Thebes and Oedipus: Unveiling Symbolism, Choices, and Relationships

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In Greek mythology, there’s an innumerable amount of Gods, heroes, and monsters. Oedipus – the King of Thebes – was one of the best-known heroes of all the Greek legends. He had dark, wavy hair and resembled what a perfect, attractive human man would look like. His ankles were covered with scars and he was blind. His name signifies the definition “”swollen foot in Greek. Oedipus biological parents were King Laius and Queen Jocasta and his foster parents were King Polybus and Queen Merope.

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Throughout the story, we come across some symbolism hinted subtly. For instance, in the symbol of swollen ankles came from an incident that happened in his childhood; having his feet pinned together on a mountainside to die. The scars on his ankles not only signify the suffering he went through from birth but how he’s been marked for misfortune throughout his life since he was an infant. Another example of symbolism indicated in this legend is the crossroads.

When Oedipus was traveling towards Thebes, he approached a stranger and kills him at a place where 3 roads meet. What Oedipus didn’t know was that the man was his father. In literature, crossroads are a classical symbol of choice; this shows how the small choices we make are like our crossroads in life. Some theories of this symbol in the myth was that the crossroads illustrated the past, present, and future or that the 3 roads symbolize the fact that Oedipus was 3 days old when his parents have abandoned him. All throughout the story, Oedipus shows morally good qualities. When he found out that his prophecy was to grow up to kill his father and marry his mother, he left his home in order to prevent the augury from unmistakably coming true; this demonstrates how Oedipus is altruistic.

When he finds out that King Laius has been murdered, Oedipus searches the whole land to find out who killed the King not knowing he was the murderer himself. When Oedipus finds out that it was he who killed King Laius/his father, he blinded himself because he couldn’t bear to look at himself after knowing the actions he has committed. He tried every way to prevent the prophecy from coming true and never put blame on anyone; he took full responsibility and did all he could to benefit others. Oedipus was considered a hero because Thebes was plagued by a Sphinx who gave riddles to all who passed by and would kill them if not answered correctly. Oedipus came upon the Sphinx and answered the riddle given correctly; the Sphinx got so infuriated that she killed herself. All in all, Oedipus was a hero to Thebes and was crowned King.

In the legend, Oedipus has important relationships with various other mythological characters. One crucial relationship he has would be with Queen Jocasta, his biological mother/his wife. Even when Jocasta found out before him that Oedipus was her son, she expressed her love towards him in order to protect him from knowing the truth. What is learned in this relationship is the bizarre truth having to be concealed from Oedipus because of the love Queen Jocasta has for her son/husband. The relationship between Oedipus and Tiresias (the blind prophet) shows Tiresias telling Oedipus that he is the murderer, but he doesn’t believe Tiresias. The blind prophet tells him that he’s blind to what’s right in front of him and that once he finally accepts the truth, Oedipus himself will be physically blind. What is learned through this relationship is the irony of how Tiresias can see the truth although he’s blind while Oedipus cannot even though he has sight and at the end, when Oedipus finally perceived the truth, he became blind.

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Thebes and Oedipus: Unveiling Symbolism, Choices, and Relationships. (2019, Jan 16). Retrieved from