In Ancient Greece, life was full of complicated questions centered around the
expanding field of science. Freedom of religion was encouraged to be exercised
in the city-states and man was focused on more than the Gods or heavenly
As a result many new ideals and beliefs surfaced. These new ideals and
beliefs, though good in intentions, often conflicted with one another and
created complex moral dilemmas. Such was the case in Sophocles play Antigone
that was written in this era. In the play, Antigone and Creon battle a
philosophical war concerning their ideals.
They both base there actions on what
they believe is right and wrong. The conflict arose when their ideals that
backed up their actions on the burial of Polyneices clashed, creating a
contradiction between morals. Antigones side of the conflict held a much more
divine approach, as opposed to the mundane path Creon chose to travel. Antigone
feels that Creon is disregarding the laws of the heavens by ordering it unlawful
for anyone to provide a proper burial for her brother Polyneices.
opinion is one that supports the Gods and the laws of the heavens. Her reasoning
is set by her belief that if someone were not given a proper burial, that person
would not be accepted into heaven. Antigone was a very religious person and the
acceptance of her brother by the Gods was very important to her. Creons order
was personal to Antigone and his edict invaded her family life as well as the
An important ideal in Ancient Greece was the belief that the government
was to have no control in matters concerning religious beliefs. In Antigones
eyes, Creon betrayed that ideal by not allowing her to properly bury her
brother, Polyneices. She believed that the burial was a religious ceremony, and
Creon did not have the power to deny Polyneices that right. Antigones strong
beliefs eventually led her to death by the hand of Creon.
Creons actions are
guided by the ideal that man is the measure of all things. Creon believes that
the good of man comes before the Gods. An example of Creons belief was the
unburied body of Polyneices. Creon doesnt want to give honor to a man who
attempted to invade and conquer his city.
He denies burial for Polyneices to
show respect for Thebes. From this standpoint, Creons decisions for denying
burial for Polyneices are completely just and supports the ideals. Creons
reasonings coincide with the Greek ideals except for two that strongly
contradicts his actions. The first is that Creon exercises complete domination
of political power.
He defies this ideal by holding Antigone as his prisoner and
not the publics. The people of Thebes supported Antigone but were too scared to
do anything about it. Creon found out about this through his son Haemon. The
second is freedom of religion.
By denying Antigone to perform burial ceremonies
for Polyneices, he is denying Antigone the ideal that supports freedom of
religion. The contradictions between the beliefs of Antigone and Creon are
strong throughout the play. Neither of their arguments dominates the other even
though they are both right and wrong at the same time. Antigone is following
divine law while Creon is trying to protect the integrity of the city-state.
the end, Creon was convinced to set Antigone free after he weighed the factors
and debated the ideals. But it was too late. The contradiction of ideals was the
cause of Antigones, Haemons, and Megareus death. Both sides were just and all
beliefs were supported.
The downfall is that Creon had to decide the
unanswerable, and determine right from wrong when there was no clear answer.