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Sophokles’ Lucky Day: Antigone

Robert Wallace


This article distinguishes five, and then three, mostly political issues raised in Sophokles’ Antigone. (1) Can a traitor to his community be honorably buried? (2) Can a family member be valued ahead of the community? (3) Do underworld gods of the family come before public safety concerns? (4) Can civil authorities rightly be challenged by individual citizens? (5) Can «unwritten ordinances» of the gods supercede the city’s laws? Antigone answers yes to these questions, chiefly because in the 440s Athens’ democratic polity was strengthening at the expense of aristocratic families, but Sophokles was aristocratic, no friend of Perikles, and here sometimes candidly hostile to the masses. (6) What is the significance of Kreon’s degeneration into tyrannical behavior? Sophokles always worried about too powerful magistrates. (7) Haimon’s better behavior reflects Athens’ «generation gap», contrasting older democrats with the more conservative young.
Finally, (8) what is the proper public role of women? While Antigone herself is personally offensive, she proves to be right. As elsewhere, Sophokles rejects Kreon’s and democratic Athens’ harsh treatment of women. The play was successful because Athens’ democratic society itself was changing, especially as regards the status of women.


Antigone; Sophokles; democracy; women; tragedy; Athens; Perikles; tyranny

Full Text:



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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/erga-2013-001-wall

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Erga-Logoi. Rivista di storia, letteratura, diritto e culture dell'antichità
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (20/09/2012 n. 353)
Online ISSN 2282-3212 - Print ISSN 2280-9678

Executive Editor: Cinzia Bearzot
Editorial Staff: Paolo A. Tuci  (Coordinator) - Marcello Bertoli - Livia De Martinis - Laura Loddo - Annabella Oranges -  Alessandra Valentini 
Editorial Board: Gaetano Arena - Ralf Behrwald - Margherita Cassia - Paolo Cesaretti - Bernard Eck - Michele Faraguna - Massimo Gioseffi - Dominique Lenfant - Lauretta Maganzani - Roberto Nicolai - Giovanni Parmeggiani - Marina Polito - Umberto Roberto - Francesca Rohr - Marco Sannazaro - Stefan Schorn - Paolo A. Tuci - Gianpaolo Urso - José Vela Tejada - Robert Wallace
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