In Greek mythology, Jocasta, also known as Jocaste (Greek: Iοκαστη), Epikastê, or Iokastê was a daughter of Menoeceus and Queen consort of Thebes, Greece. She was the wife of Laius. Wife and mother of Oedipus by Laius, and both mother and grandmother of Antigone, Eteocles, Polynices and Ismene by Oedipus. She was also sister of Creon.
The tale goes that one day her husband, King Laius of Thebes, consulted an oracle while she was heavily pregnant with Oedipus. The oracle told Laius that the child was destined to kill his father and marry his own mother, i.e., Jocasta. So King Laius decided the child must be brought up to the mountain separating the city of Thebes from Corinth. He got a servant to travel to the top of the mountain and leave it there, but the servant saw nothing wrong with the baby and saw no reason to leave it to die. A shepherd was walking by and said that he and his wife would take the baby and raise it as if it were their own and they did for 19 years. Alternatively, Oedipus gets adopted by the king of Corinth and raised as a prince of that city. Jocasta allowed Laius to go through with the abandonment of the child in fear of the prophecy.
Oedipus grows up in Corinth and one day crosses paths with the oracle, Teiresias, who tells him that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Not knowing that his parents are actually Jocasta and Laius, he runs away from home to escape the evil fate. Oedipus subsequently crosses paths with Laius and in course of an argument over right-of-way for their respective chariots, unwittingly kills the King, his father. He then goes to Thebes and sees that it is in disorder, in part due to being in thrall to the Sphinx. When he solves the famous riddle of the sphinx, Oedipus becomes king and marries the widowed queen, Jocasta, unaware she is actually his own mother. Jocasta and Oedipus then have four children together: two girls, Antigone and Ismene and the brothers (eventually mutual fratricides) Eteocles and Polyneices. Oedipus eventually discovers the truth of his origin, and thus his patricide and incest. Upon hearing the news, Jocasta hangs herself. Oedipus in turn gouges his eyes out and wanders exiled in the wilderness along with his daughter, Antigone, until his death 10 years later (some versions have 20 years later).
In popular culture
- "Jocasta" is a song by Noah and the Whale. It is about the abandonment of Oedipus in the mountains, and one's personal condition being a consequence of one's upbringing.
- Jocasta is also the term for the faceted gems with minuscule carvings in the The Land of Elyon series of novels.
- Jocasta Sleeps, a rock band from Glasgow, Scotland, take their name from the story.
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