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In Ancient Greece, there were many different phenomena in the world that were explained by stories or myths, usually involving gods, such as the changing of the seasons or the obtainment of fire. Other times, myths served as intriguing plays meant to be dramatized on stage. Did the myth of Oedipus serve a similar purpose?

  • You're asking the right questions, +1. Food for thought: are you sure that the main purpose of mythology is to explain natural phenomenon, "such as the changing of the seasons or the obtainment of fire"? – user62 Dec 10 '15 at 22:45
  • @Hamlet Well obviously not all phenomenon, but there are many good examples of such – Cody Guldner Dec 11 '15 at 1:56
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    You misunderstood my question. Even in myths like the story of Prometheus, where the myth presumably explains how fire came to the earth, are you sure that "explaining natural phenomena" is the myths main function? – user62 Dec 12 '15 at 17:28
  • Well I didn't say that it was the "main" function, I was simply trying to say that those myths probably had reasons for being created, so I'm asking about this one – Cody Guldner Dec 14 '15 at 5:04
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    I think the premise as originally worded, that it was either created to explain something, or was created for the plot of a play, is a false dichotomy. But it's a bit of a tangent to be debating so I took the liberty of deleting it from the question. I do agree that many myths served to explain aspects of the world, but many also have other functions besides being a "good story" for a play. – Semaphore Dec 15 '15 at 8:22
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[Caveat: personal interpretation]

The lesson is that Fate reigns supreme over mortals and that you can't escape it. It also acts as a meta-rule for other myths. Since prophecies are bestowed by the gods, it's about remembering one's place in the universe and not questioning it.

It's a recurring theme in myths involving prophecies across western cultures, as well as in stories that involve characters breaking customs or not respecting rituals. If you agree that one of the purposes of myths is to reinforce norms, this kind of story is about the power of the myths themselves, how they shouldn't be dismissed. I can't think of a single instance of a classical protagonist who defied Fate and profited from it.

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    This is an interesting idea, but it seems to be a personal interpretation. In general, evidence is required to back up things like this. Is there anything you can add to support this conclusion? – HDE 226868 Dec 12 '15 at 16:32
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    I wouldn't say evidence but it's a recurring theme in myths involving prophecies across all cultures, as well as in stories that involve characters breaking customs or not respecting rituals. If you agree that myths are about propagating norms, this kind of story is about the power of the myths themselves, how they shouldn't be dismissed. I can't think of a single instance of a classical protagonist who defied Fate and profited from it. – Stephane Dec 12 '15 at 17:00
  • it's a recurring theme in myths involving prophecies across all cultures That's not true for all cultures. If you agree that myths are about propagating norms I don't; myths have many other functions. However, @HDE226868 I think this answer does an adequate job at explaining the major theme of the story of Oedipus. This answer isn't incorrect, although the logic used to arrive at the conclusion is flawed. – user62 Dec 12 '15 at 17:43
  • Fair enough. I feel like I've arrived in a community that is much more well versed in the subject than I am :) – Stephane Dec 12 '15 at 17:46
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    It would have been nice if Stephane had based this answer either off of (1) the text of the story itself, or (2) comparable stories about fate in greek mythology, rather than assuming that ideas about fate are constant across all cultures in the world (they aren't). But the answer isn't incorrect, at least with regards to the Oedipus story. However, it is incomplete: I can think of several other "functions" the myth served. The answer could also be improved by quoting from the text of Oedipus, rather than making unfounded statements about the story. – user62 Dec 12 '15 at 17:46
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Well, we learn from this myth that destiny cannot be avoided. Therefore, although the king knew his future he was unable to change it, and this myth emphasis that no one can change fate even gods in Greek during that period of time.

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