Ever heard of "Oedipus' Complex"? Do you know the myth behind its name? You may do, but let us revise together! Our weekly Mulier Clara is, in fact, a major player in the story: we are talking about Oedipus' mother herself, Jocasta.

Also known as Iocaste, Jocasta was queen of Thebes together with her husband, king Laius. The Oracle from Delphi had warned the couple not to have a child, or the child would eventually kill the king and marry Jocasta. Laius, however, happened to get drunk one night and the couple accidentally conceived Oedipus. The king ordered for the child to be abandoned on the top of a mountain, his ankles pierced and pinned together; unbeknownst to him, however, a shepherd took pity on Oedipus and brought the baby to king Polybus of Corinth, who decided to raise him as his own.

Once an adult, Oedipus heard rumors about his parentage and consulted the Oracle in Delphi, who confirmed the original prophecy that had him killing his father and marrying his mother. Truly believing the king and queen of Corinth to be his biological parents, Oedipus fled the city in order to protect them. In a twist of events, however, he ended up meeting Laius and killing him after a fight; once in Thebes, moreover, he became a hero by beating the Sphinx that was terrorizing the city. Thebes then elected Oedipus as its new king, also arranging his marriage to queen Jocasta. The prophecy made by the Oracle was thus fulfilled.

Jocasta bore Oedipus a total of four children before eventually finding out the truth; upon learning of his sins, Oedipus gouged his own eyes out. According to Sophocles' version of the story, Jocasta then hung herself; according to Euripides, on the contrary, the queen kept on living in shame until her two sons killed each other in a fight for the crown, to which Jocasta, overcome by pain, finally committed suicide.

“Jocasta”, illumination from the manuscript “Cas des nobles hommes et femmes”, ms. Français 12420, f. 35r, 15h century, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris.

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