Significant Myths and Structure of the Text
Oedipus as Myth: Oedipus’s story predates Sophocles’s play. It was part of the oral tradition of Greek mythology, and its first reference in writing is in the Homeric epics. In book 11 of The Odyssey, Odysseus visits the underworld where he meets Jocasta (Epicaste, in some translations). Though the essence of the myth is the same in Homer as in Sophocles, there are two key differences. Homer describes the revelation of Oedipus’s identity as coming directly from the gods, not from either an oracle or his own reasoning. Further, in Homer, Oedipus continues to rule Thebes after Jocasta’s death, albeit unhappily; in Sophocles’s play, he goes into exile.
Apollo: One of the eminent gods in the Greek pantheon, Apollo is associated with light, knowledge, reason, and the arts. His symbols are the lyre, the bow and arrow, and the laurel wreath. Artemis (Diana) is his twin, and his parents are Leto and Zeus (Jupiter). Importantly, Apollo is the god worshiped at Delphi and is considered responsible for the oracle there. Myth has it that Hera sends a python to pursue Leto in Delphi as punishment for her liaison with Zeus (Jupiter in the Roman). Apollo slays the python in the temple, resulting in Apollo’s worship in Delphi.
Tiresias: Tiresias figures prominently in Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and The Odyssey. He is a prophet of Apollo from Thebes and consistently depicted as blind. Tiresias is also reputed to have experienced life as both a man and woman, having been transformed into a woman after having struck mating snakes.
The Sphinx: A prevalent image in Egyptian and Greek art, the Sphinx is a creature with the body of a lion, the head of a...
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