Oedipus is a unlucky king of Thebes, the main char
acter of an ancient tale which is literarily important through the times. His parents are Laios and Iokaste. Laios found out of an oracle that he were to be killed by his own son, and to prevent this he stabbed the boy’s feet and then tied them together with an osier and ordered a servant to kill him. The servant brought the child with him to the forest but could not make himself to harm the little one, but left him by a tree.
Soon the child was found by a couple of farmers who were in the service of the king of Korinth, who took care of him and raised him as his own son with the name Oedipus, Club-foot; the foot on the child had become swollen because of the osier. The boy grew up to be the best in all sports, which made all the youths in the same age as him jealous. One of these reminded Oedipus that he was an orphan and not a king’s son at all. His foster-mother ensured him this was just talk, but Oedipus did not settle with her answer but went to the oracle in Delphi in hope to get a better answer about his origin. He did not; but he found out he were to kill his father and marry his mother if he returned home, and appaled Oedipus decided to never return to the court in Korinth, which were the only home he knew about.
On the winding road down from Delphi it happened, though, that he at a crossroads met a carriage in which a noble stranger came riding, followed by an armoured servant. The stranger ordered Oedipus in a rude manner that he should go out of the way, but he answered in the same tone, and the argument ended when Oedipus killed his antagonist and even his servant. He continued his travel and in the end he arrived to Thebes where he found out strange things. The king of Thebes had been beated to death in an unknown matter during a trip, and the area was haunted by a dreadful sphinx, which the goddess Hera had sent there; it asked mysterious questions to people, and those who could not answer its riddles were eaten by it. The Thebans had gone to the oracle in Delphi and found out that the only way to stop it were to answer its riddles correctly, and as soon as this was done the beast’s power would be broken. The one who could do this were promised Thebes’ throne and marriage with the widow-queen Iokaste.
Oedipus decided to try and walked fearless up to the sphinx and heard the riddle:
‘What is it that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon,
and three legs in the evening?’
‘Why, a man, of course.
He crawls on hands and knees as a baby,
walk on two legs as an adult,
and supports himself on a stick in the evening of his days.’
There are different ends to this story, either the sphinx ran its head hard against a mountainside and died, or it flung itself from a cliff and down in the sea.
Oedipus now became king of Thebes and married Iokaste. They got two sons and two daughters, and everything was peaceful and they were happy for a few years. There after a sudden and hard plague broke out in Thebes, and when they asked the oracle, again, about what they should do to stop the plague, they got the answer that the disease would stay as long as king Laios’ murderer stayed in the country. The circumstances around the former king’s death had not been investigated, and Oedipus who were a good and fair ruler soon started a scrupulous investigation. How he finds out the terrible truth is the content of Sofokles’ big drama “Oedipus”, one of the few ancient pieces which itself really can touch a modern audience without preconceived thoughts concerning the history of literature. It ends with Iokaste taking her own life and Oedipus picks out his eyes and leaves the country after it was clear the stranger who were killed on the way were his own father and Iokaste is his mother.
Sofokles have written a drama about Oedipus’ continuous destinys; it is called “Oedipus in Kolonos” and tells us how he led by his daughter Antigone comes to the eumenids’ tempel on Attic ground and there he reaches a desired freedom from the pains of life.
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