Greek Myths and Legends
The play Antigone by Sophocles provides us with a wonderful piece of ancient Greek literature, which reflects the views, customs, and traditions that ruled that society. Based on the Theban legend, the play is focused on the destiny of Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus. As seen in the passage taken from Antigone, lines 332-372, the author concentrates on human nature in general and thinks about the power the people possess. In the ancient Greek tradition, there was adopted a view that a human being was helpless in the face of destiny, which was embodied in and executed by the Gods. However, Sophocles argues that a human was the most powerful being that could go against anything as people were even able to change the Earth, represented as the eldest and thus the most powerful Goddess. Such a great will and power of humans are the main features of the main heroine.
Antigone dares to rebel against society’s rules, following the voice of her heart and mind. The main conflict in the play arises from the clash of state laws and family responsibilities as well as the girl’s moral norms. The family is forbidden to bury the body of Polyneices, Antigone’s brother, as he has pronounced a betrayer. However, Antigone fearlessly dooms herself to death by rising against the whole society and committing her brother’s body to the ground. Though stopped by death, she achieves her main goal by showing that her moral principles are right because her example encourages other characters to oppose society as well.
Though commonly referred to as Greek myths and legends, these two notions are not the same. Their differences may help in classifying which aspects from such pieces of literature as Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound, Antigone, Hippolytus, The Iliad, and The Odyssey are influenced by either legends or folktales/myths. Myth or folktale means that story describes some event without ascribing it to a certain period, and more importantly, it has symbolic meaning hidden beneath the story. Undoubtedly, the tragedy Prometheus Bound is based on the myth of Prometheus who stole the fire and gave it to people, thus having saved the human race and inciting the progress against Zeus’ will. It also intertwines with the myth of Io who comes to chained Titan, when hunted by Hera. The next play influenced by myth is Hippolytus. It presents Euripides’ view on the myth of Hippolytus. The author presents the life and death of Theseus’ son omitting the versions from the myth where Hippolytus is raised from the dead or made a God.
The author borrows all the main characters from the myth and follows the storyline variant where Phaedra, his stepmother, suffers from her feelings for Hippolytus and commits suicide, while in the myth, she intentionally abuses him. Euripides changes the meaning of the myth showing that Hippolytus dies only not because of his disrespect for love but due to the caprice of the eccentric Goddess, Aphrodite. All the rest pieces are based on the legends that differ from myths in that they present the events suggesting that they might have happened in reality. For example, The Iliad is based on the legend about the Trojan War, and as well as The Odyssey represents the events from the Achaian and Trojan Cycle, while Agamemnon presents the destiny of Agamemnon after the end of that war. As mentioned above, Sophocles was inspired by Theban Legend-Cycle when writing his play Antigone, which represents the events that happened to the children of the kings that ruled the city later.