What has four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?

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Egyptian sphinx statue. She ate all who passed by her unless they could solve her riddle. The riddle was “what has four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?” Oedipus easily solved the riddle. The answer was man because he crawls on four legs as a baby (the morning of life), walks on two legs as an adult (the afternoon of life), and uses a cane as a third leg as an old person (the evening of life). The Sphinx killed herself in disgrace and Oedipus was declared a hero. He married Jocasta and became king of Thebes, not realizing that the oracle’s prophecy was now complete. He had killed his own father and married his own mother.

Oedipus and Jocasta had 4 children: Eteocles, Polyneices, Antigone, and Ismene. When their children were grown another plague came to Thebes, this time killing the crops. Advice was sought again from the Delphic oracle by Creon. The Pythoness told them to expel the murderer of Laius. Oedipus sent for Teiresias, the famous blind seer of Thebes. Teiresias had been blinded by Hera when he settled an argument she and Zeus were having He sided with Zeus and said that women enjoyed sex more than men.

A search began for the murderer of Laius. It may seen odd to the modern reader that Oedipus, Jocasta and the rest did not see the obvious. But that is partly the story, the tragic flaw of characters and the inability to see the obvious. Finally, after much discussion, questioning and missed chances Oedipus and Jocasta finally realized the truth—that Jocasta was married to her own son and had had incestuous children with him and that Oedipus had indeed killed his own father. Jocasta hanged herself in disgrace. Oedipus took the broach from her robe and blinded himself.

Oedipus left Thebes with his daughter Antigone. Ismene remained in Thebes to keep Oedipus advised of the situation there. Oedipus wandered around, coming finally to Colonus , an area near Athens. King Theseus welcomed him. There Oedipus died in peace with Theseus and his two daughters at his side.

In their father’s absence Eteocles and Polyneices decided to share the rule of Thebes, taking alternate years for their rule. But Eteocles refused

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to yield his power to his brother after the first year. Polyneices raised an army against his brother and attacked Thebes. With six other leaders they were known as the Seven Against Thebes. By now Oedipus was dead and Antigone and Ismene had returned to Thebes. Antigone was engaged to marry Creon’s son Haemon. Polyneices and Eteocles met in single combat and each mortally wounded the other. (This was the fulfillment of a curse made by their father Oedipus). When her brother Polyneices was killed in the battle Antigone determined to give him proper burial. Eteocles had been given a funeral since he was the King. But Polyneices was seen as a

traitor to Thebes. Creon, now regent again, forbade anyone, under threat of death, to give the traitor Polyneices a proper burial. Antigone violated his decree and buried her brother.

Creon ordered Haemon to kill Antigone. Antigone hanged herself and Haemon killed himself rather than kill his beloved Antigone.

King Theseus came to Thebes to see that the other five dead members of the Seven Against Thebes were given proper burial. They included Parthenopaeüs, son of Atalanta, Tydeus, father of the Trojan War hero Diomedes, Capaneus, who was killed by a bolt from Zeus as he was scaling the city walls shouting that not even Zeus could stop him from burning the city, and Amphiaraüs who died when he was swallowed up by the earth which had been opened up by one of Zeus’ thunderbolt.

The children of the Seven Against Thebes later grew up to avenge the deaths of their fathers. They were called the Epigoni. They razed the city of Thebes. The famed golden necklace once given to Harmonia as a wedding present was taken to Delphi and remained there for many years.

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