Death of Oedipus
He didn't expel Creon immediately Oedipus from Thebes. For some time he lived in the palace, having retired from everyone, surrendering himself entirely to his grief. But the Thebans were afraid that the presence of Oedipus in Thebes would bring the wrath of the gods to the whole country. They demanded the immediate expulsion of the blind Oedipus. The sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynicus, did not oppose this decision either. They themselves wanted to rule in Thebes. The Thebans expelled Oedipus, and his sons shared power with Creon.
Blind, decrepit Oedipus went into exile in a foreign land. Inevitable death would have befallen him, helpless, if his daughter, noble, strong in spirit Antigone, did not dare to devote herself to her father. She followed Oedipus into exile. Led by Antigone, the unfortunate old man passed from country to country. Antigone carefully led him through the mountains and dark forests, sharing with him all the hardships, all the dangers of the difficult path.
After long wanderings, Oedipus finally came to Attica, to the city of Athens. Antigone did not know where she had brought her father. In the distance one could see the walls and towers of the city, illuminated by the rays of the newly risen sun. Beside him, a laurel grove grew green, all twined with ivy and grapes. In the grove in some places the silvery green of the olive shone. From the grove came the sweet singing of nightingales. Bubbling loudly, streams flowed through the green valley, the stars of daffodils were white everywhere and fragrant saffron turned yellow. In a green grove, under the shade of a laurel, the long-suffering Oedipus sat down on a stone, and Antigone wanted to go and find out what kind of place it was. A villager passed by; he told Oedipus that it was Colon, a place near Athens, that the grove in which Oedipus sits is dedicated to Eumenides, and the whole area around is dedicated to To Poseidon, and to the titan Prometheus, the city that is visible from the grove is Athens, where the great hero rules Theseus, son of Egeyo. Hearing this, Oedipus began to ask the villager to send someone to King Theseus, as he wants to give him great help if Theseus agrees to give him shelter for a while. It was hard for the villager to believe that a weak and, moreover, a blind old man could help the mighty king of Athens. Full of doubts, the villager went to Colon to tell about the blind old man sitting in the sacred grove of Eumenides and promising great help to Theseus himself.
Oedipus, having learned that he was in the sacred grove of Eumenides, realized that his last hour, the end of all his sufferings, was not far off. Apollo had already predicted to him long ago that after long, full of hardships wanderings, he would die in the sacred grove of great goddesses and that whoever gave him shelter would receive a great reward, and those who drive him out will be severely punished by the gods. Now Oedipus understood that the great goddesses are Eumenides, who pursued him so inexorably all his life. Oedipus believes that now peace will come for him.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Colon rush to the Eumenides Grove to find out who dared to enter it, when the citizens themselves do not even dare to pronounce the name of the formidable goddesses, do not dare to cast a glance at their sanctuary. Oedipus only heard the voices of the colonies, as he asked Antigone to take him deep into the grove, but when the colonies began to call him the defiler of the grove, he went out and, to the question of the colonies, he named himself. They were horrified. Before them is Oedipus! Who in Greece did not know his terrible fate, who did not know those crimes, the unwitting culprit of which was the unfortunate son of Laius! No, the colonists cannot allow Oedipus to remain here, they are afraid of the wrath of the gods. They do not listen to either the requests of Oedipus or the requests of Antigone and demand that the blind old man immediately leave the neighborhood of Colon. Is it possible that Oedipus will not find shelter in Athens, in those Athens that are famous throughout Greece as a holy city that gives protection to all who pray for it? After all, Oedipus did not come here of his own free will, because his arrival should bring good to the citizens. Finally, Oedipus asks the citizens to wait at least until the arrival of Theseus. Let the king of Athens decide whether Oedipus can stay here or whether he should be expelled from here too.
The citizens agreed to wait for the arrival of Theseus. At this time, a chariot appears in the distance, a woman rides on it in a wide-brimmed Thessalian hat that covers her face. Antigone peers, and it seems to her that this woman is her sister Ismena. The chariot is getting closer, Antigone peers even closer and really recognizes Ismene.
- 0father, - says Antigone, - I see your daughter Ismene is coming here, now you will hear her voice.
Riding up to Oedipus, Ismene got off the chariot and threw herself into her father's arms.
- Father, my unfortunate father! Ismene exclaimed, “at last I embrace you and Antigone again.
Oedipus is glad to see Ismene, now he is with himdaughters; his faithful companion and assistant Antigonus and Ismene, who never forgot her father and constantly sent him news from Thebes.
Ismena was looking for Oedipus in order to convey to him the saddest news: the sons of Oedipus at first ruled together in Thebes. But the younger son, Eteocles, seized power alone and expelled his elder brother, Polynices, from Thebes. Then Polynices went to Argos and there he found help. Now he goes with an army against Thebes, in order to either seize power or fall in battle. Ismene also relates that the oracle at Delphi predicted victory to him, on whose side Oedipus would be. Ismene is sure that Creon, who rules with Eteocles, will soon appear here in order to seize the power of Oedipus. Oedipus does not want to be on the side of either one or the other son; he is angry with his sons because they put the desire for power higher than the duty of children to their father. He does not want to help his sons, who have not uttered a word against his expulsion from Thebes. No, they will not receive power over Thebes with the help of their father. Oedipus will stay here, he will be the defender of Athens!
The citizens of Colon advise Oedipus to make propitiatory sacrifices to the Eumenides if he decides to stay forever in Athens. Oedipus asks that someone make these sacrifices, since he himself, decrepit and blind, is unable to do this. Ismene is called to make sacrifices and goes to the Eumenides grove.
As soon as Ismene left, Eumenides comes to the grove with his retinue Theseus. He warmly welcomes Oedipus and promises him protection. Theseus knows how hard the fate of a stranger is, he knows how much adversity falls to his lot. He himself experienced the whole burden of life in a foreign land and therefore cannot refuse protection to the unfortunate wanderer Oedipus.
Oedipus thanks Theseus and promises him his protection. He says that his grave will always be the true protection of the Athenians.
But Oedipus was not destined to find peace immediately. When Theseus left, Creon comes from Thebes with a small detachment. He wants to take possession of Oedipus in order to ensure victory for himself and Eteocles over Polyneices and his allies. Creon tries to persuade Oedipus to go with him; he convinces him to go to Thebes and promises him that he will live there quietly in the circle of his relatives, surrounded by their cares. But Oedipus' decision is adamant. Yes, he does not believe Creon. Oedipus knows what makes Creon persuade him to return to Thebes. No, he will not go with them, he will not give victory into the hands of those who doomed him to so many troubles.
Seeing the inflexibility of Oedipus, Creon begins to threaten him that he will force Oedipus to go with him to Thebes. Oedipus is not afraid of violence, because he is under the protection of Theseus and all the Athenians. But Creon gloatingly informs the blind, helpless old man that one of his daughters, Ismene, has already been captured; Creon threatens to take possession of the only support of Oedipus - his selfless daughter Antigone. Creon immediately carries out his threat, he orders to seize Antigone. In vain does she call for the help of the Athenians, in vain she stretches out her arms to her father - she is taken away. Now Oedipus is helpless, those eyes that looked for him were taken away from him; he calls Eumenides as a witness, he curses Creon and wishes him to experience the same fate that he himself experienced, wishes him to lose his children. Creon, having already used violence, decides to continue with violence. He grabs Oedipus and wants to take him away. The inhabitants of Colon stand up for Oedipus, but there are few of them, and they are unable to fight the Creon detachment. The colony calls loudly for help. Theseus hurries to their cry with his retinue.
Theseus is outraged by Creon's violence. How dare he seize Oedipus and his daughters here at the grove of Eumenides, does he really think that there are few people in Athens, does he really not put Theseus in anything if he dares to take away by force those who are under the protection of Athens? Had he been taught in Thebes to act so illegally? Not! Theseus knows that lawlessness will not be tolerated in Thebes. Creon himself dishonors his city and his homeland; although he is old in years, he acts like a mad youth. Theseus demands that Oedipus' daughters be returned immediately. Creon tries to justify his act before Theseus by the fact that, according to him, he was sure that Athens would not give shelter to the parricide and the one who married his own mother. However, Theseus is firm in his decision; he demands that Creon return his daughters to Oedipus, and says that he will not leave until the daughters are again with Oedipus. Creon obeyed the demand of Theseus, and soon the elder Oedipus was already hugging his daughters and thanking the magnanimous king of Athens, calling on him the blessing of the gods.
Theseus says to Oedipus:
- Listen to me, Oedipus; here, at the altar of Poseidon, where I sacrificed before the arrival of Creon, a young man is sitting, he wants to talk to you.
- But who is this young man? asks Oedipus.
I don't know. The young man came from Argos. Think about whether you have someone close to you in Argos, - Theseus answers.
Hearing this, Oedipus exclaimed:
- 0, don't ask, Theseus, to talk to this young man! From your words, I understood that this is my hated son, Polynices. His words will only cause me suffering.
- But he came as a supplicant, - says Theseus, - you cannot refuse him without angering the gods.
Hearing that Polyneices is here, Antigone also asks her father to listen to him, although he has seriously offended his father. Oedipus agrees to listen to his son, and Theseus leaves for him.
Polyneices arrives. There are tears in his eyes. He cries when he sees his father - blind, in the clothes of a beggar, with gray hair blowing in the wind, with traces of constant hunger and deprivation on his face. Now only Polynices understood how cruelly he acted with his own father. Stretching out his hands to his father, he says:
- Father, tell me just one word, don't turn your back on me! Answer me, don't leave me unanswered! Sisters! At least convince my father not to let me go without saying a word to me.
Antigone asks her brother to tell her father why he has come; she is sure that Oedipus will not leave her son without an answer.
Polynices tells how he was expelled from Thebes by his younger brother, how he went to Argos, where he married his daughter Adrasta and found help for himself, to take away from his brother the power that belongs to him by right, as the eldest.
- Oh, father! - so continued Polynices, - all of us who go against Thebes conjure you with your life, your children to go with us; we pray, forget your anger and help us take revenge on Eteocles, who expelled me and took my homeland from me. After all, if only the oracles speak the truth, then victory will accompany those with whom you will be. Oh, listen to me kindly! I conjure you with the gods - go with me. I will return you to your home, and here, in a foreign land, you are a beggar, just as poor as I am.
Oedipus doesn't listen to his son. Requests do not touch him. He is now needed by his son Polynices in order to take possession of Thebes. Had he not expelled him from Thebes before? Didn't he make him a wanderer? Is it not thanks to him that Oedipus wears this sackcloth? Both sons forgot their duty to their father, only the daughters remained faithful to him and always took care of him and honored him.
- No, I won't help you cast down Thebes into the ashes. Before you take Thebes, you yourself will fall covered in blood, and your brother Eteocles will fall with you! exclaims Oedipus. - Again, I call a curse on your head, so that you remember how you should honor your own father. Flee from here, rejected, fatherless! Take my curses with you! Die in a duel with your brother. Kill the one who banished you! I call Eumenides and the god Ares, who stirred up a fratricidal strife between you, so that they punish you! Go and tell all your companions what gifts Oedipus divided equally among his sons.
- 0, woe is me! Oh, I'm unhappy! - exclaims Polyneices, - how can I convey my father's answer to my companions! No, silently I must go towards my fate!
Polyneices left without begging for forgiveness and protection from his father, left without listening to Antigone's requests to return to Argos and not start a war threatening death for him, his brother and Thebes.
The last hour of Oedipus was near. Thunder rolled across the clear sky and lightning flashed. All who were at the grove of Eumenides stood, struck by this formidable sign of Zeus. Here's another thunderclap. Again the bright lightning flared up. Everyone shuddered in fear.
Oedipus called his daughters to him and said to them:
- Oh, children! Summon Theseus soon! These thunders of Zeus portend me that I will soon descend into the kingdom of gloomy Hades. Don't delay! Send for Theseus quickly! My end is near!
As soon as Oedipus said this, as if confirming his words, thunder rumbled again. Hastily came to the grove of Eumenides Theseus. Hearing his voice, Oedipus said:
- Ruler of Athens! My end has come, the thunders and lightnings of Zeus portend my death, and I want to die, having fulfilled what I promised you. I myself will take you to the place where I die, but you do not reveal to anyone where my grave is, it will protect your city better than many shields and spears. You will hear for yourself what I cannot say here. Keep this secret and reveal it to your eldest son at your death, and let him pass it on to his heir. Let's go, Theseus, let's go, children. Now I, blind, will be your guide, Hermes and Persephone will lead me.
Theseus, Antigone and Ismene followed Oedipus, and he led them as if with sight. He came to the place where there was a descent into the dark realm of the shadows of the dead, and sat down on a stone there. Preparing for death, Oedipus hugged his daughters and said to them:
- Children, from this day on you will no longer have a father. The god of death has already taken possession of me Tanat. You will no longer have a heavy duty to take care of me.
With a loud cry, Antigonus and Ismen embraced their father. Suddenly a mysterious voice was heard from the depths: "Hurry, hurry, Oedipus! Why are you delaying going? You are delaying too long!" Oedipus, hearing a mysterious voice, called Theseus, put the hands of his daughters in his hand and begged Theseus to be their protector. Theseus vowed to fulfill the request of Oedipus. Ordered the daughters of Oedipus to leave, they should not have seen what would happen, and should notzheny were to hear the secret that Oedipus wanted to tell Theseus. Antigone and Ismene left. Having gone not far, they turned around to look at their father for the last time, but he was no longer there, only Theseus stood, covering his eyes with his hands, as if a terrible vision had come to him. Then Antigonus and Ismen saw how Theseus knelt down and began to pray. So Oedipus ended his long-suffering life, and none of the mortals knew how he died and where his grave was. Without a groan, without pain, he departed into the kingdom of Aida, he departed into it like no other person departs.