Why does Sophocles have Antigone compare herself to Niobe?

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reference to Niobe underscores Antigone's pride. Niobe was a figure in Greek mythology who was the queen of Thebes. Daughter of a a goddess, Niobe objected when the citizens of Thebes were celebrating a festival in honor of Latona, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, saying that she herself was the mother of seven times as many children with seven sons and seven daughters. Even if she lost some, she would still have more than Latona. Niobe believed she was more worthy of worship than Latona. Outraged, Latona, who considered herself second only to Hera, complained to her son and daughter, who quickly began to punish Niobe by killing her children. As one by one they all died, Niobe was grief-stricken and begged them to allow the youngest to survive, but her request was denied. She lost them all, and as she sat among her dead offspring, she turned to stone, but her tears continued to flow.

Antigone compares herself to Niobe as a gesture of her helplessness; events beyond her control are happening, and she seeks sympathy. Even so, she resembles Niobe because of her hubris; she believes that she alone can save her brother's soul. Only she can defy Creon's decree.