Greek Mythological Story of How Oedipus Became the King of Thebes
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King Oedipus was the main character in Sophocles’ tragic plays, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. However, before Sophocles wrote about Oedipus, his myth actually already existed. Sophocles merely dramatized a story that had already been part of the people’s existing mythology, but his version was one of the more popular. Because there were so many people who told the story, there are some variations depending on who told it. However, in each of these versions it was considered a tragedy. Here is an overview of the story of King Oedipus:
Son of the King and Queen of Thebes
Oedipus was the son of the King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. After they had been together for some time, the king and queen consulted the Oracle of Delphi as to what could be done about that. The oracle prophesied that any son they had would eventually kill King Laius. Jocasta did give birth to a son, and to prevent the son from killing him, King Laius bound his feet and ankles together so he couldn’t move.
Jocasta eventually abandoned the son to the mountains, thinking that he would perish. Instead, a servant found him and gave the child to a shepherd. Eventually, the homeless child came to Corinth where the king and queen didn’t have children of their own. They raised the homeless child, who became their heir.
Oedipus Finds Out He Was Born of Other Parents
For much of Oedipus’ young life, he didn’t realize that his real parents weren’t the king and queen of Corinth. Years later, Oedipus was told by a drunk man that he was a bastard, meaning that his parentage wasn’t what he thought. In response to this, he visited the same Oracle of Delphi who made the prophesy to his original parents. She told Oedipus that he was destined to marry his mother and kill his father. To avoid this fate, he fled from Corinth and Traveled to Thebes.
Oedipus Kills His Birth Father
During his journey, he came to Davlia, a place where three roads crossed over one another. Here, he met King Laius who was riding in his chariot. The two argued over who had the right of way, and during the argument, the king tried to run Oedipus over with his chariot. To prevent this from happening, he killed King Laius. Thus, that part of the prophesy came true and he didn’t even know. Oedipus had killed his father.
Oedipus Encounters a Sphinx
After killing the king, Oedipus continued his journey. While traveling, he encountered a Sphinx who asked him the same riddle that he had asked everyone who journeyed to Thebes. Answer the riddle correctly, and he would be allowed to continue to Thebes. Answer incorrectly and the Sphinx would eat him.
The Sphinx asked, “”What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?” 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.” This was the correct answer.
Oedipus Becomes King of Thebes
Creon, Queen Jocasta’s brother, made an announcement after the king’s death that anyone who answered the Sphinx’s riddle correctly would become the new king of Thebes. Once he heard that Oedipus answered correctly, he told Oedipus that he was to become the king. Thus, the prophesy had come true in full and Oedipus didn’t even know it. He had just married his mother after he killed his father. However, he was unaware of who his birth parents were so it wasn’t until his life was nearing its end that he understood what had happened.
Categorized in: Greek Mythology
This post was written by Greek Boston