Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Committee Chair

Luginbill, Robert D.

Committee Member

Hall, Ann C.

Committee Member

Fulton, Christopher

Author's Keywords

Oedipus Tyrannus; Plague; Athens; Classics; Sophocles; Prophecy


The purpose of this work is to determine the effects of the Plague of Athens on the socio-cultural and religious climate of Athens as revealed through Sophocles’ magnum opus the Oedipus Tyrannus. The focus is the problem of oracular decay as viewed by Sophocles due to the political discrepancies between Athens and Delphi of which the plague was the final catalyst. Sophocles in this work is then explored as a writer with sentiments of Delphic Apologism in the wake of the plague which acted as a catalyst for a near complete dissolution of religious customs and furthermore a negation of past acceptance of oracular wisdom. Sophocles in this work then is presented as an author attempting to reconcile Athenian patriotism with the religious significance of Delphi.

Lay Summary

The Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles was first produced sometime between 430-426 BCE. During this time, the city of Athens faced two events that had a profound influence on the work: the Peloponnesian War and the Plague of Athens. These things, coupled with an already present growing disbelief in prophecy, caused a near complete dissolution in Athenian adherence to Greek religion. The Oedipus Tyrannus in this work is then examined in its historical context as an apology for prophecy and Athenian political interests.