Socrates and Oedipus present a good comparison as they both engage in a coherent pursuit for knowledge. Moreover, they are both renowned for their superior human wisdom. However, in their search for knowledge, they are presented as taking a skeptical attitude towards the gods. Oedipus superior wisdom is derived from how he dealt with the riddle of the Sphinx who was a half monster lion and half woman (Sophocles 89). Like Oedipus, Socrates is recognized for his superior human wisdom as he has knowledge of the human things and was the greatest philosopher of history.
Oedipus and Socrates had good intentions in improving the lives of mankind however, they both suffered appalling consequences as an end result of their good actions. Both Socrates and Oedipus actions were from the greater good of the city. They carried out what they believed was their duty to the people despite the consequences that follows. Socrates had a strong belief in what he did and he strongly believed that his actions were proper and just even if the people viewed his actions as corrupting the youth (Plato 103). On the other hand, Oedipus ended up as an enemy of the state after his decisions of the murder of his father yet he did nothing wrong to harm his people, it was just a prophecy that was to be fulfilled and he did it unknowingly. They both suffered consequences of trying to help their people but they upheld their loyalty to their city as they were working for the greater good of their respective states. Socrates being one of the greatest thinkers in history tried to spread wisdom to the youth yet he was accused of ill advising them same applies to Oedipus when he saved the city and was accused of murder.
Socrates and Oedipus both had a similar outlook on loyalty and truth and were all good men. Both men’s lives ended as a tragedy as they were all searching for the truth. Socrates was trying to learn the truth about himself and to prove the Delphi oracle’s statement that he was the wisest man. He believed that if indeed he was the wisest man, then it was because of his knowledge about himself. Oedipus had an imperious passion for truth and this can be seen by al conflicts in the tragedy being generated by his search for the truth.
Oedipus quest for truth made him know who he really was and he followed the Delphi oracle, “Know thyself” to the latter. Oedipus character of following the Delphi oracle lends itself to a comparison with Socrates who is portrayed as a person doing all he can to satisfy the Delphi oracle’s claim that “no one is wiser” than Socrates in the Apology. Both their lives came to a bitter end for following the Delphi oracles.
Socrates and Oedipus had the same state of mind of obeying the rules and laws of the state. Socrates has an opportunity to escape from prison and his impending death but he could not defy his people’s wish, he decided to stay in prison. Socrates strongly believed in good citizenship of obeying the laws and commands of his state and nothing could make him break the rules even if it meant saving his own life. Similar to Oedipus case, he was able to defend the city when the Sphinx threatened them. He was able to put the people’s needs above his own by focusing on struggling to defend them as he was the King and that was his duty to do so. He had a desire to help his people even by looking for a cure for the plague that was destroying masses of people.
Oedipus and Socrates suffered for their people and yet they never appreciated. Oedipus rose above the rest and saved the city when no bird or man stood in the way of the Sphinx (Knox 112). He buried his emotions as king and tried to show empathy for his people by finding a solution to their problem but in the end this brings his suffering and his ex-communication.
Their loyalty to the people was beyond and surpassed their self preservation as they were ready to maintain law and order and follow the city’s rules to the latter even if it meant losing their own lives. Socrates and Oedipus were just men and they were determined to maintain justice in the society than preserving their on lives. Socrates ended up dead for his loyalty and Oedipus ended up in exile and this was done to them by the people they were protecting.
Socrates and Oedipus are similar in three ways, they emerge to have a definite lack of skeptical position towards the gods, they both engage in a search for rational self knowledge and are both recognized for their superior wisdom. Oedipus search for knowledge ended up in a tragedy whereas Socrates quest did not end in a tragedy. On the other hand, there was a divergence in their lives. Oedipus was prone to anger unlike Socrates. Oedipus let his anger blind him and this caused him to kill his father in order to fulfill Apollo’s claims that he was to kill his father. Unlike his companion, Socrates never gets angry even to those who condemn him and his way of life. He controls his emotions and he is free from anger contrasting Oedipus. In essence, they were similar in many ways including their suffering.
Knox, Bernard. “Introduction to Oedipus the King.” In Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, trans Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1982. Print.
Plato. Apology of Socrates, trans. Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998. Print.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King, trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1982. Print.