Oedipus: psychological analysis of myth

Oedipus: psychological analysis of myth

Oedipus He is a legendary hero of Thebes (Greece). He was the son of Layo, the King of Thebes and Yocasta. The oracle of Delphi warned Layo, in one of his predictions, that someday his own son would kill him to marry his wife.

Layo, who did not want to directly kill his newborn son, ordered that he be tied to a tree in the middle of the field, so that nature would do its job. However, a pastor who passed by found him and took him to the city ​​of Corinthwhere the young man Oedipus could grow under the tutelage of the kings of this city, Polibo and Mérope.


  • 1 The young Oedipus
  • 2 The prophecy
  • 3 Oedipus, King of Thebes
  • 4 The Oedipus Complex

The young Oedipus

One good day, someone told Oedipus that he was not the son of Polibo, something that the young man himself suspected, because he found no physical or temperamental resemblance to his "parents."

So that, He decided to take a solo trip and consult the Oracle of Delphi To know the truth. Not only did they not tell him what he wanted to know, but they told him that he would end up killing his father (Polibo) to marry his mother (Mérope).

With such heartbreaking information, he decided to leave his house in Corinth forever, as he preferred that before enforcing such a horrible prophecy. He undertook a hasty flight to Thebes, precisely.

The prophecy

On one of those old winding roads he stumbled upon a traveler who was going in the opposite direction, both men argued, insulted and challenged. Finally, Oedipus killed that unknown traveler. What Oedipus did not know is that this man was Layo, his true father.

When he arrived in Thebes, he found himself in a city mired in terror that produced a Sphinx that was hanging around, killing many of its citizens. Thebes demanded a hero that would end the life of the Sphinx and free the city from such an expensive presence.

Without hesitation, Oedipus volunteered and went out to meet her. The Sphinx, which came from Egypt, He proposed riddles to the people he met, and if they didn't know the solution, he devoured them. In this case, he proposed to Oedipus the following:

What is the animal that has a voice and that, successively is quadruped, biped and tripedal?

Oedipus replied that it was the Man, who first crawls, then walks and finally, in his old age he uses a cane as a third point of support. This enigma adduces the expiration of human life and the mystery of the divine in the face of the limited human destiny.

The Sphinx, upset by defeat, threw itself into the void from the top of some rocks, dying as a result of the fall.

Oedipus, King of Thebes

The inhabitants of Thebes, grateful to Oedipus, decided to proclaim him King, of course, with Yocasta as a wife. In this way, the circle was closed: the prophecy had been fulfilled, even with ignorance for Oedipus and his people.

The Gods, angry at Oedipus for his crimes - although involuntary - they decided to punish him by ravaging the city of Thebes with plagues, droughts and famines.

Oedipus was now facing a great challenge. Without knowing exactly what to do, he went back to the oracle of Delphi for advice. He was told that the solution to all problems was to find Layo's killer and do justice.

The terrible truth

Oedipus then undertook an exhaustive search for all corners of the city, questioned witnesses, suspects, but nothing. However, one day, the prophet Tiresias appeared to his court, who revealed the terrible truth to him. Oedipus was Layo's killer.

He now realized the prophecy of the Oracle of Delphi. Yocasta could not with the pain and hanged himself. On the contrary, Oedipus removed his eyes. Totally in disgrace, he left Thebes to live like a hermit.

The Oedipus Complex

This characteristic childhood complex It refers to the child's desire for their respective parents. The universality of this phenomenon in many societies and cultures is related to the prohibition of incest.

The Oedipus Complex in its positive form it is characterized by the rejection towards the same-sex parent and the erotic desire towards the parent of the opposite sex. On the one hand, the child wants to eliminate the father, as it is his competence. On the other, he wants to appropriate the mother, and possess her.

Oedipus and Freudian theory

For Freudian theory, The Oedipus Complex is the nucleus of much of the neuroses in adults. In a normal personality, this process occurs during the phallic phase, between 3 and 5 years.

A form of Inverted oedipus It corresponds to an inverse situation to the previous one and is explained by the ambivalence of love and an unconscious bisexuality.

The castration complex

For Freudian theory, the castration complex introduces the Oedipus into the female sex, through penis envy. This envy becomes an intense desire in women to have a male child (and thus have the penis they never had).

Conversely, the castration complex for children indicates the exit or final phase of the Oedipus. The symbolic threat of castration (by his father), forces him to get rid of the idea of ​​owning the mother (the child internalizes the prohibition of incest).

Therefore, he fears being punished as a result of his incestuous desires towards his mother. In this way, there is an identification with his father, in relation to the phallus.


  • Bettini, M., & Guidorizzi, G. (2008).The Oedipus myth (Vol. 268). Akal editions.
  • Freud, S. (1924).The dissolution of the Oedipus complex (Vol. 2135). NoBooks Editorial.
  • Moguillansky, R. (2003). Narcissism, Oedipus complex and fraternal complex.APdeBA Psychoanalysis25(1), 155-173.