Oedipus with his daughter Antigone.

For information about the series of plays, see The Oedipus Cycle.

Oedipus was the king of Thebes and the protagonist in Oedipus Rex, and he also prominently appears in its sequels.


The mythical legend of Oedipus involves his fulfillment of a prophecy he received that foretold that Oedipus would kill his father and sleep with his mother.

Oedipus RexEdit

Oedipus was born to Laius and Iocasta. Laius had received a prophecy stating that any son he bore would kill him. When Iocasta bore their son, Laius cuffed his ankles together to prevent him from crawling, and Iocasta gave the baby to a shepherd to leave in the mountains to die. However, the shepherd could not bare to leave him to die, so he passed it on to another shepherd, who subsequently passed it on to another shepherd.

Oedipus was eventually adopted by Polybus and Merope, the king and queen of Corinth who were childless. As Oedipus grew up, he believed Polybus and Merope to be his real parents. However, one day at a banquet a drunkard let out that Oedipus was actually adopted. Thus, Oedipus consulted with the same oracle at Delphi Laius talked to to confirm this statement; the oracle asserted it was.

Fearing he would fulfill the prophecy, Oedipus decided to leave Corinth forever to prevent such a murder and act. He traveled to Thebes as it was near Delphi, but on his way he encountered a man on a chariot, who was actually his father Laius. However, after a brief altercation Oedipus murders his father, unwittingly fulfilling a part of the prophecy. The only witness was a shepherd who escaped.

When Oedipus arrived at Thebes, he was confronted with a Sphinx. The Sphinx asked a riddle to anyone who dared to enter the city, and if they got it wrong they would be eaten. The question Oedipus was asked was: "What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?" Oedipus correctly 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." Astounded, the Sphinx dies.

As Oedipus enters Thebes the Thebans crown Oedipus as their king and betroth him to Iocasta; Oedipus was unaware she was his mother. Together they bore four children: Antigone, Ismene, Polyneices, and Eteocles.

Years later, a plague occurs in Thebes, brought on by religious pollution from the murder of Laius. Oedipus consults with Teiresias, who informs him that Oedipus was the murderer himself. After interrogating a messenger, Oedipus realizes that the man he killed years ago at the crossroads was Laius. In addition, the messenger reveals that Oedipus was adopted. Oedipus then realizes that he indeed killed his father, and he indeed sleep with his mother, Iocasta.

Ashamed and devastated at his actions, Oedipus gouges his eyes out using Iocasta's brooch; Iocasta hanged herself. Afterwards, Oedipus exiles himself from Thebes.

Oedipus at ColonusEdit

Several years later, Oedipus comes to the land of Colonus along with his daughter Antigone. There he meets Theseus, the king of Athens who welcomes Oedipus and grants him citizenship and his utmost loyalty.

Oedipus's son Polyneices comes to beg Oedipus to help him oust Eteocles, who has refused to relinquish his crown. However, Oedipus harshly reprimands Polyneices for mistreating and betraying him, and he curses both of his sons to die in battle with each other.

A lightning strike strikes shortly after, and Oedipus realizes it's a omen of his impending death. An oracle stated that wherever Oedipus was buried, the city grounds of which it was at would be granted eternal peace and protection; thus, Oedipus offered to be buried at the grounds of Athens. After his death, Theseus vows to keep his burial site unknown until Oedipus's next heir comes along.

Character TraitsEdit

Oedipus began as a confident and swift ruler. He cared magnificently for his subjects, as evident by his quick response to the plague. Oedipus had every right to pride himself, as he was the only one who was able to answer the Sphinx's riddle. As king, Oedipus took great care in being a fair ruler, but at times he would threaten others who he thought was conspiring against him. Sometimes, his superiority complex could lead to his temper, as he murdered Laius at the crossroads without reasonable control.

Oedipus was not completely unreasonable, however. He never outright denied the prophecy from the Delphic oracle, but instead he learned to accept it as it became clearer and clearer that it was true. Oedipus kept on interrogating the messenger about his origins, showing his desire for knowledge, and showing that his pride wasn't overbearing. By the time Oedipus came to terms with the prophecy, he was greatly humbled and made sure to assess the problem as well as possible.

Oedipus exiled himself from Thebes, showing his care for others by not allowing him to shame them. During his last few days, Oedipus stressed the importance of loyalty and honor. As he was a dying and blind man, Oedipus sought for tranquility, and when Polyneices desired his help against Eteocles, Oedipus refused and cursed him. As it was shown moments before he died, Oedipus rewarded those who were truly good at heart; he offered his body's burial site to Athens for Theseus, whom he trusted and admired greatly.

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