Would knowing the future, as Oedipus does, cause us to act or behave any differently? The ancient scribe Sophocles wrote "Oedipus the King" between B. These festivals were major civic occasions, with attendance expected of all noted writers. In his play Sophocles goes out of his way to present Oedipus as an extremely capable, beloved ruler. It should be noted that Sophocles never suggests that Oedipus has brought his destiny on himself by any "ungodly pride" hubris or "tragic flaw" hamartia , common themes in Greek tragedies.
Sophocles also makes a special effort to explain that Oedipus killed King Laius in self-defense, and a major theme in the tragic play is whether one can believe in oracles and seers. The title of the play, from which is derived the story, is often given in its Latin translation "Oedipus Rex" , rather than in its original Greek "Oedipus Tyranneus" , since the Greek term for king is the English "tyrant", which means a monarch who rules without the consent of the people.
Laius and his wife Jocasta or Iocasta were King and Queen of Thebes, a prosperous and famous city state in ancient Greece. King Laius, as many people did those days, consulted Apollo's revered oracle of Delphi for advice and to find out what the future held for him. What the oracle announced shocked the royal couple -- The Delphic oracle said that the King's son would grow up and kill him!
To make matters worse, it was prophesized that the son would marry his mother and produce offspring by her. King Laius and Queen Jocasta were understandably aghast!
A short time later Queen Jocasta became pregnant and gave birth to a darling little baby boy. Remembering with fear the oracle of Delphi's words, the royal couple of Thebes had the infant's feet pierced and tied together -- that's the meaning of the name Oedipus, "swollen feet". It must have been introduced to explain the hero's name. Hold everything, I stand corrected. Here is an informative note sent by reader Adam Johnston on July 1, Many thanks to Adam for taking time to bring this to my attention.
Laius and Jocasta knew that their baby son had to be destroyed, but they didn't have the heart to do so themselves. They instructed their most trusted slave to expose the hapless baby on Mount Cithaeron, a wild and beast-filled place where the infant surely would perish. In those days, it was usual to leave an unwanted or defective baby in the wilderness. However, the slave glanced down at the innocent child and took pity on it.
Knowing that the royal couple of the nearby city state of Corinth was childless, and desperately desired a son, the slave left the crying infant, its feet still pierced and bound by a pin, in a place sure to be found.
Sure enough, a kindly shepherd discovered the baby and brought the foundling for adoption to King Polibus and Queen Merope of Corinth. Oedipus was raised as a son by Polibus and Merope and grew to be a handsome, clever and brave young man, even though he walked with a slight limp from the wounds he suffered when his real parents pierced his feet.
One day, while playing with his adolescent friends, he got into an argument with them. They insisted, as mean children sometimes do, that he was a fake son, and not the real child of Polibus and Merope.
When Oedipus confronted his "parents" about this, they denied that he was adopted and swore that he was their legitimate child. They told Oedipus to forget what the mean kids had said, but now he was intrigued.
To discover the truth for himself, Oedipus journeyed to Delphi and asked of the oracle, "Who am I? Confused and devastated, the young man started to head back home. Nearing the crossroad, Oedipus decided never to return to Corinth and go to Thebes instead. He dearly loved his parents and thought that by never returning home he would keep them safe and thus overcome his Fate according to Apollo's oracle. As he was approaching the crossroad between Delphi, Thebes and Corinth, distraught and deep in thought, Oedipus came upon an old man in a chariot, escorted by a few attendants.
It was a narrow passage between two rocks and hard to navigate safely. The crabby old man in the chariot shouted: Get off this road! Adding further injury, the rude, regal old man ran over the young man's sore foot with his chariot wheel. Oedipus angrily grabbed the staff from his tormentor's hands and hit him on the head, killing the old man. The same fate befell the attendants, who tried to attack and arrest Oedipus - he valiantly fought and killed them too, save for one servant, who ran away in panic when the battle broke out.
Hey, he just wanted to cross the narrow passage, that's all! Besides, Oedipus was simply defending himself, and he got there first! Little did Oedipus suspect that the old man he had just slain was his own father, and that the first part of the oracle's prophecy had come true No sooner had he disposed of these bad people, Oedipus came face to face with the Sphinx, sitting on her rock at the crossroad.
This creature, a winged lion with the head of a woman, had taken up residence outside of the city of Thebes and was terrorizing the populace. Anybody who passed by the monster was asked this riddle by her: Who in the morning walks on four legs, at midday on two, and in the evening on three?
Her rock and lair was surrounded with a pile of human bones, for the Sphinx ate those who could not answer the riddle. Yet Oedipus was wise and not about to be devoured by a foul-smelling monster.
He replied that the answer is Man: Crawling on all fours as a baby; walking on two legs as an adult; and as an old man, leaning on a cane. The riddle was solved and the Sphinx had to throw herself down from the cliff to her doom. The road to Thebes was now free of terror. I've often wondered why the good people of Thebes didn't just shoot the Sphinx with their arrows, killing her, but I guess that would have ruined a good story Also, why on earth did she not fly away, rather than dropping like a stone to the bottom of the cliff?
Oh, well, I suppose the Sphinx had some serious issues Having rid the city of Thebes from this monster with her ridiculous riddle, brave Oedipus was welcomed as a hero by the people Still, you have to wonder at their intelligence, not being able to figure out the riddle long before Oedipus did The citizens informed him that their king, Laius, just recently was killed in a highway robbery on his way to Delphi, where he had traveled to ask the oracle how best to get rid of the Sphinx.
With the death of Laius the Theban throne was left conveniently empty, and the widowed queen Jocasta was still very attractive. The young stranger seemed to be of noble birth, was obviously quite intelligent and probably would make a good king, thought the people of Thebes. The grateful citizens offered Oedipus the throne together with the queen Jocasta, who was not reluctant to marry this young handsome hero.
For years Oedipus and Jocasta ruled wisely and lived happily, and their marriage produced four children: All was well, till, many years later, a horrific plague suddenly struck the city of Thebes, decimating the populace. Plants, animals, and people were all dying. A huge crowd of people came to the king's palace to beg Oedipus do something and help Thebes, just as he had when he slew the Sphinx. After all, this was why he had been chosen as their king, to save them in times of crisis.
Oedipus was a decent ruler who cared deeply for his people. Unsure of what to do, he sent Creon, brother of Jocosta, to ask the oracle of Delphi as to the cause of the plague, and how to eliminate it.
Oedipus told the crowd that Creon was late returning, but as soon as he got back, Oedipus promised to do whatever the oracle said. Just then, Creon arrived. Since he bore good news, he was wearing laurel leaves with berries around his head. Announcing "All's well that ends well", Creon said that Apollo's oracle claimed that the killer of Laius must be found and banished, and then the plague of Thebes would end.
Apollo himself had promised that a diligent investigation would reveal the murderer. Oedipus was quite shocked at such negligence, not yet realizing that it was he who unwittingly had slain king Laius, his own father. Now he is a very old man, you know When you came to the city, he abruptly left for his hut in the mountains and has never since returned.
Oedipus proceeded to put a formal curse on the murderer of the old king, whoever he was. No citizen anywhere was allowed to give him shelter, food or hospitality.
Ironically, Oedipus assured the people that he would do everything within his powers to avenge the death of the old king, just as if the late king were his own father. Further, whoever came forward with information about the murder of Laius would be richly rewarded, and if the killer himself confessed, he would not be punished beyond having to leave the city permanently.
On the other hand, if anyone concealed the killer, Oedipus said that he would be cursed and punished. Next, Oedipus decided to consult the famous blind prophet, Teiresias, in hope to find out the divine truth. The other months she remained with her mother. During the time Persephone was in Hades, Demeter refused to let anything grow, plants and crops died and winter began. When Persephone rejoined her mother three months later springtime returned and earth came back to life.
This myth is a symbol of the budding and dying of nature. In the Eleusinian mysteries, this happening was celebrated in honor of Demeter and Persephone, who was known in this cult as Kore, or daughter.
Meaning of name - "She who destroys the light". WHEN Jupiter and his brothers had defeated the Titans and banished them to Tartarus, a new enemy rose up against the gods.
They were the giants Typhon, Briareus, Enceladus, and others. Some of them had a hundred arms, others breathed out fire. They were finally subdued and buried alive under Mount AEtna, where they still sometimes struggle to get loose, and shake the whole island with earthquakes.
Their breath comes up through the mountain, and is what men call the eruption of the volcano. The fall of these monsters shook the earth, so that Pluto Hades was alarmed, and feared that his kingdom would be laid open to the light of day. Under this apprehension, he mounted his chariot, drawn by black horses, and took a circuit of inspection to satisfy himself of the extent of the damage.
While he was thus engaged, Venus Aphrodite , who was sitting on Mount Eryx playing with her boy Cupid, espied him, and said, "My son, take your darts with which you conquer all, even Jove himself, and send one into the breast of yonder dark monarch, who rules the realm of Tartarus. Why should he alone escape? Seize the opportunity to extend your empire and mine. Do you not see that even in heaven some despise our power? Minerva Athena the wise, and Diana Artemis the huntress, defy us; and there is that daughter of Ceres Demeter , who threatens to follow their example.
Now do you, if you have any regard for your own interest or mine, join these two in one. The boy unbound his quiver, and selected his sharpest and truest arrow; then straining the bow against his knee, he attached the string, and, having made ready, shot the arrow with its barbed point right into the heart of Pluto Hades.
In the vale of Enna there is a lake embowered in woods, which screen it from the fervid rays of the sun, while the moist ground is covered with flowers, and Spring reigns perpetual. Here Proserpine was playing with her companions, gathering lilies and violets, and filling her basket and her apron with them, when Pluto saw her, loved her, and carried her off.
She screamed for help to her mother and companions; and when in her fright she dropped the corners of her apron and let the flowers fall, childlike she felt the loss of them as an addition to her grief. The ravisher urged on his steeds, calling them each by name, and throwing loose over their heads and necks his iron-coloured reins. When he reached the River Cyane Styx , and it opposed his passage, he struck the river-bank with his trident, and the earth opened and gave him a passage to Tartarus.
Ceres sought her daughter all the world over. Bright-haired Aurora Eos , when she came forth in the morning, and Hesperus Helios when he led out the stars in the evening, found her still busy in the search.
But it was all unavailing. At length, weary and sad, she sat down upon a stone, and continued sitting nine days and nights, in the open air, under the sunlight and moonlight and falling showers. It was where now stands the city of Eleusis, then the home of an old man named Celeus.
He was out on the field, gathering acorns and blackberries, and sticks for his fire. His little girl was driving home their two goats, and as she passed the goddess, who appeared in the guise of an old woman, she said to her, "Mother,"- and the name was sweet to the ears of Ceres,- "why do you sit here alone upon the rocks? She declined, and he urged her. As she spoke, tears- or something like tears, for the gods never weep- fell down her cheeks upon her bosom.
The compassionate old man and his child wept with her. Then said he, "Come with us, and despise not our humble roof; so may your daughter be restored to you in safety.
As they walked he told her that his only son, a little boy, lay very sick, feverish, and sleepless. She stooped and gathered some poppies.
As they entered the cottage, they found all in great distress, for the boy seemed past hope of recovery. Metanira, his mother, received her kindly, and the goddess stooped and kissed the lips of the sick child. Instantly the paleness left his face, and healthy vigour returned to his body. The whole family were delighted- that is, the father, mother, and little girl, for they were all; they had no servants.
They spread the table, and put upon it curds and cream, apples, and honey in the comb. While they ate, Ceres mingled poppy juice in the milk of the boy. When night came and all was still, she arose, and taking the sleeping boy, moulded his limbs with her hands, and uttered over him three times a solemn charm, then went and laid him in the ashes. His mother, who had been watching what her guest was doing, sprang forward with a cry and snatched the child from the fire. Then Ceres assumed her own form, and a divine splendour shone all around.
While they were overcome with astonishment, she said, "Mother, you have been cruel in your fondness to your son. I would have made him immortal, but you have frustrated my attempt. Nevertheless, he shall be great and useful. He shall teach men the use of the plough, and the rewards which labour can win from the cultivated soil. Ceres continued her search for her daughter, passing from land to land, and across seas and rivers, till at length she returned to Sicily, whence she at first set out, and stood by the banks of the River Cyane, where Pluto made himself a passage with his prize to his own dominions.
The river nymph would have told the goddess all she had witnessed, but dared not, for fear of Pluto; so she only ventured to take up the girdle which Proserpine had dropped in her flight, and waft it to the feet of the mother. Ceres, seeing this, was no longer in doubt of her loss, but she did not yet know the cause, and laid the blame on the innocent land.
Seeing this, the fountain Arethusa interceded for the land. I can tell you of her fate, for I have seen her. This is not my native country; I came hither from Elis. I was a woodland nymph, and delighted in the chase.
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