Myths and Folklore Wiki
Myths and Folklore Wiki

Oedipus answers the Sphinx's riddle

Oedipus, also spelt Œdipus, was the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Boeotia. His birth was overshadowed by a prophecy stating he would kill his father, marry his mother and bring disaster on his city and family. Laius wished to thwart the prophecy and he fastened the infant Oedipus' feet together with a large pin and left him to die on a mountainside.

The baby was found by shepherds and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope in the city of Corinth. They named him Oedipus, meaning "swollen foot". Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy, but believing he was fated to murder Polybus and marry Merope, he left Corinth.

Heading to Thebes, Oedipus met an older man in a chariot coming the other way on a narrow road. The two quarreled over who should give way, which resulted in Oedipus killing the stranger and continuing on to Thebes. He then found that the king of the city had been recently killed and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus answered the monster's riddle correctly, defeating it and winning the throne of the dead king and the hand in marriage of the king's widow, his mother, Jocasta.

Oedipus and Jocasta had four children; two sons (Eteocles and Polynices) and two daughters (Antigone and Ismene). In his search to determine who killed Laius (and thus end a plague on Thebes), Oedipus discovered it was he who had killed the late king: his father. Jocasta also soon realized that she had married her own son and Laius's murderer, and she hanged herself. Oedipus seized two pins from her dress and blinded himself with them.

Oedipus was driven into exile, accompanied by Antigone and Ismene. After years of wandering, he arrived in Athens, where he found refuge in a grove of trees called Colonus. Oedipus died at Colonus, and the presence of his grave there was said to bring good fortune to Athens.

The legend of Oedipus has been retold in many versions, and was used by Sigmund Freud as the basis of his eponymous Oedipus complex.

Preceded by:
King of Boeotia
Succeeded by
Eteocles and Polynices