The Hero and the City

An Interpretation of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus
Joseph P. Wilson
Challenges many of the traditional views concerning Oedipus at Colonus


This work of seemingly conventional, philologically based criticism challenges many of the traditional views of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus. Joseph P. Wilson disputes the received wisdom that Oedipus was a suppliant of the Athenians, arguing rather that the primary relationship that governed Oedipus's dealings with his hosts was xenia (hospitality), not hiketeia (supplication). Likewise, he considers in detail the disputed reading of empolin or empalin in verse 637 and the vexed question of whether Oedipus ever became a citizen of Athens. He concludes by investigating the matter of Oedipus' heroic and oracular capabilities and the role that Oedipus' own will plays in creating his heroic persona. Wilson's study offers a radical rereading of the Oedipus riddle and concludes with a substantial discussion of the play's (and playwright's) role in providing a political and moral education for the troubled Athenian polis in the last decade of the tumultuous fifth century.

Joseph P. Wilson is Professor of Foreign Languages at the University of Scranton.

Praise / Awards

  • "Buy this book! Read this book! Wilson's is the best full-length study of the play available. The author writes with commonsense [sic] and verve about Oedipus's arrival at Colonus, his intrusion into the sacred ground of the Eumenides, this recognition by Theseus as a hero. . . . Wilson reads the play so closely, argues so thoroughly, and writes so well that students and scholars at all levels will enjoy every sentence while learning in depth about the magnificent play that closed Sophocles' career."

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 224pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2004
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08688-7

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  • $28.95 U.S.