Sophocles' Antigone and Funeral Oratory

by Larry J. Bennett, Wm. Blake Tyrrell
Sophocles' Antigone and Funeral Oratory
Larry J. Bennett, Wm. Blake Tyrrell
The American Journal of Philology
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Exposed amid the corpses of his fellow warriors, Polyneices is more than Antigone's brother. He is one of the Seven slain before Thebes. Although scholars have always recognized that fact, they have ill-appreciated its consequences for Sophocles' dramaturgy. Antigone reprises a wondrous deed claimed for Athenians by their orators at public funerals since, at least, the 460s.' During the violent decades that preceded Antigone (c. 441 B.c.), Athenians were being educated in a revisionist version of the ancient tale of the Theban Dead. Accordingly, the Thebans do not voluntarily relinquish the bodies of the Argives; neither do they give them up to an entreating The~eus.~

Their leaders, scorning their obligations to the dead and outraging the customs of the gods, prohibit burial. Athenians are forced on behalf of the dead and the gods to intervene militarily to secure removal and interment.

Sophocles composed his play for an actual audience whose makeup he had come to know through his experience as an Athenian and a dramatist. The backgrounds and experiences individuals brought to the theater that day in late Elaphebolion are irrecoverable. We can posit, however, an audience for whom Sophocles could have composed Antigone-one familiar with the elaborations wrought on the Theban Dead myth by funeral orators and tragedians. (Since Athenians proba- bly invented the interdiction of burial, Antigone's resistance is proba- bly also an invention; both are first evidenced by Aeschylus' Se~tern.~) The audience's knowledge of the epitaphios logos and earlier tragedies forms the subtext or sous-entendu joining Sophocles with his "autho- rial a~dience."~

That is, the Antigone "plays" against a background learned in the Kerameikos as well as in the theater. Our purpose is to

'For this date and supporting discussion, see Nicole Loraux, The Invention of Athens: The Funeral Oration in the Classical City, translated by Alan Sheridan (Cam- bridge [Mass.] 1986) 56-72.

ZVoluntarily: Pindar (0. 6.15) and Pausanias (1.39). Entreaties: Aeschylus' Eleusinians up. Plut. Thes. 29.4. See Otto Schroeder, De laudibus Athenarum a poetis tragicis et ah oratorihus epidicticis excultis (Gottingae 1914) 40-43.

3R.C. Jebb, Antigone (Oxford 1888) ix-x. 4For the concept of the "authorial audience," the audience an author may have had in mind in writing a work, see Peter J. Rabinowitz, "Shifting Stands, Shifting

American Journal of Ph~lologyIll (IW)441-456 0 I990 by The Johns Hopklns Un#vers#ryPress

illuminate aspects of "Antigone in the theater"5 by comparing it to funeral discourse in order to study how Sophocles uses the power of that discourse for his own tragic mythmaking.

As with the Aj~x,~

Sophocles is not enacting the story of an indi- vidual but an ideology that must secure the defeat of Creon for impiety. In this, the outer framework of the dcmosion scma and the epitaphios' myth of the Theban Dead, both Athenian inventions, Sophocles' au- thorial audience would know how interdiction of burial had to come out. They would also recognize that whoever died seeking to accom- plish burial intervened righteously. In this light, Antigone acts correctly because she does not defy Creon, leader of Athens, but Creon, the totalitarian ruler of impious Thebes.' Orators told and told again that myth. Although Lysias provides the most extensive extant account, he is not indebted to Sophocles' treatment of the Theban Dead. Both ora- tor and tragedian rehearse a cultural discourse by which the Athenians communicated with one another, whether at a public funeral or a festi- val of Dionysus Eleuthereus, their own identity as defender of gods and piety. For that reason, Lysias' narrative of the myth seems almost an outline for Sophocles' plot.

When Adrastus and Polyneices marched against Thebes and were de- feated in battle, the Cadmeians would not allow the burial of the corpses.

Standards: Reading, Interpretation, and Literary Judgment," Arethusa 19 (1986) 115-


Authors . . . imagine presumed audiences for their texts. Since textual decisions are consequently made with the authorial audience in mind, the actual readers must come to share its characteristics as they read if they are to understand the text as the author wished. (117)

'The phrase "Antigone in the theater" attempts to escape the tenet of New Criti- cism that the text is an autonomous, self-contained entity. No amount of "close reading" of Sophocles' play by itself will reveal the implications of monos, for example, in Athe- nian culture. For New Criticism in classics, see Frederic William Danker, A Century of Greco-Roman Philology (Atlanta 1988) 204-12. Meaning is not to be found "in" the text but in the experience of the text by an audience, ancient and modern. See Jane P. Tompkins, "An Introduction to Reader-Response Criticism," in Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism, ed. Jane P. Tompkins (Baltimore 1980) ix-xxvi.

6See Wm. Blake Tyrrell, "The Unity of Sophocles' Ajax," Arethusa 18 (1985) 155-


'Brian Vickers, Towards Greek Tragedy: Drama, Myth, Society (London 1973) 529-31, 545.

. . . Thus, they first sent heralds, requesting that the Cadmeians allow them to take up the corpses, believing it characteristic of brave men to avenge enemies who are living but of those who have no faith in them- selves to show courage toward the bodies of the dead. When they could not obtain their request, they marched against the Cadmeians, although no previous quarrel existed with the Cadmeians, nor were they pleasing the living Argives. Rather, considering it proper that those killed in war receive the customary rites, they underwent dangers (Ex~vS-;1vevoav)for others for the sake of both parties. . . . [Allthough many were their ene- mies, they fought and gained victory with justice as their ally. Urged on by their success, they refrained from lusting for greater retribution from the Cadmeians. To them, in return for impiety, they displayed their bravery and, taking up the corpses of the Argives, prizes for which they had come, they buried them in their own Eleusis. In regard to those killed with the Seven against Thebes, they prove to be such men. (2.7-10)

In the speech, Athenians undergo danger; violence wipes away the resistance of impious Thebans; with no hope of personal gain, Athe- nians champion justice and perform customary rites. Antigone is the first, followed by Haemon and Tiresias, to play the role of Athenians. She assumes a 1~~vGiIv~wpa

(42), a word recalling xiv6vvo~ and XLYGuv~iro of the risks undertaken by Athenians of funeral orat~ry,~

to bury her brother. She fulfills "unwritten usages" (454-55: ay~an~a vop~pa)in the same way that Pericles asserts that Athenians obey "un- written" nomoi (Thuc. 2.37.3). Like Demosthenes' Athenians, she does not look elsewhere when "the usages (%a v6p1pa) of the departed were being outraged at the time Creon prohibited interment of the Seven against Thebes" (60.8). She acts with justice (451) against Creon's impi- ety (1068-74).

Creon, like the Thebans of the epitaphios, rejects peaceful inter- cession. Haemon, in the role of Athenian heralds sent by Theseus in Euripides (Supp. 357-58; 383-92) or by Athenians in Lysias, offers Creon the opportunity to yield without bloodshed or further transgres- sions against the dead. His failure to convince his father prompts the intervention of Tiresias, the emblem of the Athenians in arms, to whom Creon submits only after a violent exchange: "Alas, it's hard, but I resign my heart's desire to do this: a hopeless battle (Guapa~q~kov) must not be waged against necessity" (1106).

8Thuc. 2.39.1, 4; 40.3; 42.4; 43.4. Lys. 2.9, 12, 14, 20, 23, 25, 33, 34, 47, 50, 63, 68. PI. Menex. 246c. Dem. 60.10, 11, 26, 29, 30. Hyp. 6.17.

Creon is the leader of Thebes of the epitaphios and the dramatic stage where, Froma I. Zeitlin observes, Thebes is an "anti-Athens," "the negative model of Athens's manifest image of itself with regard to its notions of the proper management of city, society, and self."9 A Creon who equates state (736-37) and divinity (282-89) with his no- tions of both, who cannot fathom actions done for any motive other than personal profit (310-14), and who confounds the living and the dead as well as piety toward upper and lower gods, imports the "anti- Athens" of the epitaphios into Sophocles' tragedy In consideration of the demos of his audience, Sophocles dissociates the people of Thebes from its leader (692-700; 773-76).

To create a democratic, that is, public funeral, the demos appropriated rites of aristocratic funerals which its legislation had been con- tinually restricting since Solon.1o The dPmos displayed the bones for two days, twice that allowed private funerals, under a tent in the agora (Thuc. 2.34). Here, families mourned their husbands, sons, and broth- ers with whatever customs they wished. This concession to familial loss and grief, loosened from normal curbs on public display, contrasts the first two days with the rituals of the third. On the dawning of this day, no longer are the bones distinguished by the names, identities, and eco- nomic and social differences that separated individuals in life. Now they are "the dead," an expression virtually synonymous with the city and reified by the organization of the remains in boxes according to the Cleisthenian tribes. Wagons carrying the chests formed a procession more elaborate than any family could mount. While laws denied the family's right to bring outsiders, slaves, strangers, and paid mourners into its funerals, anyone could join in the public ceremony." Setting forth from the agora, the procession moved solemnly toward the Di-

9Froma I. Zeitlin, "Thebes: Theater of Self and Society in Athenian Drama," in Greek Tragedy and Political Theory, ed. J. Peter Euben (Berkeley 1986) 102.

I0Plut. Sol. 21.5; [Dem.] 43.62 and Eberhard Ruschenbusch, ZOAQNOZ NO- MOI, Historia, Einzelschriften 9 (1966) 95-97; Margaret Alexiou, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition (Cambridge 1974) 4-23.

"Thucydides uses the same formula, ho boulomenos, that allowed access to the democracy for citizens with full rights. Here the formula opens the process to foreigners. Most probably were allies, a status increasingly equated with subordinates (Bernard

M. W. Knox, "The Ajax of Sophocles," HSCP 65 [I9611 8-9). In effect, the Athenians' invitation, the offer to participate in their democracy, ordered the foreigners to mourn their oppressors. The tone was not lost on the orator: "Everywhere among all men, those who mourn their own disasters hymn the bravery of these men" (Lys. 2.2).

pylon and the city's "most beautiful suburb" (Thuc. 2.34.5). It was perhaps escorted by hoplites in full armor;12 the high-pitched keening of the women fills the air, soon to be superseded by the orator's sonorous words. When the dead arrive at the public cemetery, the mourn- ers seek renewal through an oration that replaces not only the familial rites of fertility and purification but also the praise and laments sung for individual heroes by poets. l3

Funeral oratory develops a propagandistic image for Athens. In the fact of their growing imperialism, Athenians told themselves a story of their self-sacrifice on behalf of Greek freedom against oppressors, both foreign and Greek. Their ideology enacts a simple dualism of Athenians vs. hoi alloi that, heedless of fact, praises the city under praise of its dead.I4 The myth of the Theban Dead belongs to a litany of Athenian services in mythic times to Greeks, the humble, and the help- less.15 Common to its myths are the themes of military intervention forced upon Athenians and their willingness to act alone without oth- ers. Repeatedly, the orator asserts that Athenians acted alone to accom- plish noble ends. The key words are povoc,, nahC;)~, and E~ijpo~.

"They alone endured risks for the sake of all Greece against many thousands of foreigners" (Lys. 2.20). "They alone twice repelled by land and sea the expeditions from all Asia" (Dem. 60.10). "We alone did not venture to surrender them" (Pl. Menex. 245c). "We were left alone again be- cause of our unwillingness to commit a disgraceful and unholy act" (Pl. Menex. 245e). Plato's shift from "we alone did not venture" to "we were left alone" shows that he "perceived the hidden meaning of the monos boast, that it also signified abandonment, failure and loss of esteem."I6 The barbaroi "disembarked onto Marathon, thinking that in this way we would be most deserted (E~qpozatouc,) of allies" (Lys. 2.21). In the epitaphios abandonment becomes single-minded action: "[The Athenians] did not wait for allies" (Lys. 2.23), "The freedom of all Greece was preserved with the lives of these men" (Dem. 60.23); and

12Loraux (note 1 above) 20.
13Loraux (note 1 above) 53-54; K. R. Walters, "Rhetoric as Ritual: The Semiotics of the Attic Funeral Oration," Florilegiurn 2 (1980) 1-19. For rites at the grave, see Alexiou (note 10 above) 9.

I4Walters (note 13 above) 8; Loraux (note 1 above) 133-45.

l5 Greeks: Amazons (Lys. 2.4-6; Dem. 60.8; Isoc. 4.70). Humble: Heraclidae (Ly s. 2.11-16; Dem. 60.8; Isoc. 4.55 and 58; 12.172-74). Helpless: Theban Dead (Lys. 2.7-10; Dem. 60.8). See Schroeder (note 2 above) 38-43 and 61-62.

IhWalters (note 13 above) 8.
failure and disgrace, glorious death: "They thought that they had to live in a manner worthy of their forebears or die nobly" (Dem. 60.31), "Al- though we could have lived in dishonor, we chose to die nobly before disgracing you or shaming our fathers and forefathers" (Pi. Menex. 246d).

Reading places a play almost synchronically before the eye, while a play on stage flows diachronically as the actors deliver the lines. Sophocles develops an undercurrent of funeral discourse by reminding the audience with clues throughout the script. Those for whom the clues do not key that sense miss Sophocles' signals and decipher other meanings in them. Sophocles first alludes to the epitaphios logos with the words pbvq (19), pbva (58), and nahov (72), words which convey in Sophocles' other plays the loneliness and fierce determinism that mark the Sophoclean hero." In Antigone, they add meaning to Antigone's resolve by contextualizing the action and dialogue in the framework of funeral oratory.

Antigone begins alone with Ismene outside the city gates; by the end of the prologue, she is isolated from her sister. "Now that we two in turn are left all alone (pbva), think how more wretchedly we will die if, in violence of law, we transgress the decree or power of absolute rulers" (58-60). Ismene's plea fails, and Antigone forswears her assistance in the burial. "I will bury him. It is noble (xahbv) for me to die doing that" (71-72). When Ismene cautions secrecy, Antigone responds, "Shout it aloud" (86), not because she wants to die but to die nobly. "I shall not suffer so much as to keep me from dying nobly (xahG~)" (96-97). By the fourth episode, her isolation is complete. "Look at me, alone and last of the royal family" (941). She ends, "deserted7' (773: k~ijpo~), "deserted of kinsmen" (919: k~qpo~),

without an ally (923), and im- prisoned in a place "alone and deserted" (887: pbvqv i~rpov). Among her last words is the conviction that her deeds may be xaha: "if these things are noble among the gods. . ." (925).

Topoi of the epitaphios inform the verbal clashes of the second episode. As often noted, Antigone's famous appeal to the gods' "un- written and unshakable usages" (545-55) recalls Pericles' assertion that Athenians obey laws, especially those "which, being unwritten, bear admitted shame" (2.37.3). Adrastus, in Isocrates' version of the litany, begged Theseus not to ignore "ancient custom and traditional law," "which all men continue to follow, not as if laid down by human nature

''Bernard M. W. Knox, The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy (Berkeley 1966) 32-33.

but as if commanded by the power of the divinity" (12.169). When Creon asks, "Are you not ashamed for thinking apart from those men?", Antigone replies: "There is nothing disgraceful in respecting those from the same womb" (510-11). She denies Creon's distinction between the brothers-"Nevertheless, Hades longs for these rites" (519: nomoi)-with a conviction similar to that Lysias attributes to the Athe- nians:

The Athenians judged that those men, if they had done some wrong, paid the utmost penalty by dying and that the gods below were not receiving their due. (2.7)

Athenians regularly lauded themselves for their intelligence. "They stopped the senselessness (to aphron) of brawn by the intel- ligence of their plans" (Gorg. frag. 6 DK). "Equality of birth compels us . . . to yield to nothing except a reputation for bravery and intel- ligence" (Pl. Menex. 239a). On stage, each character passes judgment on the intelligence of the burial:

If I seem to you to act foolishly, I perhaps incur a charge of foolishness in a fool's estimation. (Antigone: 469-70)

I say that these two girls, the one just now, the other by nature from the first, have appeared without sense. (Creon: 561-62)

Lord, the sense which grows does not abide with those faring poorly but departs. (Ismene: 563-64)

In your case, at any rate, when you chose to do evil with evil compan- ions.. . . (Creon: 565)

The p6v0~ and xahw~topoi recur. "You seemed to think nobly to some, I to others" (557), Antigone tells Ismene. "Alone of Cadmeian women," Antigone sees the fear of Creon's power among the old men of the chorus (504-5). "An absolute rule (tyrannis), blest in many other respects, can do and say what it wishes" (506-7). Such sentiments, said of other forms of government, enhance the orator's praise of Athenians' democra~y.'~

Antigone's vehement refusal to allow Ismene a part in her pathos (541) and moros (554), although contributing to her character, derives from the subtext-the monos topos:

I8Thuc. 2.37.1; Lys. 2.18; Dem. 60.26; PI. Mrnrx. 238c. Loraux (note 1 above) 172-


 No, justice will not allow you this.  (538)  
 Don't make your own what you did not touch.  (546-47)  

Antigone not only deprives her sister of posthumous credit for the rites; she harshly underlines her solitary defense of justice. "Many things," the orator declares, "conspired for our ancestors . . . to fight for jus- tice" (Lys. 2.17). Beset with evils, Antigone considers it a profit (ker- dos) to die (461-64). The kerdos theme reflects the topos of Athenians' willingness to encounter danger despite their wealth. Among those brave men, "the possession of wealth and enjoyment of life's pleasures are treated with disdain" (Dem. 60.2).19 On the other hand, Creon's materialistic outlook illustrates the attitude of hoi alloi, that is, the foil against which the orators create their image of Athenian~.~~

The third episode ends on Creon's decision: "I will lead her where the path is deserted of people" (773). The chorus of Theban old men have concluded the third stasimon when they espy Antigone. She calls to them to attend to her plight. "0citizens of my paternal land, look at me" (806). Together, they join in a kommos in which they "debate," in Vernant's term,21 the chorus over the meaning of her resolve to disobey Creon and bury her brother. She embodies the "angry, stubborn tem- per," of the Sophoclean hero, while the chorus speak both in character as Theban elders and in "meta-character" as the voice of the subtext.22 Creon marks its end sarcastically: "You know, don't you, how if permit- ted one would never stop singing and wailing before dying?" (883 -84). Antigone returns to spoken iambics to describe her future reunion with her family in Hades, give the nomos for her actions, and pray for ven- geance upon her enemies (891-923). Creon enjoins the guards to haste, and when the elders react ("This word comes nearest to death" [933- 34]), he replies: "I do not encourage you to console yourselves that

I9See also Thuc. 2.42.4; Lys. 2.33; Dem. 60.18.
20Anr. 220-21; 295-303; 310-12; 322; 325-26: 1055; 1061; 1063. On the kerdos theme, see Robert F. Goheen, The Imagery of Sophocles' Anrigone (Princeton 1951) 14-


21Jean-Pierre Vernant, "Greek Tragedy: Problems of Interpretation," in The Structuralist Controversy, ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato (Baltimore 1972)

284. For the view of tragedy followed here, see also Charles Segal, Tragedy and Civiliza- tion (Cambridge [Mass.] 1981) 1-12.

22Knox (note 17 above) 21. The prefix meta- indicates elements in the makeup of the chorus that stand "beside" or come from outside the strict delineations of their character as old men, namely, those of the subtext.

these arrangements will not be carried out as proposed" (935-36). Sophocles' choice of na~apwQoCpa~

sharply signals to his audience the na~apueia, consolation to the living intermingled with threnetic ele- ments that followed the kna~vo~ The

in the epitaphio~.~~ scene is framed by the na~apweia.

Antigone laments her present situation-premature death, loss of marriage, union with Acheron (806-14). The chorus reply with "admi- ration of her way of death-but not, it will be noted, of the act which led to it."Z4 "Renowned and possessing of praise (kxa~vo~),

you depart for the recesses of the dead, struck by no wasting diseases or the wages of swords. Of your own free will and alive, you alone among mortals will make your way to Hades" (817-22). Sophocles' chorus in character as steadfast Thebans (165-69) cannot admire Antigone's deed, but their language lauds the manner of her death. As citizens of Thebes, the old men submit to Creon's authority (211-14) and chastise Antigone for disobedience (852-56; 872-75). But Sophocles' audience hears familiar praise underlying their reprimand. "Free of sickness of the body and without experience of the anxieties of the spirit that afflict the living, they obtain customary rites in great honor and much envy" (Dem. 60.33). "They did not entrust themselves to chance or wait death that comes of its own accord but chose for themselves the finest death" (Lys. 2.79). The elders confer on Antigone the praise and honor won by the men buried in the Kerameikos. "These men, having done many things, will justly be praised (kna~v~8fiaovzat)" (Dem. 60.15); "They are worthy of praise (&na~vo~)"

(Thuc. 2.36.2). Haemon confers the honor merited by those men: "She who did not abandon her own brother, fallen in slaughter and unburied, to be mutilated by savage dogs and birds, is she not worthy of a golden meed of honor (z~pij~)?"

(69699). "Their memory is ageless, and their honors (z~pai) envied by all" (Lys. 2.79); "It is glorious to look upon men possessed of ageless honors (z~pa~)"

(Dem. 60.36); "It is just and fitting to give this honor (~~pfiv)

of memory" (Thuc. 2.36.1); "The city never ceases honoring (ttpwaa) the dead" (Pl. Menex. 249b). The old men deem Antigone "alone among mortals," but she likens herself to immortal Niobe. The elders object: "[Niobe] is a god

23JohnE. Ziolkowski, Thucydides and the Tradition of Funeral Speeches at Ath- ens (Salem 1985) 49. 24D. A. Hester, ''Sophocles the Unphilosophical-A Study in the Antigone," Mnemosyne 24 (1971) 34.

begotten of god while we are mortals born to die" (834-35). Then, like the orator, they console her again with future rewards: "And yet it is magnificent for a dying woman to hear that she holds a lot with the godlike in life and later in death" (836-39). According to R. C. Jebb, Antigone wants pity now, not recompense in the "hope for posthumous fame."Z"ernard M. W. Knox responds in the opposite, that Antigone has her sight sub specie aeternitatis: "the hero, pitting himself alone against man's city and its demand for submission to time and change, can find consolation only in some kind of immortality, the quality of the g0ds."~6 Sophocles leaves the reason for the comparison to the lis- tener's imagination; any reason suffices, provided the listener is prompted to think about Antigone in a context of immortality, as Jebb and Knox do very differently. In this way, Sophocles appropriates for her the consolation offered the surviving kin by the orator.27 "[The dead] are mourned as mortals because of their nature, they are cele- brated as immortals because of their bravery," says Lysias (2.80). Demosthenes claims that "Anyone would say that they probably sit beside the gods below, having the same place as earlier brave men in the Is- lands of the Blessed" (60.34). Hyperides contends: "If any perception does exist in Hades and any care from the daimon, as we assume, men who succored the honors of the gods when they were being subverted, likely will obtain care and attention from them" (6.43).

To Antigone, the young woman consigned alive to a rocky tomb, the chorus' comfort cuts to the quick. "I am mocked" (839). She calls for witnesses to what sort of person she is and by what customs she departs for death (843-49). The chorus reply:

xeofi6a' Ex' Eoxazov 0~ixoovs
6qqhbv 85 Aixag fik0~ov
neookxeoeg, 61~kxvov, xoh6.
natgQov 6' bxtive~sTLV' atlhov. (853-56 Jebb)

"The words mean," Hester concludes, "what they say: Antigone's rashness has brought her into collision with justice."28 Thus, we trans-

2sJebb (note 3 above) 153.
26Knox (note 17 above) 66.

27Ziolkowski (note 23 above) 127: "Immortality is mentioned in every speech ex- cept the Menrxrnus."

28Hester (note 24 above) 35.
late: "You have gone to the limits of daring and, striking fully against the throne ofjustice, you have fallen, my child. You pay in full for your father's prize." In character, the Thebans are surely criticizing the re- bellious young woman, a view with which some in the audience may have ~ympathized.~~

On the other hand, to hear the elders' words as spoken by the voice of the subtext confers upon them another meaning. Antigone, representative of Athenians of the epitaphios, could not bash or strike against justice. Daring in a woman is reprehensible; for the men of the epitaphios daring is esteemed. "They were bold when it counted" (Gorg. frag. 6); "Who could not have admired them for their boldness?" (Lys. 2.40). "They dared . . . not only to run risks for their own safety . . ." (Lys. 2.68). "Noble and marvelous the daring accomplished by these men" (Hyp. 6.40). The Scholiast on line 865, comprehending the surface meaning, perceives that the words mean more than what they appear to say. They laud Antigone for her daring: "Advancing to the highest throne of justice with daring, wishing to do something holy concerning your brother, you underwent the opposite, for you fell into an empty tomb."30 Intent on piety for her brother, she suffers impiety herself. Antigone goes to the full limit of daring and in death strikes against the throne of justice to bury the dead. "They fought," Lysias says of the Athenians before Thebes, "and gained victory with justice as their ally" (2.10).

The same doubleness or ambiguity aroused by listening to the elders in character and as the voice of the subtext inhabits the chorus' response to Antigone's statement of the rites she performed for her family (857-71). "There is some piety in being pious, but power, for those who care about power, is not wont to be transgressed anywhere. Your own self-determining temper destroyed you" (872-75). The cho- rus' censure accuses her of adhering to her lineage, showing daring, being pious with regards to the gods, and autonornos (821). These are

2yWilliamM. Calder 111, "Sophokles' Political Tragedy, Antigone," GRBS 9 (1968)
404: "My point is that to side with Antigone implies an historical anachronism."

30Scholiast on Soph. Ant, nPOBAZ' En' EZXATON OPAZOYX (cited by Hes- ter [note 24 above] 35): xeopaoa Ixi ro G~xa~oov13vqs

toxatov Pa0eov peta Beaoou5, Pouhopbvq re ootov TL 6~Qv xeei tov 66eh+ov, ta Ivav~iaxCxovBa5. txeoes ya~ EL< ro xevora+~ov.The scholiast uses the Ixi of Sophocles' text, which is usually translated to bring out a hostile collision, in a positive sense of attaining or reaching the altar.

the very qualities that Athenians found so noble and praiseworthy in their men before Thebes as eulogized in the epitaphios.

Moreover, Antigone has contravened Creon's decree because of devotion to her father's "prize," Jocasta: namely, the incest of mother and son. When the chorus sees Antigone's plight as the natural conse- quence of her lineage, her "father's prize," they imply that the pollution which bore her is bringing her to an ignoble end. However, it is by virtue of an Athenian mother that the men of the epitaphios came to die before Thebes; adherence to their lineage brings them to a noble end. Antig- one, dying for the burial of the Theban Dead in service to her lineage, is seen as dying the same noble death as the Athenians. The chorus speaks in this context as Thebans justifying Creon's law in contrast to the just actions of the Athenians, who, in service to the gods, fought against interdiction of burial.

Antigone defines herself in terms of the family who determined her fate and for whom she now dies (857-71). Creon's power may have overcome Antigone, but she dies patriotically, burying the Theban Dead of her family. "That the city concerns itself with those who perish in war may be seen above all in the nornos by which it chooses a speaker at our public funerals" (Dem. 60.2). In her final speech, Antigone reminds the dead that she took care that each received proper burial (900-903). Then, like the orator, she gives the nornos for her actions, the anathe- matic 904ff.

Antigone's nornos violates dramatic consistency when heard from the lips of a young woman who insists that "Nevertheless, Hades longs for these customs" for both brothers (519). As Jebb points out, "The general validity of the divine law, as asserted in 450-460, cannot be intelligibly reconciled with the limitation in vv. 905-907."32 In terms of Antigone's personal stance, Jebb is correct; thus, the "problem" remains. But Antigone represents Athens of funeral discourse-an Athens whose men must die for it and which, in turn, honors them with a funeral. In its need for warriors, the polis treats individuals as inter- changeable, replaceable, and of less worth than its own welfare-a reality confirmed by the equal honors paid the eleventh and empty box (Thuc. 2.34.3) and reflected in Pericles' consolation to the parents of

31For bibliography and a survey of interpretations of these lines, see Hester (note 24 above) 55-58; also Sheila Murnaghan, "Antigone 904-20 and the Institution of Mar- riage," AJP 107 (1986) 192, n. l.

32Jebb (note 3 above) 164.
the dead: "Those who are of the age for producing children should take strength from the hope of other ones" (Thuc. 2.44.3). A. W. Gomme finds it "extraordinary" that Pericles in his epitaphios should comfort the living with hope of future children to replace those killed.33 The idea seems to Gomme preposterous for parents of an age of men killed in fighting. But Pericles is not talking about marriage between people but marriage as the institution that replenishes the city's warriors.34 Peri- cles' is the transpersonal view of the third day of the ceremony when he spoke before the assembled gathering.

Antigone does devalue marriage with her nomos, but her devalua- tion sounds the sacrifice Athens must make for its survival. She sacri- fices marriage in the dramatic context to her family of father, mother, brothers, but in the subtext, she offers the polis the sacrifice that women had to offer, husbands and sons, to bury the Theban Dead of the epitaphios. Although the same rhetoric as Pericles', coming from the lips of Antigone, it causes a contradiction. Men and women offer different sacrifices to the polis-the former their lives, the latter their husbands and sons. Sophocles' use of a female to represent men breaks down (since G~ethe~~)

into a famous problem for moderns.

Antigone cannot represent Athenians with the purity of motive obtained by Euripides' Theseus. Theseus asserts his decision to bury the dead as the culture's ideal-man, warrior, leader with the consent of the led (Supp.346-51). By tending to the dead, the duty and obligation of kinship, sex, and family, Antigone unavoidably "intrudes" upon the public sphere of the polis according to a dynamic familiar to theater-

33A.W. Gomme, A Historical Commentary on Thucydides (Oxford 1956) 2.142.
34Sheila Murnaghan (note 31) 198 above has appreciated the relevance of Pericles' outlook for Antigone's nomos:

Antigone is defining "husband" not as the unchanging identity of a specific individ- ual but as an abstract role that could be played by several different men. In doing so, she is pointing to the way in which marriage, unlike ties of kinship, is not created irrevocably by nature but instituted by society.

Murnaghan points out how marriage depends upon the execution of "a series of offices with stable functions held by a succession of different individuals" (199). By stressing this aspect of marriage, Murnaghan believes that Antigone places marriage "in the category of those things it is characteristic of her to devalue and reject. For throughout the play [Antigone] consistently undervalues human institutions" (200).

35Conversations of Goethe with Eckerman and Sorer, tr. John Oxenford (London 1901) 227-28.

goers and described by Helene P. Foley.36 On stage, what the orator simply extols the tragedian doubles with oaia navou~y.joao' (74). "I shall lie with him, kin with kin, having done everything holy l holy harm" (73-74). Antigone's act is "holy" for performing traditional rites and "harm" for opposing male authority. Creon views Antigone's defi- ance in sexual terms: "In this circumstance, I am not the man, but she is the man, if this power will lie with her with impunity" (484-85). The second episode concludes on Creon's pronouncement of an end to sex- ual inversion: "From now on they must be women and not let loose. Even the bold flee whenever they see Hades already near their lives" (579-81). Antigone has acted against the male, a role played by the Amazons in the litany. Their attack on Athens fails, their sexual reversal of Greek male order is crushed: "A glorious reputation and high ambi- tions were their motives. But here they met brave men and came to possess spirits alike to their nature" (Lys. 2.5).37 Creon's failure to recognize Polyneices as a corpse causes him to judge Antigone's ac- tions as a sexual inversion and an affront to his male authority. The initial inversion in historical Athens, however, began when men seized women's prerogatives in burial for the state's benefit. Antigone's bury- ing Polyneices, rather than depriving Creon of his maleness, reaffirms her status as a woman, the sex traditionally responsible for the burial of the dead. Sophocles reveals through Antigone's "intrusion" the sexual intrusion at the base of the public funeral.

36HeleneP. Foley, '"The Female Intruder' Reconsidered: Women in Aristophanes' Lysistrafa and Ecclesiazusae," CP 77 (1982) 5:

Men and women, when they participate in common religious festivals, both support cooperative values that promote the welfare of the state. Oikos and polis, and the participation of the sexes in both institutions, are thus organized on a compara- ble basis, although they differ in scale. At the same time, conflicts may arise or appear to arise between the interests of the individual and the welfare of the state. At these moments of conflict women in drama may make a unilateral move-or intrusion-in support of the interests of oikos and/or polis. Insofar as this move involves a disruption of the functioning of the above model . . . ,the female intru- sion poses threats as grave as the masculine misbehavior that provoked it: the masculinization or sexual license of women, the feminization of men, the disrup- tion of both oikos and polis.

The expression, "female intruder," is originally that of M. Shaw, "The Female Intruder: Women in Fifth-Century Drama," CP 70 (1975) 255-66. 37For these reversals, see Wm. Blake Tyrrell, Amazons: A Study in Athenian Mythmaking (Baltimore 1984) 40-63.

During the archaic period, women exercised influence upon social and political life through their prominence in burial rites.38 Beginning in the sixth century, legislation was passed that sought to curb their partic- ipation and tone down the extravagance of their lamentations and dis- plays of grief. Private funerals, formerly conducted outside and through the streets, were confined to the household. Lament by women in pub- lic was prohibited. The food, drink, and garments that women carried in the ekphora were reduced to insignificant amounts, while attendance at the grave was open only to women of close kinship. Such legislation, intended to bolster the demos' position against aristocratic cults,39 con- comitantly caused new tensions by opening deep rifts in the polis and the oikos. Men who had grown up acculturated in women caring for the body, although slighting that care in the interests of the state, still, it seems, would be reluctant to deny it to women of their family40

Women were the proper agents of burial; Antigone and Ismene, their brother's nearest kinswomen, are responsible for providing him with fitting rites and lamentations. "See whether you will join in the toil, and do the deed with me" (Antigone: 41). Thus, when Creon, advised to rescue Antigone (1100-1101), tends to Polyneices first, he overvalues the corpse and, in his confusion of upper and lower realms, carries out a mock or perverted funeral. The corpse, whose prothesis was for birds and beasts to devour and all to see mangled, is now cleansed, an act that should have preceded its prothesis. Men, slaves of the master Creon and strangers to the replace the kinswoman Antigone in rites conducted outside the house at the city's edge. The men then move as if in procession to the grave. There, in a traditional funeral women performed fertility rites to assure the dead a quiet rest and to purify the land for the living. Bewailing the dead, women beat their breasts, lacerated their cheeks, and called upon the dead. In a

38 Alexiou (note 10 above) 14-21.

39Alexiou (note 10 above) 17 notes that funeral legislation appears in "advanced city states where a new society often culminating in a democracy was establishing itself." Since participation in burial rites legitimized a family member's right to inherit, funerals had economic ramifications for the oikos (20).

40Alexiou (note 10 above) 15 points out that vase paintings show that the laws were not being obeyed, perhaps because the men did not want to assume a more active role in burial rites.

4'Theseus' messenger emphasizes that "no slave stood over this task" (Eur. Supp. 763-66), but Theseus himself washed the corpses, spread the beds, and clothed the bodies. In Euripides' Orestes (95-106), Electra tells Helen that it would be a disgrace to send a servant to her mother's grave, but that she should go herself.

perversion of these rituals, a wailing Creon calls42 to his son, "Come out, my son, I beg you," and arouses a savage response in Haemon (1230-34). The fertility rites of the grave are turned into a marriage of death. No women's cheek "is scarred bloody by tearing of the nail in newly cut furrows" (Aesch. Cho. 24-25). Haemon in extreme self- mutilation leans upon his sword, with his spurting blood staining Antig- one's white cheek (1235-39), and an image recalling Aeschylus' blas- phemy of the hieros gamos in Agamemnon (1390-92).

Modern critics have generally found in Antigone a conflict be- tween Creon and Antigone in which one is right and the other wrong or both partially right and wr0ng.~3 Returning Antigone to its historical context, however, suggests a different reading. In the outer framework, Creon is wrong, always and absolutely wrong, for exposing the corpses. Although he tends to the body, he performs no burial according to custom. On the other hand, within the inner framework, Creon at- tempts no more than what Athenians themselves had been doing since Solon's time: namely, attempting to impose legislation that restricted women's participation in burials. Sophocles problematizes the orator's certainty by throwing the state's right to bury the dead, whether by the military force of the myth or the democratic institution of the demosion sema, against the family's and its women's traditional prerogatives over the corpse. He casts a woman to build interior conflicts that mitigate but never transgress the absolutes of the outer frame.44 He plays off atti- tudes felt by his audience toward burial that touch upon socially, politi- cally, and economically sensitive areas of Athenian life. In this regard the conflict between Antigone and Creon perhaps mirrors that of Athe- nians themselves concerning who should have power over and obliga- tion to the dead.45



42With n&van~n~ua~ (1227), Sophocles evokes the sound of EtvanaA~io0a~,

nah~i the verb "of the persistent calling of the dead by name during the supplication at the tomb" (Alexiou [note 10 above] 109). See, for example, Aesch. Pers. 621.

43For a summary of the orthodox and Hegelian positions and bibliography, see Hester (note 24 above) 11-18 and Th. C. W. Oudemans and A. I? M. H. Lardinois, Tragic Am6iguir.v: Anthropology, Philosophy and Sophocles' Anrigone (Leiden 1987) 107-17.

44Within this framework, Creon asserts valid points that allow critics to find right in his stance. 45The authors express their appreciation for the contribution made to the present study by the journal's anonymous reader.

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