the nobility of self-denial
Daughter of Oedipus and lokaste and sister of Eteokles, Polynices and Ismene, Antigone, like Electra, is a new figure, added by tragedy to the old myth of the Labdakidae.
Essentially the creation of Sophocles, she is one of the most positive heroines in ancient tragedy. A loving and devoted daughter, she follows her blind father, after the disaster, in the unhappiness of exile and supports him, loving and self-denying, to the end. With the same love she attempts to mitigate the hatred dividing her brothers and sisters and to avert fratricidal war. And when the evil is accomplished and everything is lost, Antigone does not hesitate to discharge the final debt to her family, even at the cost of life itself.
Disregarding Kreon's order, and placing the unwritten law of family above the dictates of the wielders of authority, she dares to violate the tyrant's ban and bury the body of Polynices (which lies before the walls of Thebes, where it has been thrown to the birds), fully aware that her action will lead to certain death.
When she is brought before Kreon, she proclaims her action boldiy and freely. Not only does she not beg for mercy, but she dares openly to accuse the tyrant to his face of abusing his power. The nobility of Antigone's action and words transgress the limits of what is allowed to women and threaten to overturn order. Kreon's reaction is immediate, and his sentence of condemnation irrevocable:
If we must perish, it is better to do so by the hand of man,
and then we cannot be called inferior to women.'
Sophocles Antigone 678-680 (Loeb edition)
without marriage, without bridal,
having no share in wedlock or in the rearing of children,
but thus deserted by my friends
I come living, poor creature, to the caverns of the dead.'
Sophocles, Antigone 916-920 (Loeb edition)
I do not speak to you of things gone by, I speak of love;
Bedeck your hair with the thoms of the sun,
the heart of the Scorpion has set,
the tyrant within man has departed'
G. Seferis. Love (Eros)
From Medea to Sappho - Radical Women in Ancient Greece
Athens, National Archaeological Museum - 20 March - 30 June 1995