ἄγραπτα … νόμιμα. Arist. Rhet. 1.13 § 2 distinguishes (1) “ἴδιος νόμος”, the particular law which each community defines for itself, which is partly written, partly (so far as consisting in custom) unwritten: (2) “κοινὸς νόμος”, the universal, unwritten law of nature (“ὁ κατὰ φύσιν”). “ἔστι γάρ, ὃ μαντεύονταί τι πάντες, φύσει κοινὸν δίκαιον καὶ ἄδικον, κἂν μηδεμία κοινωνία πρὸς ἀλλήλους ᾖ μηδὲ συνθήκη, οἷον καὶ ἡ Σοφοκλέους Ἀντιγόνη φαίνεται λέγουσα, ὅτι δίκαιον, ἀπειρημένον” (=in spite of the edict), “θάψαι τὸν Πολυνείκη, ὡς φύσει ὂν τοῦτο δίκαιον”. (Here he quotes vv. 456 f.) Cp. O.T. 865 ff. “νόμοι... ι ὑψίποδες, οὐρανίαν ι δἰ αἰθέρα τεκνωθέντες”, with notes there. Thuc. 2.37 (“νόμοι”) “ὅσοι ἄγραφοι ὄντες αἰσχύνην ὁμολογουμένην φέρουσι”. When ‘the unwritten laws’ are thus called “νόμοι”, the latter word is used figuratively. νόμιμα, observances sanctioned by usage, is the more correct word: so Plat. Legg. 793A observes that “τὰ καλούμενα ὑπὸ τῶν πολλῶν ἄγραφα νόμιμα” cannot properly be called “νόμοι”, but still must be taken into account: “δεσμοὶ γὰρ οὗτοι πάσης εἰσὶ πολιτείας, μεταξὺ πάντων ὄντες τῶν ἐν γράμμασι τεθέντων τε καὶ κειμένων καὶ τῶν ἔτι τεθησομένων.” ἀσφαλῆ, they stand fast for ever, like the “θεῶν ἕδος ἀσφαλὲς αἰεί” (Od. 6.42). θνητὸν ὄντ᾽, ‘one who is a mortal,’—i.e. Creon; but it is needless to supply “σέ” from “τὰ σά”: the expression is the more forcible for being general. Cp. Eur. fr. 653 “οὐ θαῦμ᾽ ἔλεξας, θνητὸν ὄντα δυστυχεῖν”: Eur. Alc. 799“ὄντας δὲ θνητοὺς θνητὰ καὶ φρονεῖν χρεών”. Bothe's “θνητὰ φύνθ᾽”, rashly adopted by Nauck, is a wanton change, which the ambiguity of the neut. pl. makes still worse. ὑπερδραμεῖν, out-run, and so fig., prevail over: Eur. Phoen. 578 “ἢν δ᾽ αὖ κρατηθῇς καὶ τὰ τοῦδ᾽ ὑπερδράμῃ”, and his cause prevail (Canter's certain corr. of “ὑπεκδράμῃ”): Ion 973“καὶ πῶς τὰ κρείσσω θνητὸς οὖσ᾽ ὑπερδράμω”; (prevail against Apollo). Ithas been proposed to refer “θνητὸν ὄνθ᾽” to Antigone: but if she said, ‘I did not think your edicts so strong that I, a mortal, could prevail over divine law,’ “δύνασθαι” would rather imply that, if she had been able, she would have been willing to do so. Besides, “ὑπερδραμεῖν” is more naturally said of the law-giver who sets his law above the other law.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.