Fate, as described in the Oxford English Dictionary, is “The principle, power, or agency by which, according to certain philosophical and popular systems of belief, all events, or some events in particular, are unalterably predetermined from eternity.” To the western world, fate is perceived as “a sentence or doom of the gods” (Oxford). They often sought prophecies of the gods, especially from Apollo, the god of knowledge. The Greeks would seek prophecies usually when they had doubts about something, or if they were afraid or in despair. When the gods made a prophecy, the Greeks put all their faith in it and believed that it would happen. When their prophecies did come true, was it really fate that controlled them? If so, was there any room for free will?
Some have difficulty believing that a god, rather than their own actions, could control their fate. However, when a god made a prophecy, which later came true, the evidence was clear enough to cause someone to believe in fate. In one famous play, the question of fate versus free will plays a dominant role during analysis. The play, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, stars a young man, Oedipus, who appears to be the pawn of the gods. In Ode four (27-31), the chorus comments on Oedipus’ state:
And now of all men ever known
Most pitiful is this man’s story:
His fortunes are most changed, his state
Fallen to a low slave’s
Ground under bitter fate.
Every aspect of Oedipus’ life and everyone he loves eventually suffers from a horrible fate predicted by the gods. However, did Oedipus have to suffer his fate or did he have the power to change it; is the outcome of Oedipus’s life really the result of fate or his own actions? After...
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... 1992. The University System of Georgia. 22 April 1999
* Guthrie, W. K. C. The Greeks and Their Gods. Boston: Beacon Press, 1950.
* Hamilton, Edith. The Greek Way. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1930.
* Knox, Bernard M. W. Oedipus at Thebes. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957.
* “Oxford English Dictionary.” Galaleo. The University System of Georgia. 2 May 1999.
* Sophocles. “Oedipus Rex.” Literature. Ed. Robert DiYanni. Boston: The McGraw-Hill
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* “Sophocles: The Author and His Times.” Barron’s Booknotes. America Online. 22
April 1999 *AOL keyword: Barron’s*.
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