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Updated: Oct 27, 2020

Tantalus (King of Sipila), a son of Zeus (The God of Sky and Thunder, The king of all Gods and men) , in order to test the omniscience of gods, he offered them the roasted body of his son Pelops. The angry gods commanded Hermes (Roman Mercury, Son of Zeus, Messenger of the Olympian Gods) to revive Pelops. For this and other misdeeds Tantalus was severely tortured in Hades (the land of dead). Pelops then came to Elida and wooed Hippodamia, the daughter of the king Enomaius. The last of the suitors challenged the others to a chariot-race which was won by Pelops who bribed the king's charioteer Mirtilus, promising to give him half the kingdom and his bride for one night. Mirtilus substituted a bronze linchpin in the king's chariot with a wax one and the king perished. Then Pelops pushed Mirtilus into the sea from a rock. While falling Mirtilus cursed Pelops and his posterity. Hephaestus (God of Fire and Blacksmith) purified Pelops from Mirtilus' blood. Pelops then became the King of Elida and he was the great-grandfather of Theseus (The Founder of Athens).

Cadmus, a son of the Phoenician King Agenor, a grandson of Poseidon (God of Sea, Brother of Zeus), and the founder of Thebes, killed a giant dragon (who devoured his companions), not knowing that the latter was a son of the terrible Ares (Goddess of War). To compensate this murder he served Ares for eight years. He married Ares' daughter and had by her one son and four daughters. His daughter Agave married a Spartan warrior Echion who became the King of Thebes and obstructed the ecstatic cult of Dionysus (God of Wine). For this lack of reverence the god made all Theban women mad Bacchantes (priestesses), and they (i.e. all women, including Echion's wife and daughters) tore Echion's son Pentheus to pieces.

Labdacus' (Son of Pentheus' uncle) son Laius was invited by Pelops to a great feast. Laius abducted Pelopes' illegitimate son Chrysippus to Thebes and raped him. Chrysippus committed suicide, and Pelops cursed Laius and his posterity, begging Apollo (Son of Zeus) and other gods that Laius should be killed by his own son. Laius married Jocasta (Daughter of Menoeceus) but their marriage remained childless. He traveled to Delphi there he found the oracle that his son would kill him.

When the child was born. Laius told Jocasta to pierce the tendons of the baby's feet and abandon it on the slopes of Mount Cithaeron. She gave the child to her shepherd who, out of pity, entrusted it to a shepherd of Polybus, King of Corinth. Polybus and his wife Meropa being childless adopted the child and called it Oedipus (with swollen feet).When Oedipus was a young man he was ruthlessly enjoying with his friends at that time one of them called him 'foundling' (orphan). Angrily he asked his parents about his birth, but they persuaded him that he was their legitimate son. Then he went to Delphi and learnt from the oracle that he would kill his father, marry his mother, and have most unhappy children by her. But Apollo promised him at the end of his life a resting place where he would find his last home among the Awful Goddesses and confer blessing on those who received him and a curse on those who had driven him away’.

To avenge the rape of Chrysippus, Hera (Goddesses of marriage, wife of Zeus) sent a terrible monster Sphinx to Thebes who killed many Theban citizens for failing to solve her riddle. Laius traveled to Delphi to ask Apollo how to save his city from the Sphinx. On his way from Delphi, at the intersection of three roads, Oedipus met him in a cart with a herald and three servants. As the herald threatened him with a whip, Oedipus hit him with his staff. whereupon Laius beat Oedipus with a stick. Then Oedipus killed all of them and saved one servant, but he slipped away.

Oedipus, then, went to Thebes, solved the riddle of the Sphinx, made her kill herself (or killed her, according to another version), married the widow of Laius, and became the king. He and Jocasta had two sons and two daughters.


Mythological Deliberations Lectures on the Phenomenology of religion by Piatgorsky, I.

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