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[2] Now there are two kinds of laws, particular and general. By particular laws I mean those established by each people in reference to themselves, which again are divided into written and unwritten; by general laws I mean those based upon nature. In fact, there is a general idea of just and unjust in accordance with nature, as all men in a manner divine, even if there is neither communication nor agreement between them. This is what Antigone in Sophocles1 evidently means, when she declares that it is just, though forbidden, to bury Polynices, as being naturally just: “ For neither to-day nor yesterday, but from all eternity, these statutes live and no man knoweth whence they came.

” And as Empedocles says in regard to not killing that which has life, for this is not right for some and wrong for others, “ But a universal precept, which extends without a break throughout the wide-ruling sky and the boundless earth.

” Alcidamas2 also speaks of this precept in his Messeniacus. . . .

1 Soph. Ant. 456.

2 Of Elis, pupil of Gorgias. The oration is not extant, but the scholiast supplies his words: ἐλευθέρους ἀφῆκε πάντας θεός: οὐδένα δοῦλον φύσις πεποίηκεν (“God has left all men free; Nature has made none a slave”). The Messenians had revolted from Sparta.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus, 863-910
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