Everyone blames Oedipus
for the terrible things
that happened to his family,
but it started before him.
When his daddy, Laius,
was chased out of Thebes
he took refuge with Pelops,
a welcoming king.
He repaid his hospitality
by kidnapping his son
and raping him,
a no-no then, as well as now.
There were no cops or law courts
in ancient times,
and Laius might have gotten away with it,
but Apollo cursed him for his crimes
and in those days
it wasn’t dirty words.
The Oracle of Delphi,
was a thriving retail establishment
known far and wide
for the fine art of prophecy
for a reasonable fee,
albeit frequently obscure,
which sometimes led to confusion,
followed by disaster.
The Oracle warned Laius if he had a son
he would kill his father
and marry his mother,
a delicate way for the Oracle
to describe hot sex, begetting, death.
Laius was already suspected
of not being the brightest of mortals
and married princess Jocasta
what was in store for her, if…
But he refrained from sex,
until he got drunk one night,
forgot the prophecy,
and visited Jocasta
with the usual result,
before pregnancy prevention
avoided unwanted offspring.
They didn’t have orphanages,
so they couldn’t leave the kid on a doorstep
in a comfy basket.
Instead they exposed him on a mountain
where it was expected he would die,
thus avoiding the curse.
But a shepherd wandered by,
found the squalling brat,
couldn’t afford to keep him
and dumped him on the king and queen of Corinth,
kind recipients for some reason,
who raised Oedipus to young manhood.
One night at a banquet
a drunken gent told Oedipus
that the king and queen weren’t his parents.
He went to the Oracle of Delphi,
still a booming business,
to find out who his parents were,
if they weren’t the Corinth royals.
In the usual misleading way
the Oracle told him not to go home,
or he would kill dad, bed mom.
Being a good son
and not wanting to go home and…
He went toward Thebes
to avoid you know what.
He met an arrogant stranger
who was traveling to Delphi,
who turned out to be Laius
and in one of the earliest road rage incidents
they argued, fought and Oedipus killed him,
fulfilling the first part of the prophecy.
In those days, as well as gods,
there were monsters, like the Sphinx,
with the head and breasts of a woman,
the body of a lion,
wings of a bird and a snake’s tail.
The Sphinx, another historical bully,
hulked before the gates of Thebes
and killed anyone coming or going
who couldn’t answer the riddle:
What walks on four legs in the morning,
two in the afternoon, three at night?
Oedipus must have been pretty smart
because he answered the riddle, ‘Man’
and vanquished the Sphinx.
A good thing too, or a lot more
dumb Thebans would have bit the dust.
He was proclaimed King of Thebes
married Queen Jocasta, yes, mommy,
and they had four children.
Just in case you like Greek names,
Eteocles, Polyneices, Antigone and Ismene.
So things were pretty good for Oedipus
for a couple of years,
then plague swept Thebes
Oedipus sent for Tiresias,
the blind prophet,
who reluctantly revealed
that Oedy killed Dad and _____ Ma.
Poor Jocasta, who hadn’t done anything wrong,
hanged herself in shame.
Oedipus blinded himself,
then renounced the throne.
To this day Thebans still can’t figure out
why he didn’t kill himself,
or go somewhere far away
where they never heard of him.
Shrug. The victims of curses
often do peculiar things.
Eteocles and Polyneices
disputed the rulership,
then agreed to alternate,
(We didn’t need the Oracle
to know it would end badly)
and Eteocles ruled first.
When it was time to give up the throne
Eteocles refused, banished Polyneices
who came back with an army
and besieged Thebes.
They fought in single combat,
killed each other, and Creon,
brother of Jocasta, became king.
He issued a proclamation:
Eteocles, defender of the city,
would get honorable burial rites.
Polyneices would be exposed to the wild beasts,
maybe on the same mountain
where baby Oedipus once hung out.
Antigone asked Creon
for burial rites for her brother
according to law and custom.
Antigone said it was her duty
to give her brother burial rites.
Again Creon refused,.
this time proclaiming death
to anyone giving Polyneices
Antigone left defiantly
claiming it was her duty to the Gods
to give her brother burial rites.
Creon’s son, Haemon,
betrothed to Antigone,
tried to intercede
knowing how stubborn they both were,
but Creon refused to listen.
Antigone gave Polyneices
Creon found out,
had her buried alive,
Haemon killed himself,
Ismene went mad,
ending the House of Laius.
The moral is…?