Study Help Full Glossary for The Oedipus Trilogy


Abae a place north of Thebes, where an oracle of Apollo presided.

Acheron a river in Hades, often identified as the river across which Charon ferries the dead.

Aegeus a king of Athens who drowns himself when he thinks his son Theseus is dead.

Aetolia region of ancient Greece, on the Gulf of Corinth.

Aphrodite the goddess of love and beauty.

Apollo the god of music, poetry, prophecy, and medicine in Greek and Roman mythology. Here, Apollo is most important as the source of the prophecies of the oracle.

Arcadia ancient, relatively isolated pastoral region in the central Peloponnesus.

Arcturus a giant orange star in the constellation Bootes, the brightest star in the northern celestial sphere. Here, for the ancient Greeks, its appearance marked the beginning of the winter season.

Ares the god of war, the son of Zeus and Hera.

Argos ancient city-state in the northeast Peloponnesus from the seventh century B.C. until the rise of Sparta. Here, used to represent the forces led by Polynices to take back Thebes.

Artemis the goddess of the moon, wild animals, and hunting in Greek mythology. She is the twin sister of Apollo.

Athena the goddess of wisdom, skills, and warfare.

augury a divination from omens. Here it refers to the ritual sacrifice of an animal and the examination of its organs for an indication of the future.

Bacchus another name for Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry.

Cadmus a Phoenician prince and founder of Thebes; he kills a dragon and sows its teeth, from which many armed men rise, fighting each other, until only five are left to help him build the city.

Castalia spring on Mount Parnassus, Greece; in ancient times it was sacred to the Muses and was considered a source of poetic inspiration to all who bathed in it.

Cephisus a river of Attica.

Cerberus the three-headed dog guarding the gate of Hades.

Cithaeron the mountain range between Thebes and Corinth. Here, the place where Oedipus was abandoned.

Colonus a village to the north of Athens. Here, the setting for the tragedy.

Corinth ancient city of Greece located in the north east Peloponnesus, in the islands off central Greece. A city noted for its luxury, here, it is the home of Oedipus after his adoption.

Danae the mother of Perseus by Zeus, who visits her in the form of a shower of gold.

Daulia area north of the road from Thebes to Delphi.

Delos small island in the Aegean, legendary birthplace of Artemis and Apollo.

Delphi a town in ancient Phocis, on the slopes of Mount Parnassus; seat of the famous ancient oracle of Apollo.

Dionysus the god of wine and revelry.

Dirce a river of Thebes.

dirge a funeral hymn.

Dorian a native of Doris, a member of one of the four main peoples of ancient Greece. Here, the term describes Oedipus' adoptive mother.

dragon's teeth a reference to the legend that the original Thebans sprung up as armed men from dragon's teeth sown by their first king, Cadmus.

Eleusis town in Greece, northwest of Athens; site of an ancient Greek city (also called Eleusis), seat of the Eleusian Mysteries.

Eumenides, the Kindly Ones other names for the Furies.

Furies the three terrible female spirits with snaky hair who punish the doers of unavenged crimes.

Great Goddesses here, a term to refer to Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, and her daughter Persephone, the goddess of the underworld and the spring. They are the deities of the Eleusian Mysteries, which granted initiates the hope of life after death.

hearsay something one has heard, but does not know to be true.

Hecate a goddess of the moon, earth, and underground realm of the dead, later regarded as the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft.

Hermes the god who is herald and messenger of the other gods.

infamy disgrace, dishonor.

Ismenus a river of Thebes.

Labdacus, Polydorus, and Agenor the ancestors of Laius, the former king of Thebes, and of Oedipus, his son.

Laius king of Thebes before his son, Oedipus. Killed by Oedipus before the action of the tragedy Oedipus the King.

Laius king of Thebes before his son, Oedipus. Killed by Oedipus before the action of the tragedy Oedipus the King.

libation the ritual of pouring out wine or oil upon the ground as a sacrifice to a god. Here it refers to the sacrifice that must be made to please the Furies, to whom the grove is sacred.

Lycurgus real or legendary Spartan lawgiver of about the ninth century B.C. Here, the persecutor of the women who worshipped Dionysus.

Megareus son of Creon and Eurydice. He was killed defending Thebes during the attack of the Seven.

Mount of Ares a hill in Athens, the site of the first court of law.

Muses the nine goddesses who preside over literature and the arts and sciences: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia, Urania, and Thalia.

Mysteries the Eleusian Mysteries, the secret religious rites celebrated at the ancient Greek city of Eleusis in honor of Demeter and Persephone.

Niobe a queen of Thebes, daughter of Tantalus, who, weeping for her slain children, is turned into a stone from which tears continue to flow.

Nysa a mountain on Euboa, an island that lies off the Attic and Boeotian coastlines.

Olympia a plain in ancient Elis, in the western Peloponnesus; also the location of a temple to Apollo and an oracle.

Olympus the home of the gods.

oracle among the ancient Greeks and Romans, the place where or the medium by which deities were consulted. Also, the revelation or response of a medium or priest.

Pan the god of fields, forests, wild animals, and shepherds.

Parnassus mountain in central Greece, sacred to Apollo.

Pelops' broad Dorian island here, a reference to the Peloponnesus, a peninsula forming the southern part of the mainland in Greece.

Perithous the hero who went with Theseus into the lower world to bring back Persephone.

Persephone the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, abducted by Hades to be his wife in the lower world. The Queen of Hades.

Phocis ancient region in central Greece. Here, the place where Oedipus killed Laius.

Pluto the god ruling over the lower world.

Polybus king of Corinth, Oedipus' adoptive father.

Poseidon god of the sea and of horses.

Prometheus a Titan who steals fires from heaven for the benefit of mankind; in punishment, Zeus chains him to a rock where a vulture (or eagle) comes each day to eat his liver, which grows back each night.

Sardis capital of ancient Lydia. Here, a place known for precious metals.

Semele the daughter of Cadmus and the mother of Dionysus.

Sphinx a winged monster with a lion's body and the head and breasts of a woman. Here, the monster who plagued Thebes by devouring anyone who could not answer her riddle.

Terrible Goddesses another name for the Furies.

Thebes chief city of ancient Boeotia, in eastern central Greece.

Theseus the principal hero of Attica, son of Aegeus and king of Athens, famed especially for his killing of the Minotaur. Here, Oedipus' chief ally.

Thrace wild region to the north of Thebes.

unctuous characterized by a smug, smooth pretense of spiritual feeling, fervor or earnestness, as in seeking to persuade; too suave or oily in speech or manner.

Zeus the chief deity of Greek mythology, son of Chronus and Rhea and husband of Hera.