There is a general dramatic analogy between this speech and that of Oedipus in O. T. 216—275. In each case a Theban king addresses Theban elders, announcing a stern decree, adopted in reliance on his own wisdom, and promulgated with haughty consciousness of power; the elders receive the decree with a submissive deference under which we can perceive traces of misgiving; and as the drama proceeds, the elders become spectators of calamities occasioned by the decree, while its author turns to them for comfort.
τὰμὲνδὴπόλεος . . ὑμᾶςδ᾽. The perils of the war are now over; the affairs of civil government claim my next care; and I have therefore sent for you, the nearest supporters of my throne.
πόλεος occurs only here in Soph. , but twice in the trimeters of Aesch. ( Aesch. Th. 218, Suppl. 344), and thrice in those of Eur. ( Eur. Or. 897, El. 412, Ion 595). Eur. has also in trimeters “ὄφεος” ( Eur. Bacch. 1027, Eur. Bacch. 1331, Suppl. 703), and “κόνεος” ( Cycl. 641). In Comedy we find “ὕβρεος” ( Ar. Th. 465, Plut. 1044), and “φύσεος” (Vesp. 1282, 1458). Such forms, which metrical convenience recommended to Attic poets, must not be confounded with the Ionic genitives in “ι”, such as “πόλιος”. The gen. “πόλευς”, contracted from “πόλεος”, is used by Theogn. 776 etc.— πολλῷσάλῳσείσαντες. Cp. O. T. 22.
The image of the State as a ship dates in Greek literature from Alcaeus (whom Horace copied, Carm. 1. 14), fr. 18. The ship of Alcaeus is labouring in the trough of a wild sea,—water is coming in,—the sail is torn,—the anchor will not hold: “νᾶϊφορήμεθασὺνμελαίνᾳιχείμωνιμοχθεῦντεςμεγάλῳμάλα, κ.τ.λ.” It is only through Heracleides Alleg. Homer. 5 that we know the meaning of Alcaeus to have been figurative and political. Aesch. often uses the image ( Aesch. Th. 2, Aesch. Th. 62, Aesch. Th. 208 etc.). Creon returns to it at 189. It is peculiarly well suited to his point,—the unity of the public interest.
ὤρθωσαν, made upright, ‘righted’: but below 167, “ὤρθου”=was keeping straight: cp. on 83.
Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose. Part III: The Antigone. Sir Richard C. Jebb. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 1900.
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