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Antigone by Frederic Leighton, 1882.
AbodeThebes, Ancient Greece
Personal information
Jocasta or Euryganeia

In Greek mythology, Antigone (/ænˈtɪɡəni/ ann-TIG-ə-nee; Ancient Greek: Ἀντιγόνη, romanizedAntigónē) is a Theban princess, and a character in several ancient Greek tragedies. She is the daughter of Oedipus, king of Thebes. Her mother is Jocasta. In another variation of the myth, her mother is Euryganeia. She is a sister of Polynices, Eteocles, and Ismene.[1] The meaning of the name is, as in the case of the masculine equivalent Antigonus, "in place of one's parents" or "worthy of one's parents". Antigone appears in the three 5th century BC tragic plays written by Sophocles, known collectively as the three Theban plays. She is the protagonist of the tragedy Antigone. She makes a brief appearance at the end of Aeschylus' Seven against Thebes, while her story was also the subject of Euripides' now lost play with the same name.

In Sophocles[edit]

The story of Antigone was addressed by the fifth-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles in his Theban plays:

Oedipus Rex[edit]

Oedipus and Antigone by Aleksander Kokular (1825–1828), National Museum, Warsaw.

Antigone and her sister Ismene are seen at the end of Oedipus Rex as Oedipus laments the "shame" and "sorrow" he is leaving his daughters. He then begs Creon to watch over them, but in his grief reaches to take them with him as he is led away. Creon prevents him from taking the girls out of the city with him. Neither of them is named in the play.[2]

Oedipus at Colonus[edit]

Antigone serves as her father's guide in Oedipus at Colonus, as she leads him into the city where the play takes place. Antigone resembles her father in her stubbornness and doomed existence.[1] She stays with her father for the majority of the play, until she is taken away by Creon in an attempt to blackmail Oedipus into returning to Thebes. However, Theseus defends Oedipus and rescues both Antigone and her sister who was also taken prisoner.

At the end of the play, both Antigone and her sister mourn the death of their father. Theseus offers them the comfort of knowing that Oedipus has received a proper burial, but by his wishes, they cannot go to the site. Antigone then decides to return to Thebes.[2]


Antigone in Front of the Dead Polynices by Nikiforos Lytras, National Gallery, Athens, Greece (1865)

In her own namesake play, Antigone attempts to secure a respectable burial for her brother Polynices. Oedipus's sons, Eteocles and Polynices, had shared rule jointly until they quarreled, and Eteocles expelled his brother. In Sophocles' account, the two brothers agreed to alternate rule each year, but Eteocles decided not to share power with his brother after his tenure expired. Polynices left the kingdom, gathered an army and attacked the city of Thebes in the war of the Seven against Thebes. Both brothers were killed in the battle.

King Creon, who has ascended to the throne of Thebes after the death of the brothers, decrees that Polynices is not to be buried or even mourned, on pain of death by stoning. Antigone, Polynices' sister, defies the king's order and is caught.

Antigone is brought before Creon, and admits that she knew of Creon's law forbidding mourning for Polynices but chose to break it, claiming the superiority of divine over human law, and she defies Creon's cruelty with courage, passion, and determination. Creon orders Antigone buried alive in a tomb. Although Creon has a change of heart, due to a visit from soothsayer Tiresias, and tries to release Antigone, he finds she has hanged herself. Creon's son Haemon, who was engaged to Antigone, commits suicide with a knife, and his mother Queen Eurydice also kills herself in despair over her son's death. She had been forced to weave throughout the entire story, and her death alludes to The Fates.[2] By her death Antigone ends up destroying the household of her adversary, Creon.[1]

Other representations[edit]

In the oldest version of the story, the burial of Polynices takes place during Oedipus' reign in Thebes, before Oedipus marries his mother, Jocasta. However, in other versions such as Sophocles' tragedies Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, it occurs in the years after the banishment and death of Oedipus and Antigone's struggles against Creon.[citation needed]

Seven Against Thebes[edit]

Antigone appears briefly in Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes.[citation needed]

Euripides's Lost Play[edit]

The dramatist Euripides also wrote a play called Antigone, which is lost, but some of the text was preserved by later writers and in passages in his Phoenissae. In Euripides, the calamity is averted by the intercession of Dionysus and is followed by the marriage of Antigone and Hæmon.[3] Antigone also plays a role in the Phoenissae.[citation needed]

Appearances Elsewhere[edit]

Different elements of the legend appear in other places. A description of an ancient painting by Philostratus (Imagines ii. 29) refers to Antigone placing the body of Polynices on the funeral pyre, and this is also depicted on a sarcophagus in the Villa Doria Pamphili in Rome. And in Hyginus's version of the legend, apparently founded on a tragedy by a follower of Euripides, Antigone, on being handed over by Creon to her lover Hæmon to be slain, is secretly carried off by him and concealed in a shepherd's hut, where she bears him a son, Maeon. When the boy grows up, he attends some funeral games at Thebes, and is recognized by the mark of a dragon on his body. This leads to the discovery that Antigone is still alive.[3] The demi-god Heracles then intercedes and unsuccessfully pleads with Creon to forgive Hæmon. Hæmon then kills Antigone and himself.[4] The intercession by Heracles is also represented on a painted vase (circa 380–300 BC).[5][6]




Cultural references[edit]

In modern times, Antigone is invoked as a symbol of heroism.[7] The character of 'Ani' in True Detective season 2 is named after Antigone.[8]


The story of Antigone has been a popular subject for books, plays, and other works, including:


In the works of Hegel, in particular in his discussion of Sittlichkeit in his Phenomenology of Spirit and his Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Antigone is figured as exposing a tragic rift between the so-called feminine "Divine Law," which Antigone represents, and the "Human Law," represented by Creon. The Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain considers Antigone as the "heroine of the natural law:"

she was aware of the fact that, in transgressing the human law and being crushed by it, she was obeying a higher commandment—that she was obeying laws that were unwritten, and that had their origin neither today nor yesterday, but which live always and forever, and no one knows where they have come from.[14]

The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan writes about the ethical dimension of Antigone in his Seminar VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Others who have written on Antigone include theorist Judith Butler, in their book Antigone's Claim, as well as philosopher Slavoj Žižek, in various works, including Interrogating the Real (Bloomsbury: London, 2005) and The Metastases of Enjoyment (Verso: London, 1994).

Contemporary productions[edit]

A new translation of Antigone into English by the Canadian poet Anne Carson has been used in a production of the play (March 2015) at the Barbican directed by Ivo van Hove and featuring Juliette Binoche as Antigone. This production was broadcast as a TV movie on April 26, 2015.[15] The play was transferred to the BAM Harvey Theatre at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, running from September 24 to October 4, 2015.[16]


  1. ^ a b c Roman, L., & Roman, M. (2010). Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman mythology., p. 66, at Google Books
  2. ^ a b c Sophocles (2009). The Theban plays : Oedipus the king, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone. Fainlight, Ruth; Littman, Robert J. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801895418. OCLC 608624785.
  3. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Antigone (1)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 125.
  4. ^ Scott Smith, R.; Trzaskoma, Stephen; Pseudo-Apollodorus; Hyginus (2007). Apollodorus' Library and Hyginus' Fabulae: two handbooks of Greek mythology. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-87220-820-9.
  5. ^ Heydermann, Heinrich (1868). Über eine nacheuripideische Antigone [On a post-Euripideian Antigone] (in German). Berlin: Adolph Enslin. ISBN 978-1-160-28969-6. OCLC 601932362.
  6. ^ Sophocles; Jebb, R. C. (1890). Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments. Cambridge: CUP Archive.
  7. ^ Eliot, George (1998). Carroll, David (ed.). Middlemarch (Oxford World's Classics ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 795. ISBN 9780192834027. Antigone: In her defiance of the state she is often seen as a model of courage and heroism.
  8. ^ True Detective and Philosophy A Deeper Kind of Darkness. Wiley. 2017. p. 148.
  9. ^ commissioned by the Royal Ballet, 1959
  10. ^ . Brecht, Bertolt (1948). Antigonemodell 1948 (in German). Berlin: Gebrüder Weiss Verlag. LCCN 50056426. OCLC 1456885.
  11. ^ Malina, J. (1990) Sophocles’ Antigone. New York: Applause Theatre Books
  12. ^ Carson, A., (2012). Antigonick. (illustrated by Stone, B.). New York: New Directions.
  13. ^ Anne Carson: Performing Antigonick, 2013-01-28, retrieved 2021-08-13
  14. ^ Maritain, J. (edited by Sweet, W., 2001). Natural law: Reflections on theory and practice. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press (p 26)
  15. ^ "Antigone at the Barbican". IMDb.
  16. ^ Antigone at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Antigone – a review of the Antigone myth and the various productions of her story