Iokaste (also Jokaste, ancient Greek Ἰοκάστη) or Epicaste is a figure of Greek mythology. She was the daughter of Menoikeus as well as sister of Creon. Iocaste married the Theban king Laios, and after his death, in her second marriage, her son Oedipus (Oidipus), with whom, according to younger, Attic versions of the saga, she gave birth to two sons (Eteocles and Polyneikes) and two daughters (Antigone and Ismene). According to other, older, versions, however, Euryganeia was the mother of these Oedipus children.
Iocaste in myth
Iocaste, among others in Homer and Pausanias Epicaste, is the wife of Laius and is considered in most surviving versions of the saga to be the biological mother of Oedipus. Homer’s Odyssey already reports that Epicaste hanged herself and that Oedipus continued to rule Thebes in pain. According to Epimenides, however, Eurykleia was Oedipus’ biological mother and Iocaste the second wife of Laios. In modern research, too, there is the assumption that Iocaste was Oedipus’ stepmother in old versions of the saga, while Laios begot Oedipus with Eurykleia, a concubine. Thus, Morris Silver argues that from Homer’s statements.. in conjunction with information from Pausanias it can be deduced that Epicaste was a virgin priestess and formally the principal wife of Laius, but that offspring were conceived with a concubine.
Laios is prophesied in case he begets a son that he will kill him and marry his wife. According to other versions, Laios receives the prophecy that he will preserve Thebes (and his life) if he remains without offspring. When Iocaste nevertheless becomes pregnant and gives birth to Oedipus, he is abandoned shortly after birth. Discovered or handed over by shepherds or found on the beach by Periboia, he grows up with foster parents, Polybos and his wife Periboia (or, according to later versions, Merope), whom he long mistakes for his birth parents. Later, in what most versions of the saga believe to be a chance encounter, he kills Laios, his father, unknown to him. After Oedipus subsequently frees Thebes from the Sphinx, he gains kingship in Thebes as a reward and Iocaste as his wife. Oedipus knows nothing of the fact that Iocaste is his biological (but cf. above!) mother.
When the truth comes to light, Iocaste hangs herself because of the shame. This end of Epicastes is already described by Homer According to different versions, Oedipus subsequently gouges out his eyes with Iocaste’s golden clasps, or is blinded, or continues to rule as king of Thebes apparently unblinded. In the tragedy The Phoenician Women by Euripides, however, Iocaste commits suicide years later, when she learns that her sons Eteocles and Polyneikes have killed each other in a duel
According to the older epic tradition the marriage between Iocaste and Oedipus remained childless. The mother of Eteocles, Polyneikes, Antigone and Ismene was thus Euryganeia, the second wife of Oedipus, whom he married after the death of Iocaste. According to Pausanias this version of the legend was reproduced in the Oidipodeia. Pherekydes, however, names two sons from this union, Phrastor and Laonytos, who were killed in a war against Orchomenos. That Oedipus begat no children with Iocaste may already be inferred from a statement of Homer, according to which Oedipus’ matrimonial and patricidal ἂφαρ were revealed. How ἂφαρ, which among other things can mean “soon” or “very soon”, but also “suddenly”, is to be interpreted, has been disputed since antiquity; it is often argued, even in modern research, that this (time) indication excludes that children could arise from the marriage, since Epicaste/Iocaste died too shortly after marriage. The variant in which Iocaste is the mother of the four known Oedipus children can only be grasped with certainty in the Attic tragedies of classical times (e.g. Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes and Sophocles’ Antigone). It is disputed whether already in the text fragments of the Papyrus Lille, which apparently reproduce a version of Stesichoros, Iokaste is considered the biological mother.
- Erich Bethe: Iokaste1. in: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft (RE ). Vol. IX,2, Stuttgart 1916, Sp. 1841 f.
- Heinrich Wilhelm Stoll: Iokaste 1. in: Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (ed.): Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie. Vol. 2,1, Leipzig 1894, p. 284 f. ( ).
- Otto Höfer: Oidipus. In: Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (ed.): Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie. Band 3,1, Leipzig 1902, Sp. 700-746, bes. Sp 703f., 726-731.
- Wolfgang Christlieb: Der entzauberte Ödipus, Ursprünge und Wandlungen eines Mythos. Nymphenburger, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-485-01850-3.
- Johanna J. Danis: The Oedipal Triangulum. 2., revised edition. Munich 1989, ISBN 3-925350-26-8.
- Homer, Odyssey 11, 271 f.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece 9,26,3.
- Homer, Odyssey 11, 275-280
- Scholion to Euripides, The Phoenician Women 13.
- Homer, Odyssey 11, 271-81
- Pausanias, Description of Greece 9,26,3.
- Morris Silver: Taking Ancient Mythology Economically. Brill, Leiden 1992, p. 197.
- Homer, Odyssey 11, 277-279.
- according to Homer, Iliad 23,679f. he falls in a battle – so the prevailing interpretation – and funeral games are held in his honour.
- cf. already Friedrich Adolf Voigt: Euryganeia. In: Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (ed.): Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie. Vol. 1,1, Leipzig 1886, p. 1423 ( ).
- Pausanias, Description of Greece 3, 5, 11
- Pherekydes in the Scholion to Eurypides, Phoinisses 53.
- Homer, Odyssey 11,274
- See in detail Christiane Zimmermann: Der Antigone-Mythos in der antiken Literatur und Kunst (= Classica Monacensia. Münchener Studien zur klassischen Philologie. Band 5). Narr, Tübingen 1993, pp. 61ff, with further evidence.
- Christiane Zimmermann: Der Antigone-Mythos in der antiken Literatur und Kunst (= Classica Monacensia. Münchener Studien zur klassischen Philologie. Band 5). Narr, Tübingen 1993, pp. 71-78.