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Son of Laius, descendant of Cadmus through his paternal grandfather Labdacus and his great-grandfather Polydorus. According to Homer [Od. xi 271-280], he kills his father and marries his mother Epicaste (in later accounts Iocaste); the gods, however, immediately cause the misdeed to be known, and Epicaste hangs herself; OEdipus however rules on in Thebes, haunted with many sufferings by the vengeful spirit of his mother. Homer also mentions the funeral games celebrated in his honour [Il. xxiii 679], but does not tell of the birth of his sons and the grounds of their feud. According to the ancient OEdipodeia of Cinaethon, OEdipus after Iocaste's death marries Euryganeia, whence sprang his sons Eteocles and Polynices, and his daughters Antigone and Ismene [Paus., ix 5, 11]. According to the ancient legend, OEdipus curses his sons either because Polynices had set before him at the banquet the table and goblet which Cadmus and Laius had used (which he regarded as an attempt to remind him of his transgression), or because they had inadvertently sent him the haunch-bone of a victim instead of the shoulder-bone. In the hands of the tragedians, especially of Aeschylus and Sophocles (in the OEdipus Tyrannus), the legend has been changed into the following form. Laius, husband of Iocaste, daughter of Menceceus, and sister of Creon, has a curse resting on him in consequence of some misdeed. He is told by the oracle of Apollo that he will die by the hand of his son. When a son is born to him, he accordingly orders a slave to expose him, with his feet pierced, upon Cithaeron. The slave consigns the child to the care of a shepherd belonging to the king of Corinth, Polybus, and he takes it to his master. The boy, who derives the name OEdipus (Swellfoot), from his swollen feet, is adopted by the childless Polybus and his wife Periboea in place of offspring of their own. On reaching manhood, he is reproached during a carousal with not being the son of his presumptive parents, and betakes himself without their knowledge to Delphi, in order to find out the truth. The terrible response of the oracle, to the effect that he will slay his own father and then beget children in wedlock with his mother, causes him to avoid Corinth. At the place in Phocis where the road from Delphi to Daulis leaves the road to Thebes, lie is met by his real father, who is on a journey to Delphi to question the god concerning the devastation of his land by the Sphinx. As OEdipus will not move aside, a quarrel arises, and he kills his father together with his attendants one of whom alone escapes. He proceeds to Thebes, and there frees the city from its plague by solving the Sphinx's riddle; as a reward he receives from Creon the dominion of Thebes and the late king's widow, Iocaste, for a wife; and the latter bears him four children (given by the older myth to Euryganeia). Years afterwards failure of crops and pestilence come upon Thebes, and the oracle promises liberation from the disaster only if the murder of Laius be requited by the banishment of the murderer. The result of OEdipus' eager endeavours to identify this person is the discovery of the horrors which he has unconsciously perpetrated. Iocaste hangs herself in despair, and CEdipus puts out his own eyes. Deposed from his throne, and imprisoned at Thebes by his sons to conceal his shame from men's eyes, or (according to another account) driven by them into banishment, whither his daughters accompany him, he pronounces against his sons a curse, to the effect that they shall divide their inheritance with each other by means of the sword, a curse which is fulfilled with awful exactness. (See SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.) His grave was afterwards shown at the village of Eteonus, on the borders of Attica and Bceotia, in the sanctuary of Demeter, and worship done to him as to a hero. At Athens too, in a sacred demesne of the Erinyes, between the Areopagus and the Acropolis, was a monument to OEdipus, whose bones were supposed to have been brought hither from Thebes.--Sophocles, in his OEdipus at Colonus, follows another legend. He represents him as coming to the Attic deme of Colonus at the bidding of Apollo, and as finding there, in the sanctuary of the now propitiated Eumenides, the longed-for peace of the grave. His bones, the place of burial of which was known to none, are a precious treasure for the country, to guard it from hostile invasions.
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