VCCS Litonline


Saying and Identifying the Names in Antigone

Objective for this Page: To present the pronunciation, definition and/or history of key names and words in the play.


(adapted from Lewis Stiles [University of Saskatchewan] to fit Robert Fagles’ translation)

(photo at left is from the Danish National Theater production of Antigone in 2002:  )

For paragraph-length notes on some of these words, see the alphabetical list at  

See also the Classical Mythology glossary online, which includes family trees, at Pronunciation guides are included in a somewhat different format than the one used below.

Notes by Line

1 Antigone /ann-TIG-uh-knee/: elder daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta; she and her sister are both younger than their brothers, so they would have looked up to both of them. Antigone is the girlfriend of Creon’s son, Haemon /HAY-mahn/. Bertolt Brecht and Jean Anouilh both used Antigone in their own WWII-era plays as a symbol of resistance to Fascism.

14 Ismene /IZ-muh-nay/: Antigone’s younger sister, but also a grown woman

19 Argos: /ARR-goss/ a Greek city
     Polyneices /pol-uh-NIGH-sees/, the exiled brother, raised his army there against Thebes.

27 Creon /KREE-ahn/: brother-in-law (and uncle) of Oedipus /ED-uh-puss/, brother of Jocasta /joe-CASS-tah/, the mother (and wife) of Oedipus. In the prequel to Antigone, Creon claims to have no ambition to the throne. Some 15-20 years later, however, he has just pitted Oedipus’s sons against each other in a civil war and emerged as the ruler of Thebes /THEEBZ/.

28-32 Eteocles /eh-TEE-uh-cleez/: it is essential to remember that Eteocles, the younger brother, was fighting for Thebes; Polyneices was therefore regarded by the city as a traitor of the worst sort.

117 Chorus = elders of Thebes. The choral passages are basically songs; that means they are more poetic (full of metaphors and allusions to various gods), often filled with religious (pagan, but religious) piety. For more on play production and the competitions among playwrights that took place each year, see

121 Dirce /drr-SEE/: a river near Thebes.

138 dragon = the enemies of the Thebans (probably in allusion to Theban descent from the teeth of the dragon slain by Cadmus).

140 Zeus /ZOOSS/: prime (king?) among the Greek gods; sometimes referred to as God (capital G); sire of the other gods (with his wife-queen, Hera). Zeus was said to change into other creatures, e.g. a swan, in order to mate with human women.

137 and 154: "the god of fire" = Ares /AIR-eez/: god of war.

171 Dionysus /die-oh-NIGH-suss/ = god of wine and ecstasy.

185 King Laius /LAY-uss/: father of Oedipus, whom Oedipus killed—as prophecy had predicted. Former husband of Jocasta who ruled Thebes before Oedipus did. So he was grandfather to Polyneices and Eteocles, Antigone and Ismene, though he never saw or knew of them.

668 "sorrows of the house": Labdacus /LAB-duh-cuss/ father of Laius, grandfather of Oedipus, according to one commentator on the play, brought the curse on his family by introducing homosexuality into ancient Greece. I don’t know how Labdacus died, but Laius /LAY-uss/ was killed by his own son—whom he and Jocasta, his wife, had ordered killed because prophecy said the baby would kill his father and sire children by his mother. That child was Oedipus. Now Oedipus’s uncle/brother-in-law Creon orders the death of his (O’s) daughter/half-sister, Antigone.

894 Aphrodite: /AF-ro-Die-tee/ goddess of love/passion

906 Acheron: /ASH-er-ahn/ one of the rivers of the underworld

916: Niobe: /NIGH-oh-bee/ Tantalus's daughter punished for arrogantly comparing her children to the gods (the children were then all killed); she became the archetype of grief in mythology.

936: Dirce: See 121, above.

984: Persephone /purr-SEFF-ah-knee/ wife-queen of Hades /HAY-deez/ god-king of the Underworld (sort of a cross between a fireless hell and limbo, a place where the dead existed and remembered their earthly lives)

1036 Danae: /duh-NAY-uh/ mother of Perseus /PURR-see-uss/; she was kept chaste in a dungeon by her father, but Zeus came to her as a shower of gold.

1053 Lycurgus: /lye-KURR-gus/ male mortal who refused to worship Dionysus

1066 Muses: /MEW-zez/ 9 goddesses who inspired nine different arts

1091 Tiresias: /teer-EE-see-uss/ blind prophet who has never been wrong about the will of the gods

1074 Fury: creature with the form of an eagle that carried out punishments willed by the gods, especially Zeus. The story in this section is about the children of Phineus, king of Salmydessus, who had children by a woman named Cleopatra, daughter of the north wind (not the later one who knew Caesar); these children were blinded at the instigation of Phineus' second wife, for whom he had abandoned Cleopatra.

1240: Dionysus /die-oh-NIGH-suss/; also called Bacchus /BACH-uss/ (line 1246). The whole choral ode is in his honor. He is also the god for whom the festival was held every year at which playwrights competed with a set of 3 tragedies and one, often very earthy, comedy.

1248: Ismenus = /IZ-muh-noos/

1254: Castalia = /cuh-STALL-ee-uh/

1255: Nysa = /NIGH-suh/

1265: Parnassus = /par-NASS-uss/

1272: Iacchus = /ee-YACH-uss/

1302: Eurydice = /you-RID-uh-see/ wife of Creon, mother of Haemon

1306: Athena = /uh-THEE-nah/ protectress of Athens; the temple on the Acropolis was built to honor and worship this goddess.

1322: Hecate = /HECK-ah-tee/: a goddess associated with night, the underworld, ghosts, crossroads, hellhounds and witches

1323 Pluto: /PLU-toe/ = Hades /HAY-deez/, king of the underworld

1429: Megareus = /muh-GAIR-ee-uss/ Creon's other son had died in the same battle as had Oedipus's sons (Polynices and Eteocles, brothers of Antigone and Ismene).

Assessment: Practice reading this list aloud. 


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This instructional web was made in July, 2002, by Prof. Eric Hibbison, who is solely responsible for its content.