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Glossary of the Greeks

Two people reach for each other.
Photo of Aeriel Williams and Matthew C. Yee by Michael Brosilow.

This glossary includes helpful vocabulary and allusions that will deepen your understanding of the words and worlds of Antigone.

SpeakerGlossary TermReference / Definition
Antigone“Grief, the suffering that Zeus puts on us” Zeus was the king of the 12 Olympian gods and the supreme god in Greek religion.
Antigone“He will condemn to death anyone who attempts to bury Polyneices”Condemn (v): To pronounce guilty; convict
Ismene“You are rash, my sister”Rash (adj): Impulsive and reckless
Antigone“The edict…the people say that Creon has proclaimed it to the whole city”Edict (n): An order or decree
Ismene“To make a wild and futile gesture makes no sense”Futile (adj): Useless and ineffective
Antigone“I am his family, his kin, and kin will lie by kin”Kin (n): Family or relatives; ancestors
Antigone“No, scream it aloud. Denounce me.”Denounce (v): Publicly declare to be wrong or evil
Antigone“But leave me to my own folly, leave me to the suffering and the terror”Folly (n): Foolishness
Euboule and Demophilus“Oh most glorious light that ever shone/
Upon Thebes of the Seven Gates
The Seven Gates were built into the wall surrounding Thebes. Ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus wrote a play called Seven Against Thebes, which details the mythic war between Polyneices and his brother Eteocles – Antigone’s brothers. In the battle, seven captains attack the seven gates of Thebes. The action of that play takes place chronologically between Oedipus at Colonus / The Gospel at Colonus and Antigone
Euboule and Demophilus“Across Dirce’s streams”Dirce was an Ancient Greek nymph-queen who was killed by being tied to a wild bull and torn limb from limb. The god Dionysus later turned her into a river.
Euboule and Demophilus“Oh then did you shine/
Upon the Man from Argos/
With his Gleaming Armor./
Polyneices!”
Argos was another Greek city that supported Polyneices’s attack on Thebes. 
Euboule and Demophilus“Running in unbridled fear now/
In the harsh blaze of your dawn”
Unbridled (adj): Uncontrolled and unrestrained
Euboule and DemophilusVictory whose name is FameThe goddess of Victory was Nike. 
Euboule and Demophilus“Let us dance through the dark night/
And Bacchus will lead us,/
God of Thunder, Lord of Thebes”
Bacchus was the Roman name for the Greek god Dionysus. He was the god of agriculture, wine, and fertility, and the divine guardian of Thebes.
Euboule and Demophilus“Ah now comes Creon, son of Menoeceus,
King of Thebes”
Menoeceus was also the father of Jocasta, Oedipus’s mother and wife. Menoeceus was therefore Oedipus’s grandfather and father-in-law.
Euboule and Demophilus“Appointed by this
new twist of Fate.”
In Ancient Greece, the three Fates were sisters who personified destiny. 
Creon“Returned from exile to burn and pillage his own father’s land…”Pillage (v): Violently rob, especially during war
Creon“Unburied his corpse will feed wild dogs and carrion birds”Carrion (n): The decaying flesh of animals. Carrion birds include crows and vultures
CreonSentries watch the corpse”Sentry (n): A soldier stationed to guard a place
Watchman Who Becomes Messenger“We cast lots. I… won”Cast lots (v): To make a random selection; similar to drawing straws to determine who will carry out a particular task
Creon“Some men in this city loathed this edict, formed cabalsCabal (n): A secret political clique or group
Creon“Sometimes greed exacts a heavy price”Exact (v): Demand and obtain something (often payment)
Euboule and Demophilus“Earth, undying, greatest of the goddesses,
Pliant mother”
Pliant (adj): Able to bend without breaking
Euboule and Demophilus“The bull/
That has never known the pain of the yoke
Yoke (n): A type of wooden harness placed on plow animals for farming or pulling heavy loads
Ismene“This is Antigone.
Anguished daughter
of an anguished father.”
Anguished (adj): Experiencing extreme mental, physical, or emotional pain
Watchman Who Becomes Messenger“She took the dry dust in her hands, raised a pitcher of bronze and poured libations on the corpse, three comforts for the dead.” Libation (n): A drink; a drink poured out in offering to a deity
Creon“But if a man crosses the law, uses force, makes plans to subvert the power of the state”Subvert (v): Undermine power and authority, especially of an established system or institution
CreonAnarchy destroys great cities and hurls great families to the dust. Anarchy breaks the battle lines of great armies”Anarchy (n): The absence of government; a state of disorder due to lack of government or controlling systems
Creon“For when she sails safe upon an even keelKeel (adj): The structure running the length the underside or hull of a boat; an even keel is stable and consistent
Haimon“And the gods under the earthThe gods under the earth refers to the gods affiliated with the underworld and the dead. These included Hades, Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate, among others. 
Creon“Die in the bride groom’s arms”Bride groom (n): A man engaged or recently married to his fiancé
Haimon“For Aphrodite/
Smiles as she kills”
Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty. Her father was Zeus. 
Antigone“Death, in whose arms all men sleep,/
Leads me to the cold waters of Acheron/
To be his living bride”
The Acheron was a river running through the underworld. Acheron can also refer to a flaming lake, or hell itself.
Haimon“Untouched by wasting sickness,/
Not slain by savage swords”
Slain (adj): Killed, especially in a violent way
Antigone“I know the story of sad NiobeIn mythology, Niobe bragged that she had more children (14) than the goddess Leto, who had only two. Leto punished Niobe by having her children, Apollo and Artemis, kill Niobe’s kids. Niobe’s children were denied a proper burial for nine days before finally being interred. Later, Niobe returned to her homeland and was turned to stone, though she continued to weep.
Antigone“She too was sheathed in stone”Sheathed (adj): covered by a close-fitting case, such as a case that covers the blade of a sword, dagger, or the like
Antigone“Soon I will be with my family, the pale corpses whom Persephone welcomed”Persephone was the goddess of vegetation and queen of the underworld after being abducted by and forced into marriage with Hades.
IsmeneDanae suffered like you,/
Locked in a prison of bronze”
An oracle told Danae’s father that his daughter would bear a son who would kill him. To prevent this, her father locked her in a bronze tomb to cut her off from the world. Zeus came to her in a golden rain that left her pregnant with Perseus. Danae’s father her and her child in a wooden chest and threw them into the sea where Zeus ensured their protection and survival.
Ismene“The son of Dryas, quick to anger,/
Raged against the god”
One son of Dryas was Lycurgus, who attacked Dionysus. As punishment, he was made insane and killed his wife and children. Though his own death was recorded to have occurred in many different ways, according to Sophocles, he was entombed in a rock. 
IsmeneDionysus locked him deep/
Within a tomb of rock”
Dionysus was the Greek name for the Roman god Bacchus. He was the god of agriculture, wine, and fertility, and the divine guardian of Thebes. 
Ismene“There is a place where black rocks divide the sea. Salmydessus.”Salmydessus was coastal city in Ancient Greece. In myth, it was associated with the Clashing Rocks through which Jason sailed. Jason was a mythological Greek hero who conquered a number of tasks on his quest to claim a golden fleece.
Tiresias“They screeched mad and inarticulateMad (adj): insane; crazy
Inarticulate (adj): unable to speak or express oneself clearly
TiresiasGall spurted from the bladder and became vapor in the air”Gall (n): bile; the contents of a gallbladder, known to be bitter and poisonous
Tiresias“Every altar in the town is gluttedGlutted (adj): filled to excess
Tiresias“For they are gorged with the oozing blood of the dead”Gorged (adj) over-full from excessive eating
Creon“Precious metals from LydiaLydia was an Indo-European land in what is now modern-day Turkey.
Creon“What trite pearl of wisdom do you/
have for us?”
Trite (adj): overused and therefore meaningless (often an expression or saying)
Tiresias“The Furies will track you down, lurking in the dark they will pounce upon their prey”The Furies were the three Ancient Greek goddesses of vengeance. They tortured sinners in the underworld.
Euboule and Demophilus“Oh help us now!
Semele’s golden child!”
Semele was the mother of Dionysus (Bacchus). 
Euboule and Demophilus“The nymphs laugh on the hills”Nymphs were lower goddesses associated with water, fertility, and nature.
Euboule and Demophilus“The waters of Kastalia wash you clean”Kastalia was a sacred spring near Delphi, a religious sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. 
Euboule and Demophilus“We cry your name aloud! Evoi Evoi.”Evoi translates to “Well done, my son.” It was said by Zeus to his son Dionysus after the latter won a fight. Euboule and Demophilus say this in reference to Dionysus in Antigone.
Watchman Who Becomes Messenger“Neighbors, ancient city of CadmusCadmus was the founder of Thebes. 
Watchman Who Becomes Messenger“I found her first as she was coming out to pray at Athena’s shrine”Athena was the Greek goddess of heroism, wisdom, and war.
Watchman Who Becomes Messenger“We prayed to Hecate and Hades to
speed him on his way”
Hades and Hecate were both deities of the underworld. Hades was the king of the underworld, and Hecate a witch working with him.  

Posted on January 31, 2024 in Learning Guides, Productions

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