Sophokles' lucky day: Antigone

Robert W. Wallace*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-22
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Antigone
  • Athens
  • Democracy
  • Perikles
  • Sophokles
  • Tragedy
  • Tyranny
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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