What does Teiresias mean in his prophecy to Creon in lines 1042-1045?

"the coursers of the sun / not many times shall run their race, before / thou shalt have given the fruit of thine own loins / in quittance for thy murder" (lines 1042–1045)

Quick answer:

When Teiresias says that "the coursers of the sun / not many times shall run their race, before / thou shalt have given the fruit of thine own loins / in quittance for thy murder," he means that Creon will soon be punished for his refusal to bury Polyneices and his treatment of Antigone by the death of his own son.

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The literal meaning of Teiresias's prophetic statement to Creon in Sophocles' Antigone is as follows: "Not many days shall pass before you will have lost your own child to atone for the murder you have committed (or are committing)."

The prophet refers both to Creon's refusal to bury Polyneices (which he calls "killing a dead person one more time"), and his treatment of Antigone. These words come at the end of a long dialogue between Teiresias and Creon which follows a familiar pattern for Creon's interactions with the citizens of Thebes. The conversation will always begin amicably, in an atmosphere of mutual praise, but Creon's stubborn arrogance will quickly alienate his interlocutor.

Creon shows respect to Teiresias at first, but is soon angrily accusing him of avarice and corruption. Teiresias responds just as angrily, telling him of all the terrible punishments fate has in store for his hubris and comparing himself to an archer, accurately shooting arrows into the heart of the king.

Teiresias is soon proved right. Creon's actions lead directly to the death of his son, Haemon, who is in love with Antigone, and also of Eurydice, who kills herself when she learns of the death of her son. Teiresias is absent when all this happens, but the chorus refer to him at a crucial moment, exclaiming that he was right at the point when the audience learns of Haemon's death and just before Eurydice does so.

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With the lines listed in the question, Tiresias tries to warn King Creon not to be stubborn. Tiresias tells him that if he continues to stand by his decision to not properly bury Polynices and to kill Antigone, there will be a comeuppance for him.

Tiresias begins his prophecy by informing King Creon of its inevitability. He starts with, “Know then for sure.” There is not doubt that what Tiresias is telling Creon will happen. He is certain about his prediction: he is “sure.”

To illustrate his point, Tiresias provides King Creon with an image. In this translation, Tiresias speaks of “coursers” of the sun. Coursers might mean horses, birds, or runners in general. Tiresias uses race imagery as a way to make it clear to King Creon that these racers won’t have to run around before he will suffer for his choices. King Creon’s punishment will happen sooner rather than later.

Tiresias then goes into specifics. He explains the details of the punishment. He tells King Creon that the punishment he will face will involve “the fruit of thine own loins.” In other words, a child of King Creon’s will be killed. “Life for life,” says Tiresias.

Tiresias’s prophecy has a powerful influence on King Creon. It spurs him to stop Antigone’s execution. Unfortunately for King Creon, Antigone has taken matters into her own hands and is already dead.

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