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Notes on Oedipus at Colonus Themes

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Oedipus at Colonus Topic Tracking: Religion

Religion 1: After wandering for many years, Oedipus sits down in a sacred place at Colonus; a grove of trees there is sacred to goddesses called the Eumenides, the land in Colonus is owned by the god Poseidon, and the ancient Titan, Prometheus, lives there as well. Oedipus violates the sanctity of the grove by sitting in it, however, and showing little respect that it is a holy place.

Religion 2: Antigone blames the gods for causing Oedipus' suffering. This opinion is different than the Chorus, which believes that Oedipus caused his own suffering because of bad decisions, but Antigone declares that he did not know Laius was his father, nor did he know that Jocasta was his mother; she blames the gods for torturing Oedipus unjustly.

Religion 3: Ismene tells about the predictions for the future that come from the god Apollo; these prophesies warn Oedipus that his sons will come soon to try to take him back to Thebes. The oracle also long ago caused Laius to abandon his son, fearing that Oedipus would one day kill him as he would eventually do.

Religion 4: Oedipus must make offerings to ask for the goddesses called the Eumenides to forgive him for trespassing in their sacred grove. He must pour water with honey and recite a prayer; Ismene volunteers to go perform this task because Oedipus is so blind and old. The Eumenides are goddesses of forgiveness, and it is forgiveness for all of his sins of patricide and incest that Oedipus seeks to obtain.

Religion 5: With the help of the god Apollo, the oracle predicts that Athens will one day conquer the city of Thebes. Other predictions have been true before, such as how Laius will be killed by his son Oedipus. After hearing about the future from the god Apollo, citizens in Thebes try to prevent their city from destruction by bringing Oedipus back.

Religion 6: As Theseus goes off to sacrifice to the gods at the altar, the Chorus calls Colonus "god's place" because it is so sacred; it is home to the Eumendies, Prometheus, and Poseidon. These citizens of Athens respect the gods very much.

Religion 7: Oedipus has reverence for the gods, hoping that they do not punish him for cursing Creon because he is so angry. He wishes that Apollo will punish Creon and all of his children, although Creon is not affected at all by his words except to become even angrier himself.

Religion 8: Overjoyed to have his daughters Ismene and Antigone returned safely thanks to the help of Theseus, Oedipus prays that the gods will reward Athens for its kindness. He is also very happy to see that the Athenians have loyalty to the gods, unlike the lawlessness and selfishness he had witnessed in Thebes from Creon and his sons.

Religion 9: As great of a hero and a king that he is, Theseus nevertheless does not equate himself to be one with the gods; he recognizes that he rules with the support of the gods helping him. If the gods do not help him, then Theseus is nothing at all. He is thus very wise and humble, a quality which was not seen in Creon from Thebes. Creon was irrational and selfish.

Religion 10: Zeus, the king of the gods, sends thunder rumbling through the sky to announce that it is time for Oedipus to die; the Chorus of Athenians elders is humbles, acknowledging that Zeus is very powerful because he is a god, and they are afraid of him. Theseus is making sacrifices to the god Poseidon while this is occurring.

Religion 11: When the gods announce it is time for him to die, Oedipus doesn't argue at all and merely lets himself be guided by them. Recognizing the power of the gods and believing in them, Oedipus finds his peace at last. The Chorus prays that the gods will be kind to Oedipus as his spirit ventures down into the underworld after he dies

Religion 12: A god's voice calls Oedipus to die because he takes too long while saying good-bye to his children, asking him "Why do you wait so long?" and declaring that he has been too slow for his entire life. Oedipus follows the voice until he is swallowed by the earth and disappears, taken away by the gods. His death is thus very unusual because of the gods' involvement.

Religion 13: It is very sacred to swear an oath to the gods as Theseus has done in promising to keep the location of Oedipus' grave a secret. To break an oath made in the name of the gods means that he would be punished harshly by the gods themselves. Realizing this, Antigone does not try to find out where her father is buried any longer and chooses instead to return to Thebes.

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