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The Role of the Gods in the Ancient Greek Society

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Man always regards gods as all knowing supreme beings, having in mind that gods are present to brighten and better his live. That is, man has always seen gods as a divine creature to whom he can pray whenever something wrong is happening, for they are the only ones having the solutions whenever he cannot handle his problems any longer. To man, gods are synonymous to justice, love, equity, peace and all what is seen as positive. But Sophocles in his play Oedipus the King, tries to defame gods divinity and faultlessness by showing us readers that, although gods could be perfect, they can also be harmful and destructive. Sophocles shows us that gods do have the human nature of causing harm. Readers can clearly see god’s destructiveness as they decide to destroy OEDIPUS’ life and that of his family due to his father’s sins. By having control over Oedipus’ destiny, the gods succeed in their mission.

In deed as said above all the powers of fate and destiny were in the hands of the gods. They were the ones controlling Oedipus’ life and destiny and for that reason, they are the ones responsible for his shameful deeds of killing his father and getting married to his own mother and even having offspring with her. By having destinies in their hands, they destroy Oedipus’ life instead of brightening it as people would always think and hope from them. This helps us to see the cruel and harmful role of the gods, as they maliciously plan Oedipus’ destruction step by step by tracing his fate. The gods had in mind, what Oedipus’ life will be, and to make sure the fate destined for him comes true. They gave him the free will to do what so ever he wanted that could help him escape his destiny, they also granted the power of prophecy to oracles and finally establish a plague in the Theban land, in order to make sure Oedipus’ destruction comes to fulfillment completely and at the end, this is achieved.

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The gods, were responsible for Oedipus’ destiny and their first step for the fulfillment of this fate was granting the power of prophecy to oracles, so that they could reveal to people what their future will look like. The gods granted the power of prophecy to oracles so that they could reveal to Laius and Oedipus what their future will be while allowing them with the free will of moving away from it. So when the Apollo oracle of Delphie announces to Laius that he will be killed by his son who will marry JOCASTA, on the one hand, while allowing him the free will to move away from his fate by telling him that horrible prophecy, it pushes him to pin his son’s leg and send him to be abandoned on the hill side. He was actually thinking that by so doing, he will move away from that prophecy. Oedipus on the other hand gets the information that the king and queen of Corinth are not his true parents from a drunk friend in a bar, he decides to move to Apollo’s oracle at DELPHY and instead of giving him the confirmation, the oracle tells him he will kill his father and marry his mother. Hearing this, Oedipus decides to move away from Corinth, at this point, he actually thinks he is moving away from his fate meanwhile he is rather moving towards its fulfillment.

These two instances above show us the malicious plan of the gods, because telling these prophecies to both Laius and Oedipus makes them to move toward the fulfillment of the prophecy without knowing. Firstly, telling the prophecy to Laius makes him to send the child to be killed by the hillside, but out of pity, the child it is handed to a shepherd from Corinth, who hands it to the king and queen, ( Merope and Pollibus) who are unable to have a child.(quote from the text) Oedipus grows up without knowing the identity of his true parents. Secondly telling the prophecy to Oedipus makes him to move away from Corinth with the fear of killing the people he considers as his parents, but just because of the fact that he did not know that Merope and Pollibus are not his true parents, makes him to move toward the fulfillment of the prophecy by killing his father Laius at the place where three roads meet (Quote from the text) and marry his mother. If both of them were not told about their destinies, they won’t have tried to escape from it. Laius won’t have sent for his child to be killed and Oedipus would have grown knowing his true parents to be Laiuse and Jocasta, and he won’t have committed the act of killing his father and marrying his mother. At this point, the gods should be the only ones to blame for Oedipus’ sins, for they push him to commit such evil and he does it in ignorance and blindness.

As if the two sins were not enough, the gods move further on their destruction of Oedipus’s life and family and they decided to strike the land of Thebes with a plague to ensure Oedipus’ destruction is complete. The gods strike the land of Thebes with the plague and they ensure the plague will come to an end once the murderer of Laius is revealed to everyone and Oedipus vows to find the murderer and send him out of Thebes. And in the course of this work, Oedipus comes to the final truth that he was the true murderer of his father fulfilling the prophecy of killing his father and he also comes to realize that he is married to his mother. By sending the dangerous plague on Thebes, the gods wanted to ensure Oedipus’ destruction is complete as he would be banned immediately they discover he is the murderer. In addition, by sending the plague the gods wanted to make sure Oedipus carries out a finding on who is the murderer of Laius by himself, so that by promising to band the murderer from THEBEs, he will band himself. Finally, the very last purpose of sending the plague was to relief Oedipus of his blindness and let him know the truth.

So, the main role of the gods in Oedipus the king was to ruin Oedipus’ life completely. By granting the power of prophecy and striking THEBEs with a plague, the gods made sure Oedipus’ life is completely ruined without him knowing. But since the gods had the fate of Oedipus in their hands, as reader we hold them responsible for Oedipus’ terrible sins, for he did them ignorantly. So from this play, Sophocles wants to show us readers a clear picture of the role of the Greek gods, and to let us know that they were also and could cause harm for no good reason, this is the case of Oedipus they decided to destruct for no good reason and push him to commit evil. Therefor showing us gods also have human trait of damaging with no good reason.

From the above, there is a great lesson that is gain, the fact that man can’t run away from his destiny no matter what. This was the case of Oedipus, Laius and Jocasta. After getting the prophecy, Laius and Jocasta try to avoid it by abandoning their child so that he will die. And Oedipus decide to move away from Corinth when he heard the prophecy. But when both were trying to move away from their fate they were instead moving towards its fulfillment.

We also learn more about gods nature, as they can portray humanistic traits, no doubt it is said man is a creature of god. Gods had control over Oedipus fate and by building up a malicious plan they push him into the sins of killing his father and marry his mother. So we learn gods can be evil and for no good reason they Can destroy someone entire life. These brings us to the conclusion that, indeed the main role of gods in Oedipus the king was to destroy Oedipus entire life and that of his family.


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