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Oedipus

Oedipus, mythical king of Thebes, son of Laius and Jocasta, who, unknowingly, killed his father and married his mother.

When the infant Oedipus was abandoned, he was found by a shepherd who gave him to King Polybus and Queen Merope (or Periboea) of Corinth, who raised him to adulthood.

Later, traveling through his original hometown, Oedipus killed Laius in a roadside argument, not knowing who he was, and went on to marry Jocasta, also not knowing who she was. When he discovered what he had done, Oedipus tore out his own eyes and Jocasta committed suicide by hanging.

When Oedipus stepped down as King of Thebes, he gave the kingdom to his two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, who both agreed to alternate the throne every year. However, they showed no concern for their father, who cursed them for their negligence. After the first year, Eteocles refused to step down and Polynices attacked Thebes with his supporters (the Seven Against Thebes). Both brothers died in the battle. King Creon, who ascended to the throne of Thebes, decreed that Polynices was not to be buried. Antigone, his sister, defied the order, but was caught. Creon decreed that she was to be buried alive, this in spite of her betrothal to his son Haemon. Antigone's sister, Ismene, then declared she had aided Antigone and wanted the same fate. The gods, through the blind prophet Tiresias, expressed their disapproval of Creon's decision, which convinced him to rescind his order, and he went to bury Polynices himself. However, Antigone had already hanged herself rather than be buried alive. When Creon arrived at the tomb where she was to be interred, Haemon attacked him and then killed himself. When Creon's wife, Eurydice, was informed of their death she too took her own life.

This legend inspired Sigmund Freud to come up with the Oedipus complex. It has also inspired several works of art, such as the plays Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, and Stravinsky's opera Oedipus Rex.

See also: Epigonoi



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