Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome
Page: 139Many centuries after his death, by the command of the oracle of Delphi, Cimon, the father of Miltiades, at the conclusion of the Persian war, brought the remains of Theseus, the great benefactor of Athens, to that city, and in his honour a temple was erected, which exists to the present day, and serves as a museum of art.
Laius, king of Thebes, the son of Labdacus, and a direct descendant of Cadmus, was married to Jocaste, the daughter of a noble Theban. An oracle having foretold that he would perish by the hand of his own son, he determined to destroy the infant to whom Jocaste had just given birth. With the consent of his wife, whose affection for her husband overcame her love for her child, he pierced the feet of the babe, bound them together, and handed the infant over to a servant, with instructions to expose him on Mount Cithæron to perish. But instead of obeying this cruel command, the servant intrusted him to a shepherd who was tending the flocks of Polybus, king of Corinth, and then returned to Laius and Jocaste, and informed them that their orders had been obeyed. The parents were satisfied with the intelligence, and quieted their conscience by the reflection that they had thus prevented their son from committing the crime of parricide.
Meanwhile the shepherd of king Polybus had unbound the feet of the infant, and in consequence of their being much swollen he called him Œdipus, or Swollen-foot. He then carried him to the king, his master, who, pitying the poor little waif, enlisted for him the kind offices of his wife, Merope. Œdipus was adopted by the king and queen as their own son, and grew up in the belief that they were his parents, until one day a Corinthian noble taunted him at a banquet with not being the son of the king. Stung at this reproach the youth appealed to Merope, but receiving an equivocal, though kindly answer, he repaired to Delphi to consult the oracle. The Pythia vouchsafed no reply to his inquiry, but informed him, to his horror, that he was fated to kill his father and to marry his own mother.
Filled with dismay, for he was tenderly attached to Polybus and Merope, Œdipus determined not to return to Corinth, and took instead the road leading to Bœotia. On his way a chariot passed him, in which sat an old man with two servants, who rudely pushed the pedestrian out of the path. In the scuffle which ensued Œdipus struck the old man with his heavy stick, and he fell back dead on the seat of the chariot. Struck with dismay at the unpremeditated murder which he had committed, the youth fled, and left the spot without learning that the old man whom he had killed was his father, Laius, king of Thebes.
Not long after this occurrence the Sphinx (full details of whom have already been given) was sent by the goddess Hera as a punishment to the Thebans. Stationed on a rocky height just outside the city, she propounded to the passers by riddles which she had been taught by the Muses, and whoever failed to solve them was torn in pieces and devoured by the monster, and in this manner great numbers of the inhabitants of Thebes had perished.