Oedipus, a mythological king of Thebes, son of Laius and Jocasta. An oracle having informed Laius that he should be killed by his son, the infant was exposed on Mt. Cithaeron with his feet pierced and bound together. He was found by a shepherd and brought to King Polybus of Corinth, who being childless adopted him and called him OEdipus from his swollen feet. He grew up in ignorance of his birth, and once being taunted with not being the son of the king, he consulted the oracle at Delphi, which answered: " Avoid the soil of thy country, or thou wilt be the murderer of thy father arid the husband of thy mother." Supposing Corinth was meant, he determined not to return. On the road between Delphi and Daulis he met Laius, and was ordered by the charioteer to make way; an affray ensued, in which he killed both his father and the charioteer. At this time the sphinx was laying waste the territory of Thebes, proposing a riddle to every passer-by, and devouring all who were unable to solve it. The Thebans offered the crown and the hand of Queen Jocasta in marriage to him who should free the country from the monster.
OEdipus undertook the task, and the following riddle was given him: "A being with four feet has two feet and three feet, and only one voice; but its feet vary, and when it has most it is weakest" OEdipus answered that it was man, who in infancy crawls upon all-fours, in manhood walks erect, and in old age supports himself by a staff. The sphinx hereupon destroyed herself, and OEdipus obtained the crown and married his mother, who bore him two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, and two (laughters, Antigone and Ismene. A pestilence desolating the land on account of this incestuous alliance, the oracle ordered the expulsion of the murderer of Laius; and a proclamation was issued announcing a curse upon the unknown criminal, and declaring' him an exile. OEdipus was informed by the prophet Tiresias that he himself was the parricide and the husband of his mother. Jocasta hanged herself, and OEdipus put out his eyes. After this, according to one form of the legend, OEdipus was driven from Thebes by his sons and creon, his brother-in-law, and under the guidance of his daughter Antigone went to Attica. According to another, he became dependent upon his sons, on whom he imprecated a curse, praying to the gods that there might be endless war between them, and that they might perish each by the hand of the other.
After Eteocles and Polynices had slain one another, Oreon succeeded to the throne and drove out OEdipus, who finally reached the groves of the Eumenides, near Colonus in Attica, where he was received with distinguished honor by Theseus. There he died, and his burial place was concealed by the Eumenides, whose favor he had conciliated. The tragedies of ^Eschylus and Euripides founded upon this legend are lost; but two by Sophocles remain, entitled "Oedipus Tyrannus" and "Oedipus at Colonus." Seneca also wrote one, and in modern times Corneille and Voltaire.