A son is born to a young couple in pre-war Italy. The father, motivated by jealousy, takes the baby into the desert to be abandoned, at which point the film’s setting changes to the ancient world. The child is rescued, named Edipo by King Polybus (Ahmed Belhachmi) and Queen Merope (Alida Valli) of Corinth and raised as their own son. When Edipo (Franco Citti) learns of a prophecy foretelling that he will kill his father and marry his mother, he leaves Corinth believing that Polybus and Merope are his true parents.
On the road to Thebes, Edipo meets Laius (Luciano Bartoli), his biological father, and kills him after an argument. Later Edipo solves the riddle of the Sphinx. For freeing the kingdom of Thebes from the Sphinx’s curse Edipo is rewarded with kingship and marriage to queen Jocasta (Silvana Mangano), who is his biological mother. When they discover what they have done, fulfilling the prophecy, Edipo blinds himself and Jocasta commits suicide.
The second story is about Herr Klotz (Lionelli), a German industrialist and his young son Julian (Léaud) who live in 1960s Germany. Julian, instead of passing time with his radically politicised fiancée Ida (Wiazemsky), prefers to build relationships with pigs. Herr Klotz, on the other hand, with his loyal aide Hans Guenther (Ferreri), tries to solve his rivalry with fellow industrialist Herdhitze (Tognazzi). The two industrialists join forces while Julian gets eaten by pigs in the sty. Herdhitze intends to conceal the event. The story attempts to provide a link between the Third Reich and Wirtschaftswunder Germany.