At the close of the Oedipus Tyrannus the situation is
Situation at the end of the Tyrannus.
briefly this. By the fact of the guilt which has been brought home to him Oedipus is tacitly considered to have forfeited the throne. His two sons being still young boys, their maternal uncle, Creon, succeeds to the direction of affairs. The selfblinded Oedipus, in his first agony of horror and despair, beseeches Creon to send him away from Thebes. Let him no longer pollute it by his presence: let him perish in the wilds of Cithaeron, as his parents would have had it. Creon replies that he cannot assume the responsibility of acceding to the wish of Oedipus: the oracle at Delphi must be consulted. If Apollo says that Oedipus is to be sent away from Thebes, then it shall be done.

Sophocles supposes a long interval—some twenty years,

Events of the interval between the plays.
perhaps—between the two dramas of which Oedipus is the hero. As the exile himself says, 395"'Tis little to uplift old age, when youth was ruined."” We have to make out the events of this interval, as best we can, from stray hints in the Coloneus1.

The promise with which Creon pacified Oedipus at the end of the Tyrannus does not appear to have been fulfilled. The oracle was not consulted as to whether Oedipus should remain at Thebes. He remained there; and, as the lapse of time softened his anguish, the blind and discrowned sufferer learned to love the seclusion of the house in which he had once reigned so brilliantly. Creon continued to act as regent. But at last a change took place in the disposition of the Thebans, or at least

Expulsion of Oedipus.
in Creon's. A feeling grew up that Thebes was harbouring a defilement, and it was decided to expel Oedipus. There is no mention of an oracle as the cause; indeed, the idea of a divine mandate is incompatible with the tenor of the story, since Oedipus could not then have charged the whole blame on Thebes. One circumstance of his expulsion was bitter to him above all the rest. His two sons, who had now reached manhood, said not a word in arrest of his doom.

But his two daughters were nobly loyal. Antigone went forth from Thebes with her blind father,—his sole attendant,— and thenceforth shared the privations of his lot, which could now be only that of a wandering mendicant. Ismene stayed at Thebes, but it was in order to watch the course of events there in her father's interest. We hear of one occasion, at least, on which she risked a secret journey for the purpose of acquainting him with certain oracles which had just been received. The incident marks the uneasy feeling with which the Thebans still regarded the blind exile, and their unwillingness that he should share such light on his own destiny as they could obtain from Apollo.

Oedipus had now grown old in his destitute wanderings, when a sacred mission sent from Thebes to Delphi brought back an oracle concerning him which excited a lively interest in the minds of his former subjects. It was to the effect that the

The new oracle.
welfare of Thebes depended on Oedipus, not merely while he lived, but also after his death. The Thebans now conceived the desire of establishing Oedipus somewhere just beyond their border. In this way they thought that they would have him under their control, while at the same time they would avoid the humiliation of confessing themselves wrong, and receiving him back to dwell among them. Their main object was that, on his death, they might secure the guardianship of his grave.

The new oracle obviously made an opportunity for the sons of Oedipus at Thebes, if they were true to their banished father. They could urge that Apollo, by this latest utterance, had condoned any pollution that might still be supposed to attach to the person of Oedipus, and had virtually authorised his recall to his ancient realm. Thebes could not be defiled by the presence of a man whom the god had declared to be the arbiter of its fortunes.

Unhappily, the sons—Polyneices and Eteocles—were no longer in a mood to hear the dictates of filial piety. When they had first reached manhood, they had been oppressed by a sense of the curse on their family, and the taint on their own birth. They had wished to spare Thebes the contamination of their rule; they had been desirous that the regent,—their uncle Creon,—should become king. But presently,— 371"moved by some god, and by a sinful mind,"”—compelled by the inexorable Fury of their house,—they renounced these intentions of wise selfdenial. Not only were they fired with the passion for power,

The strife between the sons.
but they fell to striving with each other for the sole power. Eteocles, the younger2 brother, managed to win over the citizens. The elder brother, Polyneices, was driven out of Thebes. He went to Argos, where he married the daughter of king Adrastus. All the most renowned warriors of the Peloponnesus became his allies, and he made ready to lead a great host against Thebes. But, while the mightiest chieftains were marshalling their followers in his cause, the voices of prophecy warned him that the issue of his mortal feud depended on the blind and aged beggar whom, years before, he had coldly seen thrust out from house and home. That side would prevail which Oedipus should join.

1 The Greek title of the play is Οἰδίπους ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ,—the prep. meaning at, as in such phrases as ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάρῃ (Od. 7.160), ἐπὶ θύραις, etc. It is cited by the authors of the Arguments as ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ Οἰδίπους (pp. 3 ff.). The earlier play was doubtless called simply Οἰδίπους by Sophocles,—Τύραννος having been a later addition (cp. O. T. p. 4): but the second play required a distinguishing epithet, and the words ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ must be ascribed to the poet himself. The traditional Latin title, Oedipus Coloneus, is from Cic. De Sen. 7.21, where it occurs in the accus., Oedipum Coloneum. Did Cicero intend Coloneum to represent Κολώνειον or Κολωνέα? In other words, ought we to pronounce Colonēüs or Colonēūs? 1. In favour of the former view, which seems much the more probable, we may observe two points. (i) In De Fin. 5. 1 § 3 Cicero writes: Cic. Fin. 5.1.3Nam me ipsum huc modo venientem convertebat ad sese Coloneus ille locus, cuius incola Sophocles ob oculos obversabatur; quem scis quam admirer, quamque eo delecter.”” There, locus Coloneus, as a periphrasis for Colonus, represents τόπος Κολώνειος, not τόπος Κολωνεύς. (ii) Κολωνεύς (properly, a demesman of Colonus, Corp. Inscr. 172. 42) would not have been appropriate in the title of this play, since it would have implied that Oedipus had been resident at Colonus. In the Γλαῦκος Ποτνιεύς of Aeschylus (Nauck, Trag. Fragm. 34-41) Glaucus was supposed to have had a fixed abode at Potniae. On the other hand, Coloneus, as=Κολώνειος, might well have been used by Cicero to express the same sense as ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ (which would have been more closely rendered by ad Colonum),—"at Colonus," ‘connected with it.’ The Greek adjectives in ειος which Cicero transliterates usually answer to names of persons, not of places (as De Fin. 2. 7 § 20Aristippeo”; ib. § 22Epicurea”); but here he could hardly have used Colonensis, which would have suggested a native or inhabitant of the place.

2. While decidedly preferring the view just stated, I must, however, also notice what can fairly be said in favour of the other view,—that by Coloneum Cicero meant Κολωνέα. (i) In Tusc. Disp. 5. 12 § 34 he has Zeno Citieus=Κιτιεύς (for which Gellius uses Citiensis): in De Div. 2. 42 § 88Scylax Halicarnasseus”=Ἁλικαρνασσεύς (for which Livy uses Halicarnassensis, and Tacitus Halicarnassius);—as similarly, he sometimes retains Greek forms in ίτης or ιάτης ( De Nat. 1. 23 § 63Abderites Protagoras”: ib. § 29Diogenes Apolloniates”). Hence, the nomin. Oedipus Coloneus, if it had occurred in Cicero, might well have stood for Οἰδίπους Κολωνεύς. (ii) With regard to the accus. of Latin adjectives taken from Greek forms in εύς, cp. Cic. ad Att. 3 § 10,Venio ad Piraeea; in quo magis reprehendendus sum, quod homo Romanus Piraeea scripserim, non Piraeeum (sic enim omnes nostri locuti sunt).” It may, indeed, be said that, if he wrote Piraeea, he might also have ventured on Colonea: but more weight seems due to the other fact,—that, if he had represented Κολωνέα by Coloneum he would have been warranted by Roman usage. It is just possible, then, that by Coloneum Cicero meant Κολωνέα, though it seems much more likely that he meant Κολώνειον. [The form Κολώνειος does not seem to be actually extant in Greek. In the scholia on vv. 60, 65 of the play the men of Colonus are called Κολωνιᾶται, probably a corruption of Κολωνῖται. The latter term was applied by Hypereides to the artisans frequenting the Colonus Agoraeus (Pollux 7. 132), and is miswritten Κολωναῖται in Harpocration.]

2 See note on v. 375.

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hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 395
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 371
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (9):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.3.10
    • Homer, Odyssey, 7.160
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus
    • Cicero, de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, 2.7
    • Cicero, de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, 5.1
    • Cicero, de Natura Deorum, 1.23
    • Cicero, De Senectute, 7
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.42
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5.12
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