Study Guide

Oedipus at Colonus The Sacred Land

By Sophocles

The Sacred Land

Colonus is a place outside of Athens where Oedipus goes to die. It’s important enough to show up in the play’s title, and this is partly because it’s got a prophecy tied to it. Before they even know where they are, though, Antigone can tell they’re in a sacred space:

This land is sacred, as I would guess—teeming

With sweet bay, olive, and grapevine. Within, thick-feathered

Nightingales are singing sweetly. (16-18)

The fertility of the place is a clue, signaled by all the delicious edible plants growing there (anybody feel like a Mediterranean platter for lunch today?). It lets Antigone know that there’s something sacred about the place.

And she’s not wrong. Oedipus, too, recognizes the place as the “agreed-upon sign of [his] destiny” (47). The place is a sacred field dedicated to the Eumenides or the Furies, a group of goddesses who are in charge of punishing anyone who commits the exact crimes that Oedipus has committed. What are the chances?

So the fact that this place will be his refuge symbolizes that his crimes are paid for, finally. His wandering and suffering can end.