#1
and know a bit of Greek history, could you help with my homework?

So I have a three page essay to answer the question, "What do we learn about the state of Athenian society through the themes and the questions that Sophocles presents in his plays?"

I did read the plays (only "Antigone" and "Oedipus the King") and here are a few things I notice: the Greek gods and the way they affected the people, the role of women, and Athen before the war with Sparta. Now I'm going back in the plays to prove my points.

What else am I missisng?
#2
antigone decides to go against the will of creon, the king, and bury the body of her brother polyneices who attacked the city, killing and being killed by his brother etocles, who has been buried in a hero's funeral. she does so, but her actions are discovered and the body unburied. she then does it again, but is this time captured, and as punishment buried alive in a cave. however, tiresias, the blind seer, tells creon that he has angered the nether-gods by failing to bury polyneices. based on this, creon orders the body to buried and antigone to be freed. by this point however, antigone has killed herself and haemon, creon's son who was betrothed to her, has also killed himself in grief at the death of antigone. at this news, creon's wife eurydice kills herself, cursing him.

in answering the question of who is right, there are three issues that are raised.

firstly we must ask the most immediate question; was the burial of polyneices the right thing to do, regardless of any issues raised by the support, or lack of such, from the polis.

my answer to this would be yes. although souvinou-inwood suggests that the idea that all people must be properly buried is a false one when we look at athenian society, we must look beyond this; although traitors may not deserve burials, arguing this in this case assumes that polyneices is a traitor. he is not necessarily so. there are multiple versions of why he attacked thebes; at worst, he and his brother argued over the throne, his brother was succesful and he was exiled. at best, etocles betrays an agreement between the two brothers to share the throne, instead exiling him. whichever version of the myth we take, it is difficult to argue that polyneices deserved to be treated as a traitor. burying him was the right thing to do.

secondly, were creons actions in degreeing that polyneices should not be buried and punishing antigone the right ones given his kingly role as spokesman for the polis?

sourvinou-inwood suggests that creon is acting in support of the polis and antigone against it, that our possible contrary views stem from application of our values, not athenian values. however, frankly, her arguments are weak. she argues that creon acts the spokesman of the polis, but he does not behave as such; he asks rhetorically if he is to 'rule for them, not myself', and if he must 'give orders by their permission'. she takes issue with the suggestion that the polis are in support of antigone despite having no argument to support her case other than that the repeated references to the opinion of the polis may be incorrect. she argues that describing creon as a tyrant based on his actions towards the guard is flawed as harsh punishments were common in athens, but again, this argument is flawed because the tyrannical appearance of creon in this scene does not stem so much from the harshness of his treatment but from the lack of justification for it; he instantly assumes that the guard is involved, that he has been paid to collaborate, and prepares to punish him as such. sourvinou-inwood tries to justify this by saying that it is the 'rational conclusion' given that he would have no reason to suspect that the gods may have aided someone to bury the body, but to me this simply suggests hubris on his part, as he presumes to know without any doubt the will of the gods.

admittedly, there is some ambiguity as to the opinion of the polis on the matter, but my reading was that they do support antigone. however, even if one reads otherwise, this does not necessarily make creon right and antigone wrong, as we will see in the next question.

thirdly, we must ask whether or not it can be correct to disobey the authority of the state.

in the conclusion to 'reading sophocles' antigone' souvinou-inwood suggests that to act against the polis is wrong, arguing that though creon was wrong, that he acted against the gods, antigone was both wrong and right, that although she acted in accordance with the will of the gods, she acted against the polis and must be criticised for such. putting aside for a moment that the polis seem to support her actions and instead assuming that they do not, there is still no justification to the argument that she is any way at fault for acting against their will. there is no moral obligation to obey an unjust decree, and the decree that polyneices should not be buried or mourned is an unjust one.

overall therefore, i am drawn to the conclusion that antigone is right and creon wrong. antigone acts against a king who shows at least some signs of tyranny to commit an action which is right and which is apparently supported by the polis. creon meanwhile goes against both the will of the people he is supposed to represent and the will of the gods, instead ruling for himself, attempting to prevent what is right from happening.


these were rough scribblings i made for a presentation on antigone with relation to the individual and the state a while back. i dont know if theyre much good, i did them about half an hour before it was due, so whatever. maybe theres something useful there. with regards to the third point i made, i should point out that that was based on my feelings of right and wrong. obviously, contemporary athenian values were very different.
my name is matt. you can call me that if you like.
#3
^ A bit to read, but thanks a whole lot man

And family values seem to be another thing I just remembered.