Antigone’s family tree is crucial to understanding what happens in the Greek playwright Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone. She is a member of the Royal Line of Thebes and her family is the main subject of Sophocles’ plays in The Oedipus Plays; Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone. She is the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. She has three siblings; one sister Ismene and two brothers Eteocles and Polyneices. She is also the niece of Creon, King of Thebes.

To understand Antigone’s family tree, we should start with Laius, former King of Thebes and descendant of Cadmus who was the founder of Thebes.  Laius marries Jocasta and they have one child named Oedipus.

An oracle informs Laius that one day his son will kill him, so he abandons baby Oedipus and leaves him on the side of a mountain to die. However, Oedipus survives and is raised by a shepherd and his wife. One day Oedipus is visited by a prophet who tells him that he is cursed to murder his father and marry his mother. Disgusted by this news, Oedipus flees from the shepherd and his wife because he believes them to be his parents.

Unfortunately for Oedipus, fleeing from the shepherd and his wife sets off the chain of events that lead to the curse becoming true. While on the road, Oedipus encounters a chariot carrying Laius. They get into a fight, and Oedipus kills Laius, not knowing that is was his father.

Months later, Oedipus arrives in Thebes and makes a name for himself. He then marries the widow Jocasta, with neither of them knowing she is his mother. Oedipus becomes king of Thebes. Together Oedipus and Jocasta have four children; two sons named Eteocles and Polyneices and two daughters named Antigone and Ismene.

Who are Antigone’s parents?

Oedipus and Jocasta are Antigone’s parents. They are also the parents of her siblings Eteocles, Polyneices and Ismene. Because Jocasta is both Oedipus’ mother and wife, Antigone is technically both her daughter and granddaughter.

Eventually Jocasta finds out the horrible truth – that she is Oedipus’ mother. She is disgusted and she kills herself. As a response, Oedipus blinds himself and goes into exile in Athens as a disgraced king. His daughters Antigone and Ismene go with him to Athens so they can care for him. However, he soon dies and so Antigone and Ismene return to Thebes.

What is the story of Antigone’s brothers?

Before Oedipus leaves Thebes as a disgraced king, he orders that his two sons Eteocles and Polyneices shall share the position of King of Thebes. They will alternate having the crown each year.

Eteocles is the first of the brothers to serve as King of Thebes. Once his first year is over, he refuses to leave the throne and banishes his brother Polyneices from Thebes. However, Polyneices will not give up so easily. He is determined to have the throne, so he gathers six warriors and together they march back to Thebes to fight against his brother Eteocles. This battle is called the Seven Against Thebes.

During the battle, Eteocles and Polyneices enter into a duel, during which they mortally wound each other. This fulfilled the curse of Oedipus that both of his sons would kill each other. Now, the only children of Oedipus left alive are his two daughters Antigone and Ismene.

With both of Antigone’s brothers dead, a new King of Thebes had to be crowned. The new king is named Creon. He is Antigone’s uncle and he sided with Eteocles during the war. Once the war is over, he gives a hero’s funeral to Eteocles and leaves the body of Polyneices outside to rot.

This is where the action of Antigone starts; Antigone wants to bury the body of her brother Polyneices. Creon declares that anyone attempting to bury Polyneices’ body would be put to death because he was a traitor for attacking Thebes. However, Antigone is determined to bury her brother Polyneices and does it in secret. Unfortunately, Creon finds out and as a punishment, he seals Antigone in a tomb alive.

What is the name of Antigone’s sister?

Ismene is the name of Antigone’s sister. Ismene is the child of Oedipus and Jocasta, along with Antigone, Eteocles and Polyneices. Ismene is more emotional and traditional than Antigone and seems to live in her bolder sister’s shadow. Ismene disapproves of Antigone’s plan to bury Polyneices, but she shows her love for her sister when she tries to share the blame with her when Antigone is caught. However, Antigone won’t let her be martyred for a crime she did not commit, allowing Ismene to live.

How is Antigone related to Creon?

Creon is Antigone’s uncle. He is the brother of Antigone’s mother (and grandmother) Jocasta. With Laius, Oedipus, Eteocles and Polyneices all dead, Creon is the last living male relative of the Thebes line. Because the throne can only belong to males, Creon becomes the new king of Thebes.

Creon is married to Eurydice and they have one son named Haemon. Haemon is engaged to be married to Antigone. Once Creon dies, Haemon will become King of Thebes which will make Antigone the Queen. With Antigone as Queen of Thebes, this would restore her family line (the direct descendants of Cadmus the founder of Thebes) to the throne.

Are Antigone and Haemon cousins?

Yes, they are cousins. Antigone is the daughter of Jocasta and Haemon is the son of Creon. Because Jocasta and Creon are siblings, this makes their children (Antigone and Haemon) cousins.

What is the family curse in Antigone?

There are multiple curses on Antigone’s family. It is thought that the curse originates with Laius and spread to every member of his family. Some sources say that Laius abducted and raped Chrysippus, son of King Pelops. For this transgression, Pelops set a curse on Laius. This was the curse that his son (Oedipus) would kill him and marry his wife.

It is also thought that Oedipus cursed his two sons Eteocles and Polyneices. The curse was that they would be doomed to kill each other, which occurred during the battle of the Seven Against Thebes.

Is Antigone cursed as well? She may have inherited the family curse started by Laius, which then passed to Oedipus and then to his sons. However, she believed she was doing the right thing by burying her brother Polyneices and so the Gods would be favorable to her.

In fact, in Antigone, we can see that it was Creon who invoked the curse of the Gods for believing it was the right thing to do to leave the body of Polyneices out to rot and to punish Antigone. By the end of the play, everyone in Creon’s family dies; his son Haemon kills himself when he finds out his fiancée Antigone is entombed, and his wife Euridice kills herself when she finds out her son Haemon is dead.

Importance of the Family Tree in Greek Drama

Ancient Greek tragedy frequently centered around a family and the ties between family members. In fact, Aristotle even claimed that the real emotional heart behind Greek tragedy was the struggle between family members. The relationship between brothers, sisters, parents and their children were defined by Aristotle as philia, a particular kind of love related to kinship. The family tree of Antigone is filled with conflict. While the members of the House of Thebes do not necessarily “love” each other, they are regardless linked together, and their fates are deeply intertwined.

In his Poetics, Aristotle claims that only a few houses or family trees are relied upon for material for Greek tragedy – including Antigone’s family tree – because these are the houses which experienced the most conflict between family members. The history of Antigone’s family tree includes the intrafamilial conflicts of murder and incest. This certainly makes for compelling material for dramatic tragedy. It is no wonder that Sophocles chose to focus on the House of Thebes for a trilogy of tragic plays!

Conclusion and Summary

Antigone’s family tree is central to the action of Sophocles’ trilogy of the Oedipus plays; Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone. The trilogy focuses on the House of Thebes and the tragedies that befall them. Because Antigone is comes last chronologically in Sophocles’ account of the House of Thebes, it requires background information about Antigone’s lineage and family tree.

It is thought that the series of tragedies that befalls the House of Thebes started with Laius, King of Thebes. Laius receives a prophecy that if he ever has a son, then his son will kill him. He and his wife have a son but abandon him in order to try to escape this terrible prophecy. However, the prophecy comes true and Laius’ son Oedipus kills him marries Laius’ wife (and Oedipus’ mother) Jocasta.

Oedipus and Jocasta have four children; daughters Antigone and Ismene and sons Eteocles and Polyneices. When Oedipus and Jocasta find out the truth that they have committed incest between mother and son, Jocasta commits suicide and Oedipus blinds himself and exiles himself from Thebes. Oedipus decides that his two sons will share the throne of Thebes.

Eteocles, first to serve as king, refuses to give over the throne to his brother Polyneices, resulting in a war between the two brothers. During the battle, they kill each other. With the throne now empty, Antigone’s uncle Creon takes the position as King of Thebes. Creon is the brother of Jocasta, making him the uncle to all of Jocasta’s children with Oedipus. Creon is king during the events of Antigone, which chronicles the tragic end of the curse on the House of Thebes.