Powered by
Share this page on
Article provided by Wikipedia

Antigone and Ismene by Emil Teschendorff (1892)

Ismene ("/ɪsˈmn/; "Ancient Greek: Ἰσμήνη, Ismēnē) is the name of the daughter and half-sister of "Oedipus, daughter and granddaughter of "Jocasta, and sister of "Antigone, "Eteocles, and "Polynices. She appears in several plays of "Sophocles: at the end of "Oedipus Rex, in "Oedipus at Colonus and in "Antigone. She also appears at the end of "Aeschylus' "Seven Against Thebes.


Oedipus (with Ismene and Antigone) condemns Polyneikes. Oil painting by "Marcel Baschet (1883)

When "Oedipus stepped down as King of "Thebes, he gave the kingdom to "Eteocles and "Polynices, who both agreed to alternate the throne every year. However, after the first year, Eteocles refused to step down and Polynices attacked Thebes with his supporters (the Seven Against Thebes). Both brothers died in the battle. "King Creon, who ascended to the throne of Thebes, decreed that Polynices was not to be buried, but left to rot on pain of death.

However, Antigone defied the order and was caught. In the opening scene of the play when Antigone is about to perform the burial rituals on Polynices, Ismene serves as the compassionate but rational and prudent counterpart to Antigone's headstrong style of decision-making with no regard for consequence. While Antigone resolves to honor her brother at all costs, Ismene laments that while she too loves her brother, her disposition does not allow her to defy the state and become an outlaw. Once Antigone was caught, in spite of her betrothal to his son "Haemon, Creon decreed that she was to be buried alive. Ismene then declared she had aided Antigone and wanted the same fate, though she did not participate in the crime. Antigone refused to let her be martyred for a cause she did not stand up for. She even seems to forget her sister exists, calling herself the 'last unhappy daughter of a line of kings.'[1]

Thus, it is apparent that Ismene serves as a foil for Antigone; she is the “compliant citizen” to her sister’s “conscientious objector.”[2] While she is loyal and willing to die at her sister’s side, she does not make the same bold, defiant stand that Antigone does. Like Haemon, she is a reasonable, sympathetic person whose fate is tied to the far more fanatical Antigone and Creon.[2]

However, in Aeschylus' play, Seven Against Thebes, Ismene and Antigone sing a funeral "dirge together for both of their brothers.

"Tydeus and Ismene, "Corinthian black-figure "amphora, ca. "560 BC, "Louvre (E 640)

The 7th century BC poet "Mimnermus accounts that Ismene was murdered by "Tydeus, one of the Seven. This is mentioned in no other extant Classical writing, but the scene is represented on a 6th-century "Corinthian "black-figure "amphora now housed in the "Louvre.[3]


  1. ^ "Fitts, Dudley; "Fitzgerald, Robert (1949). Sophocles: The Oedipus Cycle. Harvest Books. p. 222. 
  2. ^ a b Sophocles. Drama Classics: Antigone. McDonald, Marianne, trans. London: Nick Hern Books, 2004.
  3. ^ "Easterling, P. E.; Knox, B. M. W. (1989). Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Early Greek Poetry. vol. 1, part 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 95. "ISBN "0-521-35981-3. 
) ) WikipediaAudio is not affiliated with Wikipedia or the WikiMedia Foundation.