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ὡς ἄγος μόνον, sc.εἶναι”, so much as to be barely an expiation; only just enough to avoid the “μίασμα”. The conjectural change of ὡς into ὅσον (adopted by several edd.) would be necessary if the indic. “ἐστί” had to be supplied, since we could not say “τοσοῦτον ὡς” (instead of “ὅσον”) “ἄγος ἐστί”. That change is unnecessary, because it is the inf. “εἶναι” that is understood. Cp. Xen. An. 7. 3§ 22 “ὅσον μόνον γεύσασθαι”, and see n. on O. C. 790 for other instances where the inf. is expressed. The inf. is understood, as here, in Xen. An. 7. 8§ 19 “ἔχοντες πρόβατα ὅσον θύματα” (sc.εἶναι”): so ib. 7. 3 § 20ἔχων...ὅσον ἐφόδιον.

ἄγος was used by Soph. in his lost Phaedra to denote “ἅγνισμα θυσίας” (Hesych. 1. 63), i.e. ‘an expiatory sacrifice’ (cp. Aesch. Eum. 325ἅγνισμα φόνου”). In Aesch. Cho. 154 also “ἄγος” has been taken as=‘expiation,’ but there it seems rather to be ‘pollution.’ Cp. the schol. here: “ἔθος παλαιόν, ὥστε τὸν βουλόμενον καθειργνύναι τινὰ ἀφοσιοῦσθαι βραχὺ τιθέντα τροφῆς, καὶ ὑπενόουν κάθαρσιν τὸ τοιοῦτο, ἵνα μὴ δοκῶσι λιμῷ ἀναιρεῖν: τοῦτο γὰρ ἀσεβές”.—Curtius, Etym. 5th ed., § 118, would write “ἅγος” here. He distinguishes two roots. (1) “ἀγ-, ἄγος”, ‘guilt,’ “ἐναγής”, ‘accursed’; Sanskr. Aa/g-as, ‘vexation,’ etc. (2) “ἁγ-, ἅγος”, ‘consecration, sacrifice,’ “ἅγιος”, etc.: Sanskr. jag-. On the other hand the analogy of piaculum suggests that “ἄγος” might combine the sense of ‘expiation’ with that of ‘pollution.’

Creon's edict had announced that the transgressor would be publicly stoned to death (36). It is to this that the anxious question of the Chorus alludes (772). Creon had already said that Antigone's doom was to be “κάκιστος” (489). But now, at least, he feels that he cannot inflict such a death on the maiden, his kinswoman. She shall die, not by stoning, but by starvation. The choice is not prompted by cruelty, but simply by the desire to avoid physical violence.

The danger of a “μίασμα”—to be avoided by a dole of food—has no relation to the special circumstances,—Antigone's royal birth, and the nature of her offence. In the ancient belief, that danger existed whenever a person was put to death by starvation. Two notions were probably blended; (a) that, if a little food was given, the death was nature's work, not man's; (b) that the “νέρτεροι” claimed an indemnity for the usual “ἐναγίσματα”. So the Greeks put Philoctetes ashore on desolate Lemnos, —“ῥάκη προθέντες βαιὰ καί τι καὶ βορᾶς ἐπωφέλημα σμικρόν” ( Ph. 274). So, too, when a Vestal was to be buried alive, the small vault in the Campus Sceleratus was furnished with a couch, a burning lamp, and a small table, on which the dole was placed,—bread, olives, milk, and a jug of water ( Plut. Num. 10).


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hide References (7 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (7):
    • Aeschylus, Eumenides, 325
    • Aeschylus, Libation Bearers, 154
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 790
    • Sophocles, Philoctetes, 274
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.3
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.8
    • Plutarch, Numa, 10
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