All About the Myth of Antigone

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Sophocles is one of the top playwrights from Ancient Greece. He is known especially for his tragedies, and Antigone was one of the most famous of his works. His story recounts the Greek mythological story of Antigone, whose father was the mythological King Oedipus. Here’s more information:

Sophocles’ play was first produced in Athens around 440 B.C.E. Greece at that time was swept by military fervor and imperialist tendencies, yet the play shows that the Greek people were well aware of the dangers of tyranny. Much of the tragedy of Antigone comes from the fact that the citizens of Greece believed their leader to be committing an egregious error, but lacked the voice to make themselves heard. Here’s a look at the rest of the story:

Antigone Was Loyal to Her Family

Antigone is famed in Greek mythology for her unwavering beliefs. Her father, King Oedipus of Thebes, married his own mother Jocasta. Thus Antigone was both sister and daughter to Oedipus, and both daughter and grandchild to Jocasta. She was called Antigone, which means “in place of one’s parents”. The myth of Antigone relates her endeavors to bury her brother, Polynices, in a respectable fashion.

Before his death, Polynices had shared the throne of Thebes with his brother Eteocles. After a falling-out, Polynices was banished from the kingdom by Eteocles. After continued exile, Polynices and his army attacked Thebes. Both brothers died in the war.

When the brothers died, King Creon took the throne. He decreed that Polynices remain unburied and unmourned. He said, “Unwept, unsepulchered, a treasure to feast on for birds looking out for a dainty meal.”

Antigone Buried Her Brother

Antigone was horrified by these events and since she was loyal to her brother Polynices, she defied Creon’s order knowing the consequences. The punishment was death by stoning. So, in the dark of night, Antigone crept out and performed a burial for her brother by scattering pieces of dirt over his body.

King Creon took Antigone captive and ordered that Polynices be unburied. Antigone responded to her captors with passionate words, declaring that her choice to seek proper burial for Polynices was a divine one, guided by the gods. Antigone, though she feared for her life, did not retreat from her conviction that the will of the gods always triumphs over the short-sighted demands of the mortals below. King Creon, seemingly unswayed by Antigone’s vehement defense of her actions, imprisoned Antigone in a tomb. She was to be buried alive.

After hearing the threats of Tiresias, the blind prophet, Creon decided to release Antigone. He was not able to release her because she had hanged herself in despair. King Creon’s son, Haemon, who was engaged to Antigone, stabbed himself upon learning the news. Queen Eurydice, wife of Creon, killed herself not long after that. Her death can be seen as a symbolic end to storytelling, as she was a weaver throughout the play and an extension of the chorus who tell the tale.

The tragic play Antigone by Sophocles, is a good example of Greek tragedy. He was fascinated by the flaws of the mortals lead them to make selfish choices that bring their demise; the audience is gripped by the tale and guided by the chorus of Fates who recount the myth, offering insight that still resonates more than 2000 years after it was first spoken.

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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