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Internal evidence —supposed political bearings.

It must now be asked how far the internal evidence of the play supports the belief that it belongs to the poet's latest years. Lachmann, maintaining the singular view that the Oedipus Coloneus was “"political through and through"” (“"durch und durch politisch"”), held that it was composed just before the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, with the purpose of kindling Athenian patriotism. Another conjecture is that the play was prepared for the Great Dionysia of 411 B.C., just after the Government of Four Hundred had been established by the assembly held at Colonus; that Colonus Hippius may have been "in some special sense the Knights' Quarter"; that hence the play would commend itself to a class of men among whom the new oligarchy had found most of its adherents; and that, after the fall of the Four Hundred, political considerations prevented a reproduction of the play, until, after the poet's death, it was revived in 402 B.C.1 This is an ingenious view, but not (to my apprehension) a probable one. That the play would have been especially popular with the Athenian Knights need not be doubted; but it is another thing to suppose that the composition of the play had regard to their political sympathies in 411 B.C. In a time of public excitement any drama bearing on the past of one's country is pretty sure to furnish some words that will seem fraught with a present meaning. We may grant that such a meaning would sometimes, perhaps, have been found by an Athenian spectator of this play, and also that the poet's mind, when he wrote it, was not insensible to the influence of contemporary events. But it seems not the less true to affirm that, from the first verse to the last, in great things and in small, the play is purely a work of ideal art.

1 Prof. L. Campbell, Sophocles, vol. I. 276 ff.

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