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Oedipus. His childhood. Youth and return to Thebes.

The king of Thebes, the son of Cadma, Polydorus, and his wives Nyuktidy had a son Labdak, who inherited power over Thebes. Labdak's son and successor was Lai. One day, Lai visited the king Pelops and stayed with him for a long time in Pis. With black ingratitude, Lai repaid Pelops for his hospitality. Laius kidnapped the young son of Pelops, Chrysippus, and took him to his home in Thebes. The angry and saddened father cursed Lai, and in his curse wished that the gods would punish the abductor of his son by destroying his own son. Thus Chrysippus' father cursed Laius, and this father's curse had to be fulfilled.

Returning to sevenfold Thebes, Lai married the daughter of Menoikei, Jocasta. Lai lived quietly in Thebes for a long time, and only one thing worried him: he had no children. Finally, Lai decided to go to Delphi and there ask the god Apollo about the reason for childlessness. A formidable answer was given by the priestess of Apollo, Pythia Lai. She said:

- Son of Labdak, the gods will fulfill your wish, you will have a son, but know: you will die by the hand of your son. The curse of Pelops will be fulfilled!

The Barking was horrified. For a long time he thought about how to avoid the dictates of inexorable fate; finally, he decided that he would kill his son as soon as he was born.

Soon, indeed, Lai had a son. A cruel father tied his newborn son's legs with straps, pierced his feet with a sharp iron, called a slave and told him to throw the baby in the forest on the slopes Kiferon to be torn apart by wild animals there. But the slave did not obey Lai's orders. He took pity on the child and secretly handed over the little boy to the slave of the Corinthian king Polyba. This slave was just at that time herding his master's herd on the slopes of Kiferon. The slave took the boy to King Polybus, and the latter, being childless, decided to raise him as his heir. King Polybus called the boy Oedipus for his swollen legs from wounds.

That's how Oedipus grew up with Polybus and his wife Merope, who called him their son, and Oedipus himself considered them his parents. But one day, when Oedipus had already grown up and matured, at a feast one of his friends, drunk, called him a foster child, which struck Oedipus. Doubts crept into his soul. He went to Polybus and Merope and persuaded them for a long time to reveal to him the secret of his birth. But neither Polybus nor Merope said anything to him. Then Oedipus decided to go to Delphi and find out the secret of his birth there.

As a simple wanderer, Oedipus went to Delphi. Arriving there, he asked the oracle. The radiant one answered him Apollo through the mouth of the oracle pythia:

- Oedipus, your fate is terrible! You will kill your father, marry your own mother, and from this marriage children will be born, cursed by the gods, and hated by all people.

Oedipus was horrified. How to avoid his evil fate, how to avoid parricide and marriage with his mother? After all, the oracle did not name his parents. Oedipus decided not to return to Corinth anymore. What if Polyb and Merope are his parents? Would he really become the murderer of Polybus and the husband of Merope? Oedipus decided to remain an eternal wanderer without a family, without a tribe, without a homeland.

But is it possible to avoid the dictates of fate? Oedipus did not know that the more he tried to avoid his fate, the more surely he would follow the path that fate had assigned him.

Oedipus left Delphi as a homeless wanderer. He didn't know where to go, and chose the first road he came across. It was the road leading to Thebes. On this road, at the foot of Parnassus, where three paths converged, Oedipus met a chariot in a narrow gorge, in which a gray-haired, majestic-looking elder rode, the herald drove the chariot, followed by servants. The herald rudely called Oedipus, told him to get out of the way and swung a whip at him. Angry Oedipus hit the herald and was about to pass by the chariot, when suddenly the old man waved his staff and hit Oedipus on the head. Oedipus became enraged, in anger he hit the old man with his staff so hard that he fell dead on his back to the ground. Oedipus rushed at the guides and killed them all, only one slave managed to escape unnoticed. Thus the decree of fate was fulfilled: Oedipus killed, without knowing, his father Laius. After all, this old man was Laius, he was going to Delphi to ask Apollo how to rid him of Thebes from the bloodthirsty Sphinx.

Oedipus calmly went on. He considered himself innocent of murder: after all, he did not attack first, because he defended himself. Oedipus went further and further along the path he had chosen and finally came to Thebes.

(Statue of VI century BC)
Great despondency reigned in Thebes. Two troubles hit the city Cadmus. The Terrible Sphinx, the offspring of Typhon and Vipers, settled near Thebes on Mount Sphingion and demanded more and more victims, and then a slave brought the news that King Lai was killed by some unknown. Seeing the grief of the citizens, Oedipus decided to save them from trouble; he decided to go to the Sphinx himself.

The sphinx was a terrible monster with the head of a woman, with the body of a huge lion, with paws armed with sharp lion claws, and with huge wings. The gods decided that the Sphinx would remain with Thebes until someone solved his riddle. This riddle was told to the Sphinx by the muses. All travelers passing by were forced by the Sphinx to solve this riddle, but no one could solve it, and all died a painful death in the iron embrace of the clawed paws of the Sphinx. Many valiant Thebians tried to save Thebes from the Sphinx, but they all died.

Oedipus came to the Sphinx, who offered him his riddle:

- Tell me, who walks on four legs in the morning, on two in the afternoon, and on three in the evening? None of all the creatures living on earth changes like he does. When he walks on four legs, then he has less strength and moves slower than at other times.

Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx
Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx.
(Drawing on a vase.)

Oedipus did not think for a single moment and immediately replied:

- This is a man! When he is small, when it is only the morning of his life, he is weak and crawls slowly on all fours. During the day, that is, in adulthood, he walks on two legs, and in the evening, that is, in old age, he becomes decrepit, and, needing support, takes a crutch; then he walks on three legs.

This is how Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx. And the Sphinx, flapping its wings, rushed from the cliff into the sea. It was decided by the gods that the Sphinx should perish if anyone solved his riddle. Thus Oedipus freed Thebes from disaster.

When Oedipus returned to Thebes, the Thebans proclaimed him king, since it had been decided earlier by Creon, who ruled instead of the murdered Laius, that the king of Thebes should be the one who would save them from the Sphinx. Having reigned in Thebes, Oedipus married Laius' widow Jocasta and had two daughters by her, Antigone and Ismen, and two sons, Eteocla and The polyline. So the second command of fate was fulfilled: Oedipus became the husband of his own mother, and his children were born from her.