Oedipus Rex Questions and Answers
by Sophocles

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In Sophocles' Oedipus the King, which characters visit the oracle of Apollo at Delphi? Is it just Oedipus or is it someone else?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The priest of Zeus goes to Oedipus to beg for the king's help in righting the kingdom. There is a disease on the crops, a disease on the herds of animals, and women in labor are dying. Oedipus tells the priest of Zeus,

I have sent Menoeceus' son,
Creon, my consort's brother, to inquire
Of Pythian Phoebus at his Delphic shrine,
How I might save the State by act or word.

Thus, he has sent his brother-in-law (and uncle, though he does not know this yet) to the oracle at Delphi to ask what needs to be done to save Thebes from all the diseases that threaten its people.

Jocasta also explains that Laius once went to the oracle before the play even began, and

Loxias said expressly he was doomed
To die by my child's hand, but he, poor babe,
He shed no blood, but perished first himself.

She actually believes that this proves that there is no truth in prophecy. (Loxias is another name for Apollo, the god who was said to speak through the oracle at Delphi.)

Oedipus also says that, years ago,

Loxias [ . . . ] foretold
That I should mate with mine own mother, and shed
With my own hands the blood of my own sire.

Thus, before the play begins, Oedipus has already been to the oracle, and he learned the prophecy that compelled him to go to Thebes rather than return to Corinth, where the people he believed were his parents lived.

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JOHN THORBURN eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Sophocles' Oedipus the King, Oedipus is not the only person to have visited Apollo's oracle at Delphi.

Chronologically speaking, Oedipus' father was on a trip to Delphi when he was killed, ironically by his own son Oedipus (see lines 113 and 734). Likewise, Oedipus himself was on his way to Delphi to try to discover the identity of his true parents. So, it appears Laius and Oedipus were both on trips to and/or from Apollo's oracle when their fateful encounter took place.

As Sophocles' play opens, Creon also has made a pilgrimage to Delphi to discover what the Thebans should do about the pollution afflicting their city, a pollution caused by their harboring of the killer of Laius. Creon has made this journey because Oedipus sent him "to Pythian Apollo’s shrine" (70; Ian Johnston translation).

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