O is for Oedipus


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In a previous post I talked about Eros and all the problems he had with looking so beautiful.

It also addressed issues surrounding his mother with his girlfriend, later wife, Psyche.  As I mentioned in that post; there are issues surrounding Greek mothers and their sons.  The feedback I received indicates to me that people might be interested to know more (who hasn’t had problems with their mother-in-laws?) So I decided to briefly explore Oedipus with you, in order to hopefully shed some light onto this phenomenon.

Laius & Jocasta were King & Queen of Thebes (a region in Greece, not far from where I spent my first year actually – see this post).  Jocasta took a long time to bear children, so Laius went to consult the Oracle of Delphi.  He was told that if the Queen bore a son, the son would kill him.

Guess what?  Jocasta eventually gave birth to a son, so Laius bound his ankles (nice!) so he couldn’t learn to crawl, gave him to a servant & instructed him to leave the boy in the mountains to die.

Taking pity on the boy, the servant passed him onto a shepherd to be looked after and to cut a long story short, the boy was eventually brought up by Polybus & Merope –King & Queen of Corinth.  They named him “Oedipus” because of the swelling due to the injuries on his ankles: “oedema” means “swelling”

Eventually learning that these people weren’t his real parents, Oedipus goes in search of them – encounters his real father on the road (neither knows who one another are), get into some silly fight about who has right of way and Oedipus kills Laius (in self defense), non the wiser that he’s killed his father – just some silly old man who insisted it was his right of way on the mountain path.

Now the people of Thebes have no King, when Oedipus arrives they offer the Queen Jocasta as a gift to Oedipus – they marry and bear 4 children together (I don’t know if the incest affected the kids).

Well, the town of Thebes suddenly begins to suffer from lack of crops, infertility in women and all manner of problems…the Oracle at Delphi informs them that the murderer of Laius all those years ago must be found, killed or exiled as this is the source of their problems.


Yet more revelations come about and in the end, Jocasta comes to understand that Oedipus DIDN’T die in the wilderness, in fact he lived and in fact, she’s MARRIED TO HER SON!

Well, in her disgust off she goes and hangs herself.  Oedipus, meanwhile, also finds out about his past through the grapevine of servants and off he trots to find his wife/mother – sees she’s hanged herself and in one version of the story, takes a brooch from her gown and stabs his eyes out.  Other versions say that Laius’s servant blinded him…either way, he went blind.

Oedipus, in his disgust, scratches his eyes out
Oedipus, in his disgust, scratches his eyes out

How does this relate to mothers and their sons?

Freud coined the term “Oedipus Complex” to explain the unconscious desire all boys have for their mothers and the unconscious thought to kill their fathers for exclusivity to their mothers.  He also says that Oedipus KNEW Laius was his father when he killed him.

Freud?  Sex obsessed?

I’m sorry, but personally I think Freud’s a bit sex obsessed and maybe needed therapy himself – and was actually a DANGEROUS PERSON to be a psychologist.    It would also suggest that it’s the BOYS who’re the problem, not the mothers (because in the story, as soon as Jocasta found out, she killed herself).  I still maintain, however, that the relationships between Greek mothers and their sons borders in some cases on the unhealthy.


Header picture courtesy of : http://www.lifebeyondbordersblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/T10-14-ENT-Oedipus-the-Tyrant-1.jpg


  1. Being married to one’s son is just well–WRONG. Freud was sex obsessed. But, there is something to be said about how children relate to their opposite sex parent. It’s very normal for very young children to say they want to marry that parent or even feel threatened slightly by the OP relationally. It’s normal as long as it doesn’t become unhealthy or criminal.

    Great post!


  2. I read it all- good to be reminded of the story. Freud was a nut-case, but he shaped western culture for half a century! I’m trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month. My alphabet is at myqualityday.blogspot.com