Oedipus King of Thebes
Oedipuswas a king in Greek mythology, ruling over the city ofThebes. He was the son of KingLaiusand QueenJocasta. Not knowing, he married his mother and had four children with her,Polynices,Eteocles,Antigone, andIsmene.
It all started when KingLaiusdecided to consult the Oracle atDelphito learn if he and his wife would ever have children. The prophecy given was that any son that was born out of their union would kill them. After a while,Jocastagot pregnant and eventually gave birth to a baby boy. To avoid the prophecy,Laiustold his servants to pierce the baby's ankles, so that he would not be able to crawl; that's how the baby got the nameOedipus, meaning swollen foot.Jocastathen gave the baby to one of their shepherds, telling him to leave the baby in the mountains to die. The shepherd, unable to do this, handed the baby over to another shepherd, who then brought it at the court of King Polybus and Queen Merope ofCorinth.
The royal couple, also childless, decided to adopt the poor baby and raise him as their own. WhenOedipusgrew up, he was told by someone that Polybus and Merope were not his real parents. Deciding to investigate this matter,Oedipusended up inDelphi, to consult the Oracle. There, he was told that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Upon hearing this,Oedipusthought that the prophecy meant Polybus and Merope, and decided not to return toCorinth. Instead, he started walking towards the city ofThebes.
On his way there, he came across KingLaius, his biological father, on a chariot, as he was on his way to the Oracle once again.OedipusandLaius' charioteer started quarreling over who had the right of way. The quarrel ended up withOedipuskilling the charioteer and his father, thus unknowingly fulfilling the first half of his prophecy.
Later, he met a monster calledSphinx, who plagued the region ofThebes, destroying crops and killing travelers who did not answer its questions. TheSphinxaskedOedipusthe same question it asked the rest; what walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three at night? No one had ever answered the question correctly before, and theSphinxhad killed and eaten all of them.Oedipusthought carefully and eventually gave the correct answer; man, who crawls on all fours as a baby; he walks on two legs as an adult; and needs a walking stick when old. TheSphinx, not bearing that its riddle had been answered correctly, killed itself by falling off the rock it was sitting on.
WhenOedipusreachedThebes, he was accepted with honours byCreon,Jocasta's brother and his uncle, who served as a temporary king afterLaius' death.Creonhad said that anyone who would kill theSphinxwould become king and would marryJocasta. Thus, the second part of the prophecy was fulfilled andOedipusrose to the throne ofThebes, marrying his mother.
OedipusandJocastahad four children,Eteocles,Polynices,AntigoneandIsmene. Years later, pestilence was brought upon the city ofThebes, soOedipussentCreonto the Oracle atDelphito get a consultation.Creonlearned that it all happened because the killer ofLaiushad not been taken to justice.Oedipuscursed the killer ofLaius, and asked the prophetTiresiasto find out who the killer was.Tiresiaswas forced to say that it wasOedipuswho killed the former king, and that he also did not know who his true parents were.OedipusandCreonwent into a heated argument, andJocastaintervened and recounted the story of her son and how he had supposedly died.
At that moment, a messenger fromCorinthentered the court and informed everyone that Polybus had died.Oedipuswas initially relieved, thinking Polybus was his real father and that the prophecy had failed to become true, but he said he would not attend the funeral, in order to avoid meeting his mother and maybe causing the second part of the prophecy to materialize. The messenger then explained to him that he was in fact adopted and that Polybus and Merope were not his biological parents.
This was the revelation moment for everyone;Oedipusrealised that he had in fact killed his father years ago, and that he had married his mother.Oedipustried to findJocastawho had fled moments earlier, only to find she hanged herself. He then took a brooch from her gown, and using the pin, he pricked his eyes and blinded himself. He fled the city, guided by his daughterAntigone, and reached the court of KingTheseusofAthens, where they were both welcomed. He died there some time later.
AfterOedipus' death, his sonsPolynicesandEteoclesdecided to share the throne, but whenEteoclesrefused to give the throne when his time was over,PolynicesleftThebesand returned with an army. This caused the events of the story calledSeven Against Thebes, which resulted in both brothers dying on the battlefield.