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Cabanel Oedipus Separating from Jocasta

Oedipus Separating from Jocasta by Alexandre Cabanel.

In Greek mythology, Jocasta, also known as Jocaste (Ancient Greek: Ἰοκάστη), Epikastê,[1] or Iokastê was a daughter of Menoeceus and Queen consort of Thebes, Greece. She was the wife of Laius, wife and mother of Oedipus by Laius, and both mother and grandmother of Antigone, Eteocles, Polynices and Ismene by Oedipus. She was also sister of Creon and mother-in-law of Haimon.

The tale goes that one day her husband, King Laius of Thebes, consulted an oracle while she was heavily pregnant with Oedipus. The oracle told Laius that the child was destined to kill his father and sleep with his mother. Hence, in an attempt to evade the prophecy, King Laius decided that the child must be brought up to the mountain separating the city of Thebes from Corinth. He bade a servant travel to the top of the mountain to expose the infant, but once there the servant was overcome by pity and unable to abandon the baby. Instead, he passed the infant on to a nearby shepherd, and eventually Oedipus was adopted by Polybus, the king of Corinth, and raised as a prince.

Oedipus thus grew up in Corinth under the assumption that he was the biological son of Polybus and his wife (whose name is Merope according to Sophocles, Periboa according to Appollodorus). However, he began to hear rumors about his actual parentage, so he consulted the Delphic Oracle. Oedipus was informed by the oracle that he was fated to kill his father and to marry his mother. Still thinking that Polybus and the queen were his true parents, Oedipus subsequently fled from Corinth so as to render it impossible for him to commit these sins. During his wandering, Oedipus encountered Laius on the road. After a heated argument regarding right-of-way, Oedipus murdered King Laius, unknowingly fulfilling the first half of the Delphic Oracle's prophecy. Oedipus continued his journey until he reached Thebes and discovered that the city was being terrorized by the sphinx. Oedipus solved the sphinx's famous riddle, and the grateful city elected Oedipus as their new king; Oedipus accepted the throne and married Laius' widowed queen (also Oedipus' mother), Jocasta, thereby fulfilling the second half of the Delphic Oracle's prophecy. Jocasta bore him four children: two girls, Antigone and Ismene, and two boys, Eteocles and Polyneices. When his city was struck by a plague (a punishment for Oedipus' unwitting crimes), Oedipus eventually learned of his patricide and incest. Upon discovering the truth on her own, Jocasta hung herself.[2] Alternatively, Jocasta endured the burden of her situation and continued to live in Thebes. According to this version of the myth, it was only later--after her sons Polyneices and Eteocles murdered one another in a fight for the crown (see Seven Against Thebes)--that she committed suicide by stabbing herself.[3] In both traditions Oedipus is said to have gouged his eyes, but while Sophocles has Oedipus go into exile with his daughter Antigone, Statius has him residing within Thebes' walls during the war between Eteocles and Polynieces.[3]

References

  1. Homer, Odyssey XI.271-290.
  2. Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, 1191-1312.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Statius, Thebaid, Book XI

Sources

  • Seneca, Oedipus 1024-41.
  • Statius, Thebais XI.634-644.
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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Jocasta. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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