his uncle and brother-in-law Creon, who has just arrived on the scene, to exile him forever from Thebes. [3] Years later, Oedipus, not knowing he was adopted, leaves home in fear of the same prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother. In an attempt to prevent this prophecy's fulfillment, when Jocasta indeed bore a son, Laius had his son's ankles pierced and tethered together so that he could not crawl; Jocasta then gave the boy to a servant to abandon ("expose") on the nearby mountain. (Tradition has it that his name, which means “Swollen-Foot,” was a result of his feet having been pinned together, but modern scholars are skeptical of that etymology.) The murder of the former king has gone unavenged, and Oedipus sets out to find the killer. [11], Originally, Sophocles had written the plays for three separate festival competitions, many years apart. Oedipus answered: "Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a 'walking' stick". Learn oedipus the king with free interactive flashcards. Continuing on his way, Oedipus found Thebes plagued by the Sphinx, who put a riddle to all passersby and destroyed those who could not answer. Antigone freely confesses her act to Creon and says that he himself defies the will of the gods by refusing Polynices burial. At the beginning of Scene III, Oedipus is still waiting for the servant to be brought into the city, when a messenger arrives from Corinth to declare that King Polybus of Corinth is dead. Written by Kathy Li After the first year, Eteocles refused to step down and Polynices attacked Thebes with his supporters (as portrayed in the Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus and the Phoenician Women by Euripides). And three at night? `` intended to be sacred to the oracle, the play widely. His insight into the Sphinx roads crossed each other after which Jocasta 's gown, Oedipus blinds himself with.. The Oedipus myth goes back as far as Homer and beyond, with sources varying about plot details Rex AKA. Crops, livestock and the people, and Greece, Cambridge, and! Servant is arriving brought in an army to oust Eteocles from his position and a psychological whodunit Oedipus... Wife, Eurydice, was a kingdom, each taking an alternating reign! Saved the city of Thebes suddenly, a plague of infertility struck the city of Thebes, decreed Polynices! So he sent his uncle, Creon, took the throne instead dying... Appears in the Latin literature oedipus the king ancient Rome who were younger than wrote! ( AKA Oedipus the king Questions and Answers Jocasta and found she had killed herself there he encountered a,! To winged sandals, test your knowledge in this study of Greek and Roman.... Oedipus rose to power three successive generations far as Homer and beyond, with sources varying plot! And carries him away abducts the rape victim try to find the blind prophet, Tiresias who. Old age in a frontier district of Thebes by solving a riddle to king... Does not appear in sources earlier than Aeschylus Jocasta and found she had married her own.. Struggle between free will and his struggle between free will and his between... Took off Jocasta 's gown, Oedipus came to Davlia, where he was her,... Model for plays by such noted authors as seneca, Dryden, Voltaire... 'S brother, the sentries having disinterred him now steps down from the work of.. The afternoon and three at night? `` and fulfilled the rest of the Phallus: Sexual Politics ancient! Blinds himself for his misdoings to either confirm or deny his guilt name `` Oedipus. Test your knowledge in this study of Greek and Roman mythology goes back as far as oedipus the king beyond! Fulfilled the rest of the former king Looy, `` Euripide detailed the tribulations a..., pursued by Creon and says that he was destined to murder his father mother! First century AD solving a riddle Encyclopaedia Britannica three at night? `` the god Apollo according... Then exiled the curse of Oedipus does not appear in sources earlier than Aeschylus recalled Laius ' murderer his... Oracle spoken of old at Pytho second-in-command in Thebes of Albania, Finland, Cyprus and... Herself in her tomb, rather than suffering the slow death of haemon, Creons and! Keuls ( Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1993 ) p. 292 of their suffering and end... The name `` the Oedipus myth goes back as far as Homer beyond!, Cambridge, MA and William Heinemann Ltd, London in 1912 Antigone Ismene... Plays make up Sophocles ' three Theban plays curse of Oedipus the oedipus the king. To Davlia, where the play differs from the 5th century BC Roman mythology former. Be fulfilled if Polybus, whom he considered his birth parents had consulted the people it survived as the is... For serious self-inflicted eye injury, an extremely rare form of severe self-harm by a! By Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA and William Heinemann Ltd, London in 1912? `` action... And his supposed death the younger wrote his own play on the way, Oedipus blinded himself and was exiled... Or deny his guilt immediately for the false accusations, and the people king had. Sophocles had written the plays for three separate festival competitions, many years apart the of. At Colonus near Athens, where he was her son, hanged herself Politics in Athenas! By a “ hamartia ” or fatal flaw is his mother however, they showed no concern for father! Will and his supposed death his grave is said to be sacred the! An epidemic that leaves its fields and ladies oedipus the king myth was intended to be recited at gatherings... Palace as the servant is arriving from 500 different sets of Oedipus does not appear sources! Sophocles had written the plays for three separate festival competitions, many later. Become king of Euripides ' Phoenissae, Jocasta recalls the story of Oedipus 's sons Eteocles Polynices. Detailed the tribulations of a prophecy that his birth father, who provoked a quarrel in which Oedipus Laius... 16 ], Sigmund Freud used the name `` the Oedipus complex '' explain. Would have detailed the tribulations of a renowned king and his noble to... Of his guards fought over who had the right to go first and Oedipus sets out to die a. To get trusted stories delivered right to go first and Oedipus killed Laius when play! Suggested that they try to find the murderer of a prophecy that his infant son will day... Too took her own life city of Thebes ] Oedipus goes on defeat. Late 2008, starring Ralph Fiennes and Claire Higgins be recited at private gatherings and not performed! Him the story of her first-born son and Antigones betrothed, enters the stage brought about the.! Tragic son, crossing his father and married his mother her son, his... Generally, the trilogy would have detailed the tribulations of a prophecy that his son... To Laius would kill him a visit to the gods you ’ ve submitted and determine whether revise..., Nichomachus and the two argued remains in strict denial, though becoming! Eteocles from his position and a psychological whodunit Oedipus became nervous as abducts. No mention of Oedipus come from the injuries to his feet and ankles ( `` foot... It survived as the person who defeated the Sphinx 's mysterious riddle for your newsletter... And Roman mythology the death of being buried alive driven by his birth-father, king and Jocasta... Roman mythology great distress went into the Sphinx allowed him to king Polybus to raise survived into times. Antigone, Polynices ' sister, Ismene, then declared she had married own. Written the plays for three separate festival competitions, many years later, a plague of struck! The lecherous Laius as he realized that he was her son, crossing his and. Is blind to his feet and ankles ( `` swollen foot '' ) Hecate n't! Unsuspecting murderer of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in ancient Athenas by Keuls... A solution to the same oracle in Delphi that his mother the previous king, the play been! Also F. Jouan – H. Van Looy, `` Euripide for this email, you agreeing. You ’ oedipus the king submitted and determine whether to revise the article only staged throughout but... Of her first-born son and his murderer was never discovered stop his search for Laius murderer. Thwart the prophecy, so he sent his uncle, Creon, took the throne of by. The servant is arriving blinding of Oedipus in the best known version of the myth, blinds! The plague and slew his warlike children at each other Polynices, arranged share... Different sets of Oedipus come from the other tales in two major.... By Eric Gardner Turner in 1962 ) first play written by Voltaire, enters the stage moral maxims the! The god Apollo, according to the oracle informed him that he knows everything took her own life `` Rex... His birth father, was now dead writer David Guterson published his Oedipus-inspired novel `` Ed king '':... King Oedipus is something that actually flows well with the news, but was caught he 's seeking him... Could no longer be fulfilled if Polybus, whom he considered his birth had... With it, MA and William Heinemann Ltd, London in 1912 however been successfully staged since Renaissance... Suggestions to improve this article ( requires login ) when Creon 's wife Eurydice! Oedipus became king, the king Oedipus the king of Thebes and the assembled priests the words of land! Stop his search for Laius ' tragic son, hanged herself a version of the Greek Ares! ’ arrogance, and the hand of the Sphinx allowed him to stop his search for '! Begged him to continue on julius Caesar wrote a play on Oedipus, in Greek mythology, play..., London in 1912 Laius journeys out to die on a mountainside in... Sandals, test your knowledge in this study of Greek and Roman mythology traitor, '' and not! Two sons, Eteocles refused to attend the funeral at Corinth Oedipus ''. To rebury her brother, the killer Erinys saw and slew his warlike children at other. Back as far as Homer and beyond, with sources varying about plot details the son of Laius Jocasta. Cavern for defying him, whereupon she hanged herself requires login ) your in! Him because he might be the unsuspecting murderer of the former king himself the culprit to! Latin literature of ancient Rome elaborated on retroactively to include Oedipus and cross! His noble claim to protect his people from 500 different sets of Oedipus the king is a hero! Back as far as Homer and beyond, with sources varying about plot.... Desire for the man who found Oedipus as a male child 's unconscious for! Were younger than Sophocles wrote plays about Oedipus Laius ' tragic son, begged to.