The Terrible Origin of Oedipus’ Family Curse

Scholion to Euripides’ Phoenician Women 1760 = FGrHist 16 F10

 

“Peisander records that the sphinx was sent to Thebes in accordance with Hera’s rage from the farthest parts of Aethiopia, because Laios had committed sacrilege in his abnormal lust for Khrusippos* whom he abducted from Pisa but they did not avenge. It was the sphinx, who, as it is written, had the tail of a dragon. She seized and gobbled up great and small men, among whom was Haimon, Kreon’s son and Hippion, the son of Eurunomos who had fought against the Kentaurs. (Eurunomos and Êioneus were sons of Magnêtês the son of Aolos and Phylodikê.) Then Hippios, who was a foreigner, was seized by the Sphinx; but Êioneus, the son by Oinomaus, was killed in the same way along with many suitors [i.e. men who came to solve the riddle].

Laios first conceived of this lawless lust. But Khrusyppos, out of shame, used his sword on himself. Then, Teiresias, because he was a prophet, knew that Laios was hated by the gods, and he send him on the road to Apollo where it was proper to make sacrifices to the goddess Hera as the maker-of-marriages. He dishonored this. Then, when he was coming home, he was murdered in the narrowest part of the road along with his charioteer after he struck Oedipus with a goad. After killing them, Oedipus buried them with their clothing but stripped Laios’ belt and sword and took it with him. He collected up the chariot and gave it to Polybos. Then he married his mother after solving the riddle.

After that, once he had completed the sacrifices at Kithaira, he was coming home with Iokastê in his carriage. He remembered the place where the events had happened in the narrowest part of the road and he showed it to Iocasta and explained the event and showed her the belt. She handled it poorly but was silent. For she did not know he was her son. After that, an old horse-hand came from Sikyon and told Oedipus everyone: how he found him, took him, and gave him to Meropê. He also showed him the swaddling clothes and goad and asked for a reward for saving him. In this way, the whole truth was understood. They say that after Iokastê’s death and his blinding, he married Euruganeia, a virgin, and that the four children were born from her. Peisander records these things.”

 

*Khrusippos=Chrysippus, Pelop’s first child before Atreus and Thyestes

laiuschrysippuspelops

ὃς μόνος Σφιγγὸς κατέσχον: ἱστορεῖ Πείσανδρος ὅτι κατὰ χόλον τῆς ῞Ηρας ἐπέμφθη ἡ Σφὶγξ τοῖς Θηβαίοις ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων μερῶν τῆς Αἰθιοπίας, ὅτι τὸν Λάιον ἀσεβήσαντα εἰς τὸν παράνομον ἔρωτα τοῦ Χρυσίππου, ὃν ἥρπασεν ἀπὸ τῆς Πίσης, οὐκ ἐτιμωρήσαντο. ἦν δὲ ἡ Σφὶγξ, ὥσπερ γράφεται, τὴν οὐρὰν ἔχουσα δρακαίνης· ἀναρπάζουσα δὲ μικροὺς καὶ μεγάλους κατήσθιεν, ἐν οἷς καὶ Αἵμονα τὸν Κρέοντος παῖδα καὶ ῞Ιππιον τὸν Εὐρυνόμου τοῦ τοῖς Κενταύροις μαχεσαμένου. ἦσαν δὲ Εὐρύνομος καὶ ᾿Ηιονεὺς υἱοὶ Μάγνητος τοῦ Αἰολίδου καὶ Φυλοδίκης. ὁ μὲν οὖν ῞Ιππιος καὶ ξένος ὢν ὑπὸ τῆς Σφιγγὸς ἀνῃρέθη, ὁ δὲ ᾿Ηιονεὺς ὑπὸ τοῦ Οἰνομάου, ὃν τρόπον καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι μνηστῆρες. πρῶτος δὲ ὁ Λάιος τὸν ἀθέμιτον ἔρωτα τοῦτον ἔσχεν. ὁ δὲ Χρύσιππος ὑπὸ αἰσχύνης ἑαυτὸν διεχρήσατο τῷ ξίφει. τότε μὲν οὖν ὁ Τειρεσίας ὡς μάντις εἰδὼς ὅτι θεοστυγὴς ἦν ὁ Λάιος, ἀπέτρεπεν αὐτὸν τῆς ἐπὶ τὸν ᾿Απόλλωνα ὁδοῦ, τῇ δὲ ῞Ηρᾳ μᾶλλον τῇ γαμοστόλῳ θεᾷθύειν ἱερά. ὁ δὲ αὐτὸν ἐξεφαύλιζεν. ἀπελθὼν τοίνυν ἐφονεύθη ἐν τῇ σχιστῇ ὁδῷ αὐτὸς καὶ ὁ ἡνίοχος αὐτοῦ, ἐπειδὴ ἔτυψε τῇ μάστιγι τὸν Οἰδίποδα. κτείνας δὲ αὐτοὺς ἔθαψε παραυτίκα σὺν τοῖς ἱματίοις ἀποσπάσας τὸν ζωστῆρα καὶ τὸ ξίφος τοῦ Λαΐου καὶ φορῶν· τὸ δὲ ἅρμα ὑποστρέψας ἔδωκε τῷ Πολύβῳ, εἶτα ἔγημε τὴν μητέρα λύσας τὸ αἴνιγμα. μετὰ ταῦτα δὲ θυσίας τινὰς ἐπιτελέσας ἐν τῷ Κιθαιρῶνι κατήρχετο ἔχων καὶ τὴν ᾿Ιοκάστην ἐν τοῖς ὀχήμασι. καὶ γινομένων αὐτῶν περὶ τὸν τόπον ἐκεῖνον τῆς σχιστῆς ὁδοῦ ὑπομνησθεὶς ἐδείκνυε τῇ ᾿Ιοκάστῃ τὸν τόπον καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα διηγήσατο καὶ τὸν ζωστῆρα ἔδειξεν. ἡ δὲ δεινῶς φέρουσα ὅμως ἐσιώπα· ἠγνόει γὰρ υἱὸν ὄντα. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἦλθέ τις γέρων ἱπποβουκόλος ἀπὸ Σικυῶνος, ὃς εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ πᾶν ὅπως τε αὐτὸν εὗρε καὶ ἀνείλετο καὶ τῇ Μερόπῃ δέδωκε, καὶ ἅμα τὰ σπάργανα αὐτῷ ἐδείκνυε καὶ τὰ κέντρα ἀπῄτει τε αὐτὸν τὰ ζωάγρια· καὶ οὕτως ἐγνώσθη τὸ ὅλον. φασὶ δὲ ὅτι μετὰ τὸν θάνατον τῆς ᾿Ιοκάστης καὶ τὴν αὐτοῦ τύφλωσιν ἔγημεν Εὐρυγάνην παρθένον, ἐξ ἧς αὐτῷ γεγόνασιν οἱ τέσσαρες παῖδες. ταῦτά φησι Πείσανδρος:

There is a tradition that quotes the Sphinx’s riddle, but few accept it as ‘genuine’.

 

For a fine discussion of this, see Malcolm Davies’ piece on the Oidipodea.

2 thoughts on “The Terrible Origin of Oedipus’ Family Curse

  1. Joel,

    Couldn’t the pollution caused by Khrusyppos’ death been solved easily thru ritual and heroic honors for the dead boy?

    The curse came when Apollo tricked Oedipus down the road which lead to killing his father and bedding his mother. The Furies are not so easily placated. Isn’t this all just Themis and Zeus plot (from the Cypria) ? You know they wanted to lighten the load of the tribes of men upon the earth. The wars at Thebes and Troy was the way to do it.

    Bill

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