Notes on Objects & Places from Oedipus at Colonus

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Oedipus at Colonus Objects/Places

Thebes: A city on the Greek mainland northwest of Athens. Oedipus was once king of Thebes before his exile. Afterwards, his sons Eteocles and Polyneices battle to win the kingship; Polyneices gathers seven armies together and plans to attack Thebes. The oracle at Delphi predicts that Thebes will be destroyed by Athens in the future. Antigone and Ismene return to Thebes after their father's death.

Grove: A sacred place in Colonus surrounded by trees. It is here that Oedipus rests with Antigone when he arrives at Colonus; it is sacred to the Eumenides, Prometheus is said to dwell here, and there is an altar in this grove sacred to Poseidon. Oedipus must make an offering later to appease the gods, since he defiled their holy spot by sitting there on a rock; Ismene helps out by making the offerings for him because he is blind.

Eumenides: Goddesses of the Underworld. Once called the Furies, these vengeful goddesses were transformed into goddesses of forgiveness, 'protectors of the suppliant'. It is in their sacred grove that Oedipus' long life of suffering ends at last, and he must make offerings to appease them. Soon after the offering is made, Oedipus dies peacefully, his sins of incest and patricide forgiven by these benevolent goddesses.

Bronze Road: The road that runs from Colonus into the city of Athens. Oedipus follows this road before resting in the sacred grove.

Poseidon: God of the sea and horses. An altar in the sacred grove is dedicated to Poseidon, and Poseidon owns the land around the grove. Theseus rushes away from the altar to stop Creon during a sacrifice to Poseidon.

Prometheus: An ancient Titan who gave humans fire and the ability to think. He is said to live in the sacred grove. Perhaps he is mentioned because many of so many of Oedipus' stupid mistakes in the past. This was the reason why he had blinded himself originally, due to the shame that he was so blind and ignorant of these mistakes. The fact that Oedipus ends his life in a place sacred to Prometheus suggests that he found wisdom at last.

(Knight) Colonus: A 'suburb' of Athens. A smaller community surrounding this larger city in the Greek mainland, it is here that Oedipus' life of suffering ends at last. Its name comes from a man named 'Knight Colonus' who protects this place.

Oracle of Phoebus Apollo at Delphi: A divine woman in the city of Delphi who could predict the future with the help of Phoebus Apollo, god of the sun and prophesy, brother of the goddess Athene. Located northwest of Thebes, many people from all over Greece would journey to Delphi to hear predictions about the future. The oracle told Laius that his son Oedipus would kill him one day, and he tried unsuccessfully to prevent this by killing his son first. The oracle later predicted that the location of Oedipus' grave would be a sacred; that Oedipus would end his journey after offending the Eumenides at Colonus; and that Athens would one day conquer the city of Thebes.

Athens: A large city on the Greek mainland. After being exiled from Thebes, Oedipus ends his journey near Athens; Theseus, who helps Oedipus, is king of this city. Oedipus rewards the Athenian citizens for their kindness by making his grave near their city, swearing that Athens will be protected as long as his grave remains a secret. The oracle's prophesy declares that Athens will one day conquer Thebes.

Altar: A sacred place in the grove that is used to make offerings to the gods; the altar is said to be dedicated to the god Poseidon. Later, Polyneices throws himself down at this altar, begging to see Oedipus. Theseus makes sacrifices to Poseidon at this altar before he pauses to stop Creon.

Seven armies: A group of soldiers led by seven different chieftains. The elder brother Polyneices put these armies together to help him to reclaim the kingship of Thebes from his younger brother Eteocles. Antigone advises him to send the soldiers back to their homes because she worries about his safety, but Polyneices refuses and marches on to Thebes.

Athena: Goddess of war and wisdom; sister of the god Apollo. Athens is protected by Athene, and the city is named in her honor. When Creon kidnaps Antigone, the Chorus prays that Athene will aid King Theseus in bringing her back safely.

Hermes: God of messengers and luck. As Oedipus prepares to die, he walks unaided because Hermes, the messenger god called the 'Conductor', is said to guide him and show the way. This suggests that the gods have forgiven Oedipus and are now helping him by putting an end to his suffering.

Underworld: The Greek land of the dead, also called Hades. All persons good and bad go to Hades after death where they must first pass Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards Hades' gates. Then a ferryman named Charon carries souls to the other side of the river Styx, where they are then judged to see if they will suffer in the afterlife in Tartarus, the lowest, darkest depths of Hades, or if they will be rewarded by dwelling in the blessed Elysium Fields. As Oedipus dies, the Chorus hopes that his soul will have a safe journey through Hades. The underworld is also the Eumenides' home.

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