Saturday, June 12, 2010

Antigone: The True Story

The story of Antigone, daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, from the Theban Cycle of Greek mythology, is best known through the tragedy of Sophocles (442 BC).

Nikiforos Lytras, Antigone in front of the dead Polynices (1865), oil on canvas, National Gallery of Greece-Alexandros Soutzos Museum

Oedipus has left the throne, after finding out that he has committed incest and patricide, leaving two daughters and two sons behind. His two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, finally come of age, and they agree to rule Thebes taking turns every year. At the end of his first year of rule, however, Eteocles breaks the agreement and refuses to give the throne to his brother. Polynices then raises an army of traditional enemies of Thebes and leads them against his city. His army is defeated, but Eteocles and Polynices are both killed by each other's hand.

Creon, their uncle, who now assumes power in Thebes, declares that Eteocles' body will be properly buried, as he was the protector of the city, but Polynices will be left unburied on the battlefield, because he attacked his homeland.

Despite talking with her sister Ismini, who tries to persuade her to obey the law imposed by Creon, Antigone decides she must disobey, arguing that a human law which contradicts religious law is invalid. She goes where her brother's body is, and ceremonially sprinkles some dust over it. The king's guards take her into custody, and lead her to Creon.

Creon's decree is that she be executed as a traitor by being buried alive in a cave. But the king has a son: Haemon, who is betrothed to Antigone. Haemon desperately pleads with his father to cancel the sentence, at the same time making a wise speech on leadership. The king refuses to change his mind.

The blind prophet Tiresias comes and warns the king that the gods are angry with his pronouncement concerning Polynices. Creon finally forgives Antigone for disobeying, but it is too late. When the cave is opened to save her, she has already hung herself. This fact drives Haemon mad, and he kills himself. The messenger soon announces that Creon's wife, Eurydice, has killed herself too at the horrible news. At the end of the play, Creon discovers he has lost everything by being a stern ruler.

Antigone is a play which emphasizes the conflict that sometimes exists between the need for social order and the moral duty to obey a higher law. It is a great story of courage, exhibited by a woman, who stood higher than her tragic fate and inspired many adaptations of her story, especially in the 20th century.


  1. ma eimai... eimai.... firma... anekathen!!!

    I love you posts amor!!!
    Thank you once more for featuring one of my jewelry ♥

  2. Perfect.The other day I mentioned to you Sophocles accidentally and today I read this spectacular post on Antigone and discovered that your skills go beyond jewelry making!Wow!!You have talent girl.

  3. Oh, but you were right. As much as I love Antigone I had forgotten about doing something in Greek, and had it not been for you, I might not have done it... Guess what? I hope to take pictures for a new necklace tomorrow. Thanks to you! :)

  4. I am so delighted to discover your blog through this fabulous post. I love the Greek heroines and the many and varied adaptations of their stories so I am doubly honored to be included in yours. Thank you so much!

  5. Great post!!! Your blog is so beautiful and I love the way you pair artists' creations with quotes, history, drama and literature... a work of art in itself!

  6. Thanks for bringing Antigone to life for me again !

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments! It's nice to know that there are wonderful people out there reading my blog :)

  8. It's an intense tragedy...
    Fashion celebrates Greek history and mythology.
    Even my country (South Italy) was colonized by the Greeks.