Composers and their stage works 

The Phoenician Women

(Phoinissai; Phoenissae, ca. 411 B.C.).



Tragedy that takes its name from the chorus of Phoenician maidens, dedicated to the service of Apollo, who have stopped in Thebes on their way to Delphi.

Praying for an end to the strife between her two sons Eteocles and Polynices, Jocasta recalls how her son and husband Oedipus, King of Thebes, having committed incest, had blinded himself and charged his sons with the rule of Thebes in alternating terms of one year. However, the ambitious Eteocles has refused to give up the throne and has exiled his brother. Polynices therefore has allied himself with Adrastus, King of Argos, and now threatens to storm the gates of Thebes with the Argive Army. When Polynices enters the city to see his mother, Jocasta tries in vain to reconcile her sons. Eteocles and his uncle Creon discuss the forthcoming battle. Consulting the blind prophet Tiresias, Creon learns that only with the sacrifice of his son Menoeceus can Thebes be saved, and though Creon hastens to remove his son from the city, Menoeceus kills himself to save Thebes.

After the initial battle, in which Thebes is victorious, Eteocles and Polynices meet in single combat and are both killed. Jocasta commits suicide near the bodies of her sons. Creon, now King, decrees that Oedipus, who brings only bad fortune to the city, shall be exiled; Haemon, Creon's son, is to rule Thebes and marry Antigone, sister of Eteocles and Polynices. He also proclaims that Polynices, who came with strangers to sack his native city, is to remain unburied and that anyone who tries to bury him shall die. Antigone defies Creon, swearing to honour Polynices by burial, and departs into exile with Oedipus.