Antigone

By Sophocles; Reginald Gibbons et al. | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 2.
THE MYTH OF
ANTIGONE, TO THE END OF THE
FIFTH CENTURY BCE

The story of Oidipous and his children is referred to in Homer and was told in a number of epic and probably lyric poems of the seventh and sixth centuries BCE, of which only sparse fragments survive. We know very little of the story of Antigone herself prior to Sophokles. The ancient sources report various versions, many of uncertain date, no one of which exactly tallies with Sophokles' version.* It is uncertain whether Sophokles is the first to have Antigone sacrifice her life to bury her brother. It is probable (but by no means certain) that the framing of the conflict between Kreon and Antigone, her and Haimon's deaths in the cave, and the figure of Eurydike are Sophokles' inventions. The dramatists always felt free to add new details and to interpret the story in their own way. Euripides' lost Antigone of 431, for example, probably ended with Dionysos as deus ex machina rescuing the heroine from death.

Sophokles' most important predecessor is Aiskhylos, whose Seven against Thebes was performed in 467, and is the only surviving play of a trilogy that included Laios and Oidipous. Echoes of Aiskhylos' language suggest that Sophokles has Seven against Thebes in mind at several points.

Seven against Thebes dramatizes the events that immediately precede the action of Antigone—that is, the conflict between the two sons of Oidipous, Eteokles and Polyneikes, for the throne of Thebes. Eteokles, the defender of the city against his brother's army from Argos, puts a Theban warrior in command at six of the seven gates to defend them

____________________
*
For a brief survey of the ancient evidence see J. C. Kamerbeek's “Introduction” to his commentary, 1–5; Griffith's introduction, 7–12 (full bibliographic citations at the beginning of the Notes, 117); also my Tragedy and Civilization, 190, with notes 111–14 on 449 (see Suggestions for Further Reading).

-184-

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Antigone
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Editors' Foreword v
  • Preface viii
  • Contents ix
  • Antigone *
  • Introduction 3
  • On the Translation 37
  • Antigone 51
  • Characters 52
  • Notes on the Text 117
  • Appendix 1 - The Date of Antigone 183
  • Appendix 2 - The Myth of Antigone, to the End of the Fifth Century Bce 184
  • Appendix 3 - The Transmission of the Text 187
  • Glossary 189
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 197
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