A Journal for Western Man

 

Sophocles' Antigone and the

Unalienable Rights of Man

G. Stolyarov II

Issue CXI - June 30, 2007

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Principal Index

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Old Superstructure

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Old Master Index

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Contributors

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The Rational Business Journal

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Forum

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Yahoo! Group

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Gallery of Rational Art

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Online Store

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Henry Ford Award

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Johannes Gutenberg Award

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CMFF: Fight Death

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Eden against the Colossus

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A Rational Cosmology

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Implied Consent

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Links

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Mr. Stolyarov's Articles on Helium.com

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Mr. Stolyarov's Articles on Associated Content

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Mr. Stolyarov's Articles on GrasstopsUSA.com

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Submit/Contact

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Statement of Policy

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One of a woman's perished brothers obtains a lavish state burial while the other remains exposed to the elements on the battlefield of his demise. An edict from the new dictator Creon prohibits any manner of mourning ceremony or burial to be bestowed upon him.

Death is ordained as the penalty for any who diverge from this command. Yet one woman defies the restriction proudly, dauntlessly, and without hesitation. What inner force drives her to it while others submit? Her name is Antigone, and a play by Sophocles in her honor offers an analysis of such a question, profoundly applicable to times both ancient and present.

Creon, the newly enthroned King of Thebes, enters his reign with an utter disregard for his subjects. "Shall Thebes tell me how to rule?" is his motto while ruling over the Thebans (97). Creon enters power in a vacuum and is determined to keep it at all costs, even while absolutely neglecting any manner of association between the state and justice. "Whoever the city shall appoint to rule, that man must be obeyed, in little things and great things, in just things and unjust..." he declares, in effect perceiving the means, the obedience, to justify the end, even if such were unwise and contrary to national interest (96).

So long as he is "nominated" by the people, Creon thinks, his word, his whim, must be embraced as an incontrovertible precept. Even if the statutes he declares are contrary to the will and the interest of the people, the mere fact that the people had selected him to a position of power permits him to abuse his electorate!

It is against this policy of "Because I said so" backed with a sword that Antigone revolts. Her religious beliefs designate her to conduct a burial of Polyneices against Creon's will for, in her words, "I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living; I must dwell with them forever" (85).

A woman exercising her freedom of religion confronts a law that does not permit uncoerced ideological practice. Whence, then, does she draw her sanction? "[No] mortal [can] override the unwritten and unchanging statutes of heaven. For their authority is not of today nor yesterday, but from all time..." (92). An absolute truth above subjective imposition was Antigone's guide, or at least her metaphysical judgment of it and the ethical obligations it would entail. Implicit in such a statement is the recognition of every man's capacity to grasp morality and justice without the intervention of a capricious government.

The arts in Ancient Greece were pivotal spreaders of such a message of the primacy of individual judgment over state mandate even through the form of their initial funding.

According to historian Daniel Boorstin, early dramatic performances were funded by a choregus, a wealthy citizen who was left free to devote his finances to any endeavor he judged to be worthy.

However, "in the years of
Athens' decline... [the honor of paying for the productions] was shared by several, then finally undertaken by the state" (Boorstin 205). When a dictatorship usurps that critical unalienable natural right of citizens to choose their courses of action, be they religious observances or discrimination in the funding of the arts, the downfall and peril of the subject society is inevitable. Be it a city losing a hold of esthetic prowess, or incapacitated and plunged into oppression (as was the case following Creon's imprisonment of Antigone in a cliff tomb), the intrusion upon freedom acts as the trigger.

Sources Cited:

Boorstin, Daniel. The Creators. Vintage, 1992.

Lind, L.R., ed. Ten Greek Plays in Contemporary Translations. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957. "Antigone."

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre,  Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. His most recent play is Implied Consent. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue CXI Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here..

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.