AntigoneLaws of City State vs Higher Law Essay

This essay has a total of 941 words and 4 pages.


AntigoneLaws of City State vs Higher Law




Laws of the City-State vs. Higher Law
as Seen in Sophocles' "Antigone"

In Ancient Greece, after 800 bc., new ideas came to the forefront concerning the governing
of society. These ideas led to a more organized leadership and a government whose
decisions were primarily based on majority rule. This system took the form of
city-states, large self-governing towns. These city-states were founded on principals of
"freedom, optimism, secularism, rationalism,…[and] the glorification of body and mind".
Accompanying these principals was an obligation of fierce loyalty to the city-state and a
willingness to shed blood for its betterment. These ideals, while ambitious and noble,
often ran in stark contrast with those previously laid down by Greek gods, whose routes
went back to the chaotic Dark Age of Greece(1150-800 bc.). Problems of this sort were
probably commonly debated in city-states during the time Sophocles wrote "Antigone".

In the play "Antigone", Antigone is faced with an extreme example of this conflict. Her
Brother, considered a traitor by the king, has died, and she must decide whether to give
him a proper burial or yield to the king's wishes and allow his body to be desecrated. She
chooses to bury him, citing the will of the gods. "I will bury my brother, and if I die
for it…convicted of reverance-I shall be content" , she remarks to her sister in defiance.
Later, when captured and brought before Creon himself, Antigone continues to push her
holy defense, "I do not think your edicts strong enough to overrule the unwritten
unalterable laws of God and heaven, you being only a man." Her opinion is routed in the
belief that a proper burial will secure her brother's place in the after-life, regardless
of his loyalty to the state. Antigone valued the will of the Gods over loyalty, a
cornerstone of the city-state system.

Antigone probably also felt that her right to freedom as a citizen of the city state was
being compromised by Creon. Antigone voices this opinion to her sister, "It is against
you and me he has made this order, yes against me." . With both the will of god and the
rights of her citizenship as her defense, she goes to die by the order of Creon. Even as
Antigone is taken away, she remains certain her decision is the right one. Her last words
are, "Go I, his prisoner, because I honoured those things in which honour truly belongs."

Creon's actions, although seemingly savage and unjust, can easily be justified within the
culture of the Greek city-state. In this society, freedom and leisure time were enjoyed
with the assumption that when the time came, every able bodied man would be willing to
fight for his people. Indeed, political leaders and local authority figures were usually
heroes of war. A policy Creon wholeheartedly endorses, "Alive or dead, the faithful
servant of his country shall be rewarded." But Creon seems to take his loyalty a step
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