Places Discussed


*Thebes (theebz). Ancient city in east-central Greece, northwest of Athens, where all the action in Sophocles’ play takes place. As the seat of power of King Oedipus, Thebes represents civil power, though as Oedipus comes to realize, his royal power must be subservient to the divine power of Apollo, whose temple is nearby.

*Mount Cithaeron

*Mount Cithaeron (si-THE-ron). Mountain in southern Greece on which Oedipus was chained and abandoned as an infant. The image of the mountain as the mysterious “parent” of the king whose parentage is clouded continually recurs throughout the choral odes.


*Trivia. Crossroad where the roads from Daulia, Delphi, and Thebes meet. At this auspicious location Oedipus kills, in self-defense, a man who he later learns was his father. The converging of the roads echoes the intertwining threads of Oedipus’s fate.


*Delphi. Oracle at the Temple of Apollo that is the source of all divine wisdom for the ancient Greeks. To Oedipus, it represents the place where he learns the truth about his past.


*Corinth. Distant Greek city from which a messenger arrives at the end of the play to announce the death of King Polybus, who Oedipus mistakenly believes is his father. Corinth represents the untroubled home of the only parents Oedipus ever knew.

Historical Context

Sophocles lived and worked in a time of great cultural significance, not only in the history of Athens but the greater sense of western...

(The entire section is 685 words.)

Literary Style

The Genre of Greek Tragic Drama
Ever since Aristotle's high praise regarding its structure and characterization in his...

(The entire section is 954 words.)

Compare and Contrast

Fifth Century B.C.: The development of trial by jury in the law courts and the art of sophistry as practiced by philosophers such as...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Topics for Further Study

In his Third Letter on Oedipus, Voltaire, a French Enlightenment philosopher and writer, expressed incredulity at the fact that...

(The entire section is 411 words.)

Media Adaptations

There is an outstanding sound recording from 1974 of the opera-oratorio adaptation of Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky and Jean Cocteau;...

(The entire section is 336 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

Sophocles's Oedipus at Colonus, produced posthumously by his grandson in 401 B.C., tells the story of Oedipus's wanderings after going...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Macmillan, 1907.

Further Reading

(The entire section is 611 words.)