Antigone eText - Glossary

This eText contains embedded glossary terms and other notes added by our community of educators. Simply click or tap on the yellow highlighted words within the text to see the annotations.
Turn Off

Glossary

  • king of the gods, often portrayed as the supreme arbiter of justice and destiny
  • See “Mythological Background” for the story of Oedipus.
  • Creon
  • a decree
  • The Greeks thought that the gods communicated to mortals through birds. Different birds indicated different things, as did the actions of those birds. Since tiresias is blind, he listens to the birds' cries for oracles, but tiresias is an especially powerful seer and could prophesy just as well without birds.
  • See “The Importance of Burial” for information on Greek burial practices and the role played in them by women.
  • Greek has many words that indicate pointing. Antigone here would take Ismene's hand and indicate it.
  • See parodos in “The Chorus”
  • one of the most famous landmarks of Thebes
  • argumentative
  • the god of fire, often used as a metonymy for fire itself
  • the god of war, particularly its irrational aspect; often used to suggest war itself
  • Legend said that Thebes was founded when Cadmus sowed a field with the teeth of a dragon, out of which sprang the citizens of Thebes.
  • Chariot racing in the ancient world always placed the strongest, fastest horse on the right end. There were four horses to a chariot, who raced side-by-side.
  • The victor in combat often dedicated the spoils of his victory, usually his opponent's armor, to a god in gratitude for the victory. Zeus the router would be a common choice for this dedication.
  • the god of wine and intoxication; son of Zeus and a mortal princess of Thebes, hence his close association with Thebes
  • Laius was Oedipus' father. See “Mythological Background” for more information. “Their children” refers to Eteocles and Polynices.
  • the killing of a brother
  • Sprinkling dust over the body was the crucial step to bring the spirit peace.
  • Anyone passing an unburied corpse who did not throw some dust over it would come under a curse from the ghost of the corpse.
  • surrounded
  • bold, impudent, contemptuous
  • The first stasimon.
  • mules
  • lighthearted, casual
  • disapproving comments
  • liquids used in sacrifices to the gods
  • For the Greeks, justice meant doing good to your friends and harm to your enemies. The Antigone highlights the complications that could arise from this simple definition. Creon defines an enemy as anyone who turns against his city, but Antigone sees only family ties as sacred. Hence, they have different views of the fallen Polynices. Each, however, is convinced that his or her own course is just.
  • the name both for the underworld and its king
  • the 2nd stasimon
  • peaks, highest points
  • crying, wailing
  • Creon's older son, Megareus, died to save Thebes from the Argive army. See “Mythological Background.”
  • orders, rules
  • to father
  • a mistress
  • Zeus Herceius, to whom there was an altar where members of a family sacrificed and worshipped together.
  • If Antigone starves to death, she will not technically have been murdered, according to Greek thought, and therefore there will be no pollution for her slayer. See pollution in glossary.
  • the 3rd stasimon
  • At this point, the stasimon becomes a kommos.
  • a river in the Underworld
  • Niobe, a very famous mythological figure, punished for boasting about her children; see “Niobe” in glossary. Niobe is called the “Phrygian guest” because she was brought from Phrygia in Asian Minor to marry a Theban.
  • wasting away
  • The Chorus are not insulting Antigone, though she thinks they are. The Chorus merely remind Antigone that she is mortal, because it is always bad in Greek thought to compare yourself to a god.
  • a reference to Polynices' betrothal to the princess of Argos, because of which her father allowed Polynices to lead the Argive army against Thebes
  • the sun
  • wife of Hades and queen of the Underworld
  • the 4th stasimon
  • a mortal woman beloved of Zeus; her father locked her in a room, which Zeus entered by assuming the form of a golden shower. The result of their union was the hero Perseus.
  • a mortal woman beloved of Zeus; see Danae in glossary
  • Lycurgus, a Thracian king, who denied the godhood of Dionysus and was killed by that god as a result; see glossary
  • Dionysus was accompanied by throngs of ecstatic women called Maenads or Bacchants; see Maenads in glossary
  • at the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea
  • Since a god is considered to reside where he has a temple, a city next to that temple would be the god's neighbor.
  • Idaia, the second wife of King Phineus; see Idaia in glossary
  • legendary first king of Athens
  • a city of Boeotia, in the northern part of mainland Greece. Thebes was one of the most famous ancient cities in archaic times, and many myths are set there. In the 5th century BCE, Thebes was a rival to Athens.
  • watching the sky for the movement of birds was an important part of Greek prophecy; see glossary
  • see sacrifice
  • stubbornness
  • a valuable alloy of gold and silver, closely associated with the Lydian capital of Sardis
  • the eagle was the bird of Zeus
  • an idea contrary to traditional Greek piety, but in vogue with 5th-century Athenian humanism and rational thinking.
  • a proverb, saying
  • ancient and terrible goddesses who avenged crimes committed against kin
  • This indicates that all the Argive slain have been denied burial, not just Polynices.
  • Instead of a 5th stasimon, the poet has written here a hyporchema, or dance-song; the chorus is expecting a happy ending.
  • Dionysus was also known as Bacchus, Iacchus, and Evius, to name just a few of his names. This ode, which anticipates that Creon will remedy the situation and save the day, is a hymn to Dionysus, It emphasizes the universality of his power and, accordingly, lists many places where he is worshipped.
  • Semele, the Theban princess who was mother of Dionysus
  • Dionysus, along with Demeter and Persephone, was worshipped in the Eleusinian mysteries; see glossary
  • the ritual cry in honor of Dionysus, uttered by his ecstatic worshippers.
  • Semele; see glossary
  • the mountain at Delphi, which Dionysus shared with Apollo
  • the strait between Boeotia, the region of Thebes, and the island of Euboea
  • husband of Niobe who built the wall around Thebes
  • Hecate, a witch-goddess associated with death and Artemis
  • another name for the god of the underworld
  • a person making a request
  • kommos
  • See ekkyklema
  • The Greek word is miasma, which means the pollution that comes from a crime offensive to the gods. Most often associated with a crime like murder or incest that violates natural law as well as human law, the idea could also be extended to cover not burying someone, which has obvious health risks in addition to religious ones.
    Pollution affected both the agent and location of the crime, as well as any person or place harboring the criminal. Proper ritual cleansing (katharsis) was necessary to restore both person and place to an acceptable state. Antigone sees her brother's unburied corpse as miasma, and so she will do whatever is necessary to perform the proper rituals to end the pollution that keeps her brother from peace in the underworld. Creon, on the other hand, makes the rather revolutionary statement that men cannot pollute the gods, indicating his more modern ‘humanistic' beliefs. Both views could be justified in 5th-century Athenian thought.
  • a queen of Thebes who had 14 children—seven sons and seven daughters; she boasted that she had more children than Leto, a goddess, who only had two. Unfortunately for Niobe, these two children were the powerful deities Apollo and Artemis, both of whom were associated with archery. Using their infallible arrows, Apollo and Artemis slew all of Niobe's children (Apollo killing the boys, Artemis the girls), and Niobe herself fled to a mountain, where she turned to stone, although never ceasing to weep (this phenomenon explained the image of a weeping woman formed by a spring in the porous limestone of the mountain).
    Niobe is frequently alluded to in Greek literature because she is the perfect symbol for the suffering that comes, justly or not, from opposing or slighting authority. She was also the subject of tragedies in her own right, the most famous being that of the great playwright Aeschylus, whose play showed Niobe sitting on the stage, silently weeping, for over half of the drama before she said her first line.
  • a Thracian king who denied the godhood of Dionysus as that god made his triumphal entry into Greece from the East. Dionysus responded by driving Lycurgus mad: After Lycurgus committed many crimes, he was arrested by his people and shut up in a cave, where he was killed by wild animals.
  • throngs of ecstatic women who accompanied Dionysus; also called Bacchants. Their behavior was considered undesirable by ruling powers in various cities (Rome, for instance), who suppressed the cult of Dionysus.
  • the second wife of King Phineus of Thrace; she wanted to secure the kingdom for her own sons, so she blinded the sons of Phineus by his first wife, Cleopatra, who was the daughter of Boreas, the West Wind, and an Athenian princess. It is Cleopatra who is the analogy to Antigone, as Danae was.
  • In order to understand the will of the gods, the Greeks used many methods of prophecy, which included consulting oracles (holy places in which humans could pose questions and receive answers through the god's chosen interpreter), inspecting the entrails of a sacrificed animal, or watching the motion of birds in the sky. All of this had to be done by a prophet, a specially chosen priest who could interpret such things. tiresias is probably the most famous prophet in Greek myth, and the Athenian audience would know that whatever he said was true.
  • Greek religion, for the most part, did not follow a moral code, but consisted of acts and prayers designed to win the favor of the gods. The ritual slaughter of an animal was considered the best way to do this, although other offerings could also be made, such as pouring a libation (liquid offering) of milk, wine, or honey or placing a gift of flowers or incense beside a statue of a god. Animal sacrifice involved slitting the animal's throat and collecting the blood in a bowl. The animal would then be slaughtered; the meat would be roasted and eaten by the humans performing the festival (generally the only time Greeks ate roasted meat), while the thighbones would be wrapped in fat and burned on the altar as a gift to the god. The priest would also inspect the entrails of the animal during the slaughter—if anything was amiss (for example, the liver was diseased or missing), it was a sign that the gods had not accepted the sacrifice and something bad was at work.
  • one of the most important cults in Greece; Dionysus, along with Demeter and Persephone, was worshipped in these mysteries. Unlike normal Greek religion, the cult promised salvation and paradise after death to believers.
  • Another mortal woman beloved of Zeus; mother of Dionysus. Zeus's jealous wife Hera tricked Semele into asking Zeus to see him in his full glory as a god, which overwhelmed her mortal eyes. She burned to death, but Zeus grabbed the unborn Dionysus as she went up in flames.
  • one of Athenian theatre's two ‘special effects;' the ekkyklema was a wheeled platform which could roll out from behind the scaena (stage front), that is, from inside the house that served as backdrop of the play. It was usually used to roll out dead bodies of characters who had died in the house (since violence was almost never shown onstage). For instance, in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, having murdered her husband Agamemnon in the bath, declares her rule of the city of Argos while the ekkyklema rolls out to reveal the bloody corpse of the dead king.