Why is Polynices killed?

Prior to the events of Antigone, brothers Eteocles and Polynices killed each other in battle for control of Thebes. Polynices was the eldest son of Oedipus and next in line to assume the Theban throne. When his younger brother, Eteocles, challenged his claim, he gathered an army and attacked Thebes in an attempt to assert his claim to the throne. Polynices is seen and treated as a traitor for attacking his own city.

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In Sophocles's Antigone, Polynices is the oldest son born from the incestuous union of Oedipus and Jocasta.

Prior to the opening of the play, events occur that set the action of the play in motion. Oedipus was once the ruler of Thebes, but he is banished by Creon, who rules as king until Oedipus's sons come of age.

As Oedipus's eldest son, Polynices is supposed to be next in line to assume his father's throne. His younger brother, Eteocles, challenges this claim and tries to take the throne. Polynices defends his claim, and a civil war ensues between the two brothers.

Polynices raises an army and attacks Eteocles and his home city of Thebes. In the midst of the battle, the two brothers kill each other.

Creon decides that Eteocles will have a proper burial because he died defending Thebes. He forbids the burial of Polynices's body, however, because he believes Polynices to be a traitor since he attacked his own city. Creon decrees that Polynices's body must remain on the battlefield, unburied and exposed to the elements and animals.

At this point, Antigone begins. The titular character is one of the two sisters of Polynices and Eteocles. She loves both of her brothers and plans to bury Polynices in spite of Creon's orders.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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