King Creon was the regent and the ruler of Thebes in the legend of Oedipus in Greek Mythology. He was the brother of queen Jocasta, the wife of King Laius of Thebes.
The legend of Oedipus is a famous Greek tragedy about a king on a quest to alter his destiny. After a prophecy, he declares that the birth of his son will cause his death and the ruin of his entire family.
In this Greek tragedy, King Creon dons multiple hats, sometimes as regent and sometimes as a ruler of the kingdom of Thebes. His support was crucial for the people of Thebes after Oedipus’s departure.
King Creon also features in multiple plays, such as Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, written by the Greek tragedian Sophocles. The Legend of Oedipus inspires all these three plays.
Queen Jocasta and her brother King Creon were the descendants of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes and the Spartoi, a group of fierce warriors born from the buried dragon’s teeth (of Ares) and ancestors of the Theban nobility.
Figures from Greek legends and mythology teach moral lessons to lead a happy life. In this article, we will unravel the life of King Creon of Thebes and his journey as a ruler and regent of one of Greek’s most prosperous kingdoms.
The Origin of King Creon
The Greek hero Cadmus was the founder of Thebes, and he was married to the goddess of harmony and concord, Harmonia. King Creon and his sister Jocasta were descendants of king Cadmus.
Jocasta was married to King Laius, ruler of Thebes. While Jocasta was the direct descendant of Cadmus, King Laius was also an indirect descendant of Cadmus. Laius was the grandson of Polydorus, Cadmus’s eldest son. King Creon and Jocasta were the children of Pentheus, the son of Cadmus’s daughter, Agave.
Creon married Eurydice and had four sons and three daughters with his wife, including Haemon, Megareus, and Megara. None of his children became rulers of Thebes, but they were an essential part of Theban nobility.
Megara is married to Heracles, the son of Zeus after the Greek hero ended the tribute that Thebes paid to Minyans.
The First Rule of King Creon
King Creon became the regent or the acting ruler of Thebes after the unexpected death of Jocasta’s husband, King Laius.
According to the legend of Oedipus, King Laius and Jocasta were childless for a long time. Once upon a time, they went to the Oracle at Delphi to consult if they would ever have children.
Unfortunately, a prophecy declared that a son born out of their union would kill his father and marry his mother.
The King tried to avoid the pregnancy of his queen. Still, a night of reveals and sweet-tasting wine undid everything, and Jocasta soon gave birth to Oedipus.
To Thwart the prophecy, Laius pierced the ankles of his child and gave the child to a shepherd, ordering him to abandon the baby in the mountains to die. The shepherd took pity on the child and brought it to the court of King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth.
The childless couple adopted the baby and named him ‘Oedipus,’ meaning a swollen foot. Years later, Oedipus accidentally learned that Polybus and Merope were not his birth parents. He reached the oracle in Delphi to know the truth, who again told him that he would kill his father and marry his mother.
Devastated upon learning the prophecy, Oedipus decided to leave Corinth and avoid the tragedy. Alas, he failed to understand the games of destiny.
While leaving Corinth, he encountered his biological father, King Laius, and his charioteer on the way. He ended up killing both of them after an argument. Thus, Oedipus unknowingly fulfilled the first half of the prophecy.
After the death of King Laius, his brother-in-law, King Creon, became the ruler of Thebes, as Laius did not appoint an heir to the throne.
At the same time, Amphitryon arrived in the court of Thebes with his cousin Alcmene seeking refuge after accidentally killing his uncle Electryon, the King of Mycenae.
Bonus Read: Review the extensive fat list of Greek myths to uncover bewildering facts about Greek Mythology.
King Creon Aids Amphitryon
Creon was the maternal uncle of Amphitryon and gave absolution to Amphitryon for the killing of his uncle.
Alcmene refused to consummate her marriage with Amphitryon until he avenged the death of her brothers by killing the Taphos.
To avenge Alcmene’s brothers, Amphitryon asked for the help of Theban troops for his expedition against Taphos. However, Creon asks him to get rid of Teumessian Fox, ravaging the streets of Thebes at the behest of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
King Creon had to sacrifice a child every month to satisfy the bloodlust of the Teumessian Fox. Though the fox was destined to be never caught, Amphitryon still brings a Laelaps, a hound to kill the fox.
Angered by the devastation brought by these two animals, Zeus, the god of thunder and the chief Greek deity, turns them into stone.
Thus, Thebes finally gets rid of the vixen fox, and King Creon offers the help of Theban troops to Amphitryon for his fight against Taphos.
Oedipus Becomes The King of Thebes
Having gotten rid of the Teumessian Fox, another beast soon arrives in Thebes. This time, it’s a Sphinx on a rampage killing everyone who does not answer her riddle.
Creon seeks the advice of the Oracle at Delphi to eliminate the Sphinx. The Oracle asks him to give the kingdom to any person who could solve the riddle of the Sphinx.
Oedipus soon arrives in the city, and the Sphinx asks the riddle, ‘’what walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the night?’’
No one can give the correct answer, but Oedipus solves the riddle and answers.
“Man: Who crawls on four legs as a baby, walks with two legs as an adult, and uses a stick as a third leg in old age.”
Unable to accept that someone has answered the riddle, the Sphinx hurled itself off the rock and died. As promised, King Creon announces Oedipus as the new King of Thebes. He offers his widowed sister, Jocasta as the new wife of Oedipus.
Oedipus, unaware that he is the biological son of King Laius and Jocasta, agrees to the marriage. He also has four children: two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene, with his new wife, Jocasta.
Hence, the second prophecy that Oedipus would marry his mother also becomes true.
Bonus Read: The tale of Glaucus, a fisherman from Greek Mythology, teaches how our small actions can have far-reaching consequences.
The Fall of Oedipus And The Role of King Creon
Years later, Thebes is hit with a deadly plague. Oedipus does everything to protect the kingdom and sends Creon for consultations with the Oracle at Delphi.
After his return, Creon informs Oedipus that the plague is divine retribution from the gods for not punishing the murderer of King Laius. Oedipus vows to find the murderer and punish him severely, still unaware that the killer of King Laius is himself.
A servant who escaped the killing of King Laius comes forward to inform that the killer of Laius is the current King of Thebes, Oedipus.
Oedipus refuses to believe that he is the murderer and thinks that Creon is colluding with the servant to smear his name and dispose of him from the throne.
Jocasta consoles her husband and recounts the death of King Laius to Oedipus. He finds the details strikingly similar but still refuses to believe that he is the killer of King Laius.
A few days later, a messenger from Corinth brings the news about the death of King Polybus. Oedipus, who still believes that Polybus and Merope are his biological parents, refuses to attend the funeral to prevent the prophecy about him marrying his mother from becoming true.
The messenger, who is the shepherd that brought Oedipus to Corinth, informs him in court that it does not matter because he is not the biological son of King Polybus.
Devastated upon listening to the truth, Jocasta commits suicide. Oedipus pricks his eyes with pins from her gown in the same way he promised to punish the killer of Laius and leaves for exile.
Oedipus’s sons start despising him, and a war for the throne commences in Thebes. Angered by his sons, Oedipus curses them to always fight for the throne and never be happy. To overcome the curse, both the sons rule Thebes alternately and decide to call a truce.
During the reign of Oedipus and his sons Polynices and Eteocles, Creon was the background figure of the Theban politics, trying to stabilize Thebes internally.
Bonus Read: The story of Hyacinthus, the lover of the sun god Apollo, might be the man behind the flower Hyacinth.
The War of Seven Against Thebes
Thebes was peaceful for a few years as the sons of Oedipus, Polynices, and Eteocles ruled Thebes in alternate years. Unfortunately, a storm was slowly brewing inside the palace.
At the end of his period of rule, Eteocles refuses to hand over the power to his brother. Thus, Polynices declares the war of seven against Thebes.
The war brought destruction and devastation to the people of Thebes. To protect Thebes and its people, Etoceles asks Creon to find a way to emerge victorious in battle.
Creon seeks the advice of seer Tiresias, who tells him to sacrifice his son, Menoeceus, to ensure Thebes and its army win this war.
Creon was still doubtful and scared about sending his son to the war, but Menoeceus decided to take matters into his own hands, and he killed himself with his sword.
The self-sacrifice of Menoeceus seemed to be working for Thebes as the kingdom won the war. Still, both brothers, Polynices and Eteocles, ended up killing each other. In the end, the brothers succumb to the curse of Oedipus.
After their death, Creon becomes the ruler of Thebes for the second time. But this time, he wears the crown as a regent because the son of Eteocles, Laodamas, was too young to become the King.
The Second Reign of King Creon in Thebes
During his rule as regent and the ruler of Thebes, Creon passed a law forbidding the burial of dead soldiers outside the city wall in the kingdom.
One of the dead soldiers was Polynices, the son of Oedipus and Jocasta and the nephew of Creon. The King blamed Polynices for starting the war and showed no mercy towards the dead body.
Antigone, the daughter of Jocasta, refused to let her brother’s body rot outside and gave him a proper funeral. As per the law, Creon sentences Antigone to death, who was engaged to his son Haemon.
Upon learning about the death of his fiancée, Haemon commits suicide, after which his mother, devastated by the loss of her son, kills herself.
This series of events led to the death of half of the Creon family and laid the foundation for his upcoming death.
The End of King Creon
The details about the death of King Creon have multiple versions in Greek Mythology.
Some say that the news about Creon’s unjust rule reaches the ears of Theseus, the ruler of Athens. Theseus asked Creon to revoke the law, but he refused. This led to a war between Theseus and Creon, which the Athenian ruler won by killing Creon.
According to another version of the myth, Creon revoked the law to avoid bloodshed with Theseus. He was killed by Lycus, an aide of Dionysus, who wanted to occupy the throne. Lycus is killed by Heracles, and Laodamas, the son of Eteocles, is ordained the new ruler of Thebes.
Laodamas soon dies in another war, and Polynices becomes the King of Thebes.
The figure of King Creon may not be a powerful Greek hero of Thebes, but he plays the role of a catalyst for many events.
For example, the marriage of Oedipus with his mother, Jocasta, happens because of him and his son Menoeceus, who is a significant figure during the war of seven in Thebes.
The legend of Oedipus and the events of the story leading to the death of King Creon prove that no one has power over destiny.
One cannot prevent or overcome a destiny even after knowing the event’s details. All in all, we are in the shackles of our future without any control.
An enthusiastic dream journaler who has connected sleep-time visions with real-life occurrences in the past and present, Karandeep believes in tapping into the subconscious and demystifying strengths, insecurities, and deep-rooted desires. Besides identifying the interconnectedness of dreams in his personalized dream journal, he continues to study the significance of celestial objects and their relation to mythological tales that keep modern society intrigued about past civilizations.