The grave of Oedipus in Attic ground is to form a perpetual safeguard for Attica against invaders. It is interesting to observe ancient traces of an exactly opposite feeling with regard to his resting-place. According to a Boeotian legend1, Oedipus died at Thebes, and his friends wished to bury him there; but the Thebans refused permission. His friends then carried the body to ‘"a place in Boeotia called Ceos,"’ and there interred it. But ‘"certain misfortunes"’ presently befell the people of Ceos, and they requested the friends of Oedipus to remove him. The friends next carried him to Eteonus, a place near the frontier between Boeotia and Attica, and buried him by night, without knowing that the ground which they chose for that purpose was sacred to Demeter. The matter having become known, the people of Eteonus sent to Delphi, and asked what they were to do. Apollo replied that they must not ‘"disturb the suppliant of the goddess"’ (Demeter). Oedipus was therefore allowed to rest in peace, and the place of his burial was thenceforth called the Oedipodeum. We see how this Boeotian dread of his grave, as a bane to the place afflicted with it, answers to the older conception of the Erinyes; just as the Attic view, that his grave is a blessing, is in unison with the character of the Eumenides. It is only when the buried Oedipus has become associated with a benevolent Chthonian power,—namely, with Demeter,—that he ceases to be terrible.
1 Schol. on O. C. 91, quoting Lysimachus of Alexandria, in the 13th book of his Θηβαϊκά. This Lysimachus, best known as the author of a prose Νόστοι, lived probably about 25 B.C. See Müller, Fragm. Hist. III. 334.
Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose. Part II: The Oedipus Coloneus. Sir Richard C. Jebb. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 1899.
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