The Master of Riddles and the Mystery of Truth
When Oedipus meets the Sphinx – a monster that plagues the city of Thebes – he doesn’t know that he is on his way to becoming a monster himself. The Sphinx proposes a riddle, the content of which would have remained a mystery had not some collectors of mythological gossip from the late antiquity included it in their anthologies. The most famous, most detailed, and most relied-upon version of the riddle (ainigma) is that of Athenaeus, who in the tenth book of hisDeipnosophistsquotes from theStories from Tragedy(Tragôdoumena) by Asclepiades of Tragilos, a dis-ciple of Isocrates: “There walks on land a creature of two feet, of four feet, and of three; it has one voice, but, sole among animals that grow on land or in the sky or beneath the sea, it can change its nature; nay, when it walks propped on most feet, then is the speed of its limbs less than it has ever been before.”4And apparently the right answer to theainigmathe one that made Oedipus famous, was “man.”5Oedipus was able to solve the riddle not only because he possessed an uncommon intelligence but also because of his experience of suffering, of joy, of questioning – of being human. At least this is the opinion of those who use the myth of the Sphinx in their reading of Sophocles’ tragedy. Indeed, although the wording of theainigmain Oedipus’ myth does not belong to Sophocles’ drama in the strict sense – it isexo tou dramatosand as such should not be taken into account according to thePoetics– the modern “humanist” and professedly Aristotelian readers ofOedipus the Kingoften refer to the enigma of the Sphinx.
KeywordsEnglish Transl Late Antiquity Basic Writing Intelligible Form Aristotelian Model
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