The Story of Oedipus Rex

The People of Thebes gathered at the palace. The steps were crowded by the petitioners. They were delegates. When Oedipus appeared and asked the priest, the eldest of all there, to speak what they wanted from the king. The priest described that the Thebans were suffering from the plague. They were dying. Their houses were being destroyed.


Among the mortals, king Oedipus was the wisest man. He had answered the riddle of the Sphinx and saved Thebes before it could be destroyed. They believed that he could save them again from the plague by finding some ways. Oedipus answered them that he had sent Creon to Delphi to visit Apollo for instruction of getting rid of the plague. Creon entered and reported that the god commanded them to expel an old defilement from the land of Thebes. The murderer of king Laius was to be exiled or executed. The murder had taken place before Oedipus answered the Sphinx and became the king. They were obstacle in further investigation of the murder by the trouble created by the riddle of the Sphinx. The priest and other suppliants were convinced by Oedipus that he would take right action to search the murderer and do whatever would be right for the welfare of the citizens.

Oedipus declared that the old defilement must be driven out of the house where he was being sheltered. He must be discovered by the citizen whoever was giving him shelter. He also cursed him by praying the god that the man's life be consumed in evil and wretchedness. He determined that the case of the murder of King Laius would be further investigated by him in his own interest. Choragos suggested him to summon the skilled Teiresias, the prophet, to discover the murderer. The blind seer Teiresias entered being led by a page. Oedipus urged him to help in the time of distress. Teiresias refused to tell the truth because he believed that the truth would be more dreadful than the present condition of the suffering. Oedipus was enraged by the words, refusal and the behavior of the prophet. He accused the prophet of killing the king with his own hands. Then, Teiresias spoke in anger that Oedipus himself was the pollution of the country. Oedipus charged him with the count of murder of king Laius with the help of Creon. They were making a plot against the kingship and against the kingdom. Oedipus reasoned that Teiresias was not skillful prophet; he had no skill of prophecy; otherwise he would have himself helped the Thebans by answering the riddle of the Sphinx. Teiresias responded him that Oedipus, with both his eyes, was blind. He could not see the wretchedness of his life. He didn't know in whose house he lived, with whom lived and who were his father and mother. He said that he would learn the echo of Cithaeron (Kithairon) and of bridal-descent of his. Oedipus commanded him to leave the place. He did not like to hear any more of the babbling. Before departure, Teiresias said that Oedipus would become a blind man, though he had now his eyes. He would become a penniless man who was now rich. He would go tapping the strange earth with his staff. To the children with whom he lived now he would be brother and father- the very same; to her who bore him, son and husband- the very same. He asked Oedipus to think over his statements, and if he would find any error, he could say that the prophet had no skill in prophecy.

There was a hot argument between Oedipus and Creon later in the palace. Oedipus charged him for the conspiracy, but Creon reasoned out that he had never intended to be the King. Jocasta (lokasta) interrupted their dispute and convinced that Creon was telling the truth. The king could believe on him without doubt. When Creon left the place. Oedipus and Jocasta both debated on the question of soothsayers. She said that an oracle was reported to Laius once that his doom would be death at the hands of his own son, born of his flesh and of hers. The king Laius was killed at a place where three highways met. The baby with whom there was fear of death was already left on the hills of Cithaeron (Kithairon) where it was supposed to be dead. Oedipus recollected the dim memory of an event in which he was himself involved. He said that his father was Polybus of Corinth and mother was Merope. A drunken man declared that Oedipus was not a child of the king and queen. Though his parents (foster-parents) convinced him that they were really his father and mother, he had still some doubt. He went to the shrine of Apollo, where he heard a dreadful oracle that he would lie with his own mother, and beget children and that he would be the murderer of his father. With fear he left Corinth forever. One day, while he was wandering, he came to a place where three highways met. There he encountered with an old man on a chariot. There was a herald, too. As the herald drove Oedipus off the road, he was quite angry. There was a fight. Oedipus killed them. Then, he came to Thebes, where he answered the Sphinx and freed the city from its danger. He became king. The queen told her that a shepherd had escaped from a fight. He came back to the country. When he saw Oedipus enthroned in the place of the old king, he requested to send him away to the border where only shepherd used to go. His wish was granted. Oedipus intended to meet the shepherd to know whether there was one murderer or many. The shepherd had said that there were many. Oedipus wanted to get to the truth. Oedipus was quite disturbed.

Jocasta prayed to the god to have mercy on the King, to give him peace of mind. Meanwhile, a messenger from Corinth came with a news that King Polybus was dead. He was dead of sickness. Oedipus was assured that the oracle proved wrong in this case. Oedipus was still worried of his mother, Merope who was still alive. With a good meaning, the messenger declared the truth that King Polybus and Queen Merope were not his parents. The messenger had himself given the baby Oedipus to them from his own hand. He had taken the baby from the shepherd of King Laius. The baby's feet were pinned with a skewer. Oedipus said that the mark of the wound was still there on his feet. As the parental identity was not still cleared, he wished to meet the shepherd. The shepherd was brought to the palace. He was questioned, and being obliged by the King, he declared that it was the King Laius, who had given him the baby to leave on the hills of Cithaeron (Kithairon). The queen had herself given it to him because of the cursed oracle. When the truth is discovered, Jocasta makes her suicide. Oedipus blinds himself and asks for exile. He requests Creon to take care of his daughters. He was not worried of the sons because they could manage to live somehow because they were men. Thus, the King, who solved the famous riddle and towered up only to fall into ruin.