Oedipus as Epic Hero

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One of the most well known aspects of the golden Greek culture is the plays and poetry that express the values or norms of the ancient population. However, they are commonly referred to as Greek Epics, or Greek Tragedies. Common examples of such pieces of literature could be Odysseus, Gilgamesh, and King Oedipus. Oedipus was an epic Tragedy centered around his mortality and his inevitable destiny.

Trying to avoid killing his father and marrying his mother, to not allow the prophecy to be true. However, he has already done so in his early years, proving the point and dealing with the destiny that the great Gods have laid out in front of one’s path. Although he was simply a mortal hated by the Gods, certain aspects of King Oedipus can correlate to characteristics of a Greek Epic Hero. He may not have slain a Cyclops like Odysseus, or slay an enemy like Gilgamesh did, but the King has advantages of his own, unique to his being.

Major aspects of a Greek epic revolve around the battle or some sort of tension between a humanly figure and a God. In the Odyssey for example, Odysseus in an attempt to save his men from disaster of the son of Poseidon, a Cyclops, was able to pierce his eye and blind him. “Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.”(Homer). Odysseus had a major conflict with the son of a God, son of the great Poseidon who rules the seas. In the case of Oedipus, he faces tragedy with the God Apollo, as to why his life is full of misery.”Apollo, friend, Apollo, he it was That brought these ills to pass; But the right hand that dealt the blow.”(Sophocles).

Since one major aspect of being a Greek epic is to have tension with a Greek Godly figure, Oedipus the King can constitute as a hero. For Odysseus, he was faced against the son of Poseidon, a brawl between mortal and a Cyclops. Although Oedipus isn’t fighting against a Godly creature, he’s fighting against the wrath of the Gods within himself. Not a fight with a God, but a fight against the God’s chosen destiny for him. With tensions between a mortal and a God, in this case Apollo, King Oedipus is seen as a Hero.

In addition to characteristics of a Greek hero, the hero usually also show some sort of aspect of bravery to their persona. For instance, Odysseus showed many aspects of bravery throughout his journey. Whether it included saving himself or acting selfless to save another individual near and dear to his heart, he would do so. This bravery could take example either physical or mental. For instance, in Odysseus’ battle with the Cyclops, he demonstrates great courage as he ¨drove the sharp end of the beam into the monster’s eye, and bearing upon it with all my weight I kept turning it round and round. . .” (Homer).

This causing the safety of Odysseus and his men. In the case of Oedipus, he demonstrates mental bravery through his reality with humanity and fear. “Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day.¨(Sophocles). Epic Heroes are well known for their physical/ mental bravery in combat with the world or with themselves. Although Odysseus and Oedipus have different strengths, they are both brave. Odysseus used his wits to be able to defeat an opponent sent from Poseidon himself.

Oedipus on the other hand faced reality, stating his viewpoint that humanity should not associate with fear, since their destiny is already predestined and may not be changed. Yes, Oedipus did not slay an opponent or have the appearance of someone strong, be his mentality is strong. Stating the reality and accepting it, could be quite one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. Humanity is obsessed with safety and happy life, and usually can´t accept the way things are. Since Oedipus was able to accept the idea of destiny, he is brave, and could constitute as an Epic Hero. Odysseus has the strength, Oedipus has the mind.

Finally, Oedipus the King could be known as an Epic Hero because of his weaknesses as a human. Strangely, many speculate on the myth that Epic Heroes have no flaws at all, and are perfect as Gods. However, a characteristic to every Hero and God is some sort of imperfection that could constitute as a weakness. For example, when Odysseus defeated the Cyclops and saved his men, out of pure self rejoice he quotes, “Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.” (Homer Book 9). This weakness of overconfidence cost the lives of many of Odysseus’ men. He could have simply fleed without the beast knowing his identity, leaving no trace. However, he wanted his victory to be known, and for some that was the last thing they heard.

In the case of Oedipus, his weakness lies in himself, where he can’t accept his destiny and physically harms himself because of it. After his wife dies, and manually removes both his eyes, he cries, “I stand a wretch, in birth, in wedlock cursed, A parricide, incestuously, triply cursed!” (Sophocles). Since the Gods set his destiny before him, he should’ve understood his given fate and accept his future, regardless of how awful it may be. But his weakness of unacceptance caused him to constantly stress about his past, and evidently caused his outburst of self harm. But even though he has a major flaw, it is an accept of Heroes to have a weakness they may overcome. He will learn from his fate, and learn to not question destiny, but to accept what may come in an individual’s path. Both Odysseus and Oedipus have weaknesses, but it does make up their character as Epic Heroes.

For Epic Heroes, many know that some of their characteristics include relations to a Godly figure, bravery, and weaknesses. Although Oedipus was originally written by Sophocles to be an Epic Tragedy, the King also embodies characteristics that could mark him as an Epic Hero. He has made contact with Godly messengers, was mentally brave to admit why humans should not fear destiny, and has flaws that will help him develop as a human being. Oedipus is a different form of Hero. Usually Heroes are those in which people want to be exactly like.

But instead, Oedipus sets an example to help others walk towards the correct path. Oedipus demonstrates through his flaws and acceptance that an individual shall not attempt to manipulate his destiny, because in the final stage, the events will still occur. Because of this, the audience will be more likely to accept their fate as given, so they may not walk towards the mistake that Oedipus made. Acceptance, bravery, and flaws are aspects of Epic Heroes, and Oedipus fits this Criteria. Odysseus fought God’s creatures, Oedipus fought God’s destiny.

Cite this paper

Oedipus as Epic Hero. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/oedipus-as-epic-hero/

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