Oedipus, King of Thebes: His tragic fate and its link with prophecy

Greek mythology is full of fascinating stories, heroic figures, capricious deities and tragic destinies. At the heart of this mythological universe lies Oedipus, whose story has spanned the centuries to influence literature and psychoanalysis alike. In this article, we explore the various facets of Oedipus' life, from his mysterious origins to his cultural heritage, with a particular focus on his relationship with the prophecy that shaped his sad fate.

Oedipus' origins and youth

Oedipus' birth and the prophecy

Oedipus, born to the royalty of Thebes, is immediately marked by a terrifying prophecy . The oracle predicts that he will kill his father Laïos and marry his mother Jocaste. Frightened by this announcement, his parents decide to get rid of him, hoping to thwart their fate.

Abandonment and adoption by the King of Corinth

Fate, however, is not so easily circumvented. Oedipus is abandoned but rescued and adopted by the King of Corinth. He grows up far from the shadows of Thebes, unaware of his true origins.

The quest for the truth and the discovery of his origins

As an adult, gnawed by rumors about his origins, Oedipus undertakes a personal investigation that leads him ineluctably towards the truth of his birth, and without realizing it, towards the fulfillment of the terrible prophecy.

Oedipus in Thebes

The riddle of the Sphinx and the rise to power

When Oedipus arrives in Thebes, he comes face to face with the Sphinx - a mysterious creature suffocating the city with its deadly riddles. Oedipus brilliantly solves the riddle and, as a reward, is offered the throne of Thebes and the queen's hand, unaware that she is his mother.

Oedipus as king and husband

Once Oedipus is crowned king, he aims to be a just ruler loved by his people. His marriage seems happy, but the truth simmers beneath the surface of this apparent tranquility.

The plague in Thebes and the search for the causes

When a devastating plague strikes Thebes, Oedipus embarks on a quest to find the causes of this plague, not realizing that he is getting even closer to the revelation of his own incest and parricide.

Revelation and downfall

The investigation into the death of Laïos

Oedipus' investigation into the mysterious death of Laïos guides him towards a series of dark discoveries, where every clue brings him inexorably closer to the revelation of his own guilt.

The tragic revelation of the oracle

Confronted with the evidence, Oedipus realizes with horror the fulfillment of the prophecy: he is the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother .

Psychological and social consequences for Oedipus and his family

The consequences of this tragic revelation are devastating. Oedipus is shattered, his identity and honor annihilated, and the kingdom of Thebes plunges into chaos.

Oedipus and the prophecy

Fatality in Greek mythology

Greek mythology is steeped in the theme of fatality. The story of Oedipus illustrates the belief that fate is pre-ordained and inevitable, despite our actions to thwart it.

The role of the oracle in Oedipus' destiny

The oracle of Delphi plays a pivotal role in Oedipus' life. He is an inescapable force who, through his prophecy, determines the course of events.

Free will versus inescapable fate

Despite his attempts to control his own destiny, Oedipus is subjected to the question of free will versus the gods' control over the fate of mortals.

Oedipus' cultural heritage

Oedipus in classical and modern literature

The story of Oedipus has inspired countless works, from the ancient tragedy of Sophocles to modern adaptations, underscoring its timelessness and relevance.

Oedipus in psychoanalysis - the Oedipus complex

Sigmund Freud immortalized Oedipus in the field of psychoanalysis with the notion of the Oedipus complex, which describes the unconscious feelings of children towards their parents.

The influence of the Oedipus story in the arts and philosophy

The Oedipus story transcends classical literature and extends to the arts, to philosophy, and to culture as a whole, a testament to its impact on humanity through the ages.


The Oedipus myth, with its themes of destiny, tragic revelation, and the search for identity, remains a powerful narrative that continues to resonate in modern society. The tension between free will and the destiny set by prophecy poses eternal questions that remain relevant today. Oedipus the King is not just the protagonist of an ancient tragedy, but a cultural icon symbolizing universal human struggles in the face of life's truths and the inexorable laws of the universe.