Plato’s Socrates and Sophocle’s Antigone – Similarities
The ancient Greek societies had a strong corrective method to maintain order. Authorities had to maintain a self-survival attitude, which consisted of putting away those few that could challenge their power and create chaos. Both Antigone of Sophocles and Socrates of Plato are examples of threat to the socio-political order or their respective societies. Antigone is a woman in the context of fifth-century Athens, Greece who challenges the socio-political orders of the city in name of a blood relationship, which through her eyes is sacred in the name of the gods.
The divine law says that all man should be buried following the proper rites. In the ancient Greek household, women are the ones who must do the proper funeral rites and bury the dead; they are the ones who have the privilege of emotional lament over the dead. Antigone is a courageous girl, in a time where woman had no voice, she did not fear to break the law that had been passed over the Thebes by its king, Creon. The two sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices killed each other. Polynices was with the army or Argos who had invaded the Thebes.
Eteocles who died fighting for Thebes “shall be buried, crowned with a hero’s honors” (Sophocles,68); but Polynices had been declared a traitor by Creon, the King. Thus now, “he must be left unburied, his corpse carrion for the birds and dogs to tear” (68), and Creon completes his verdict to the people saying “These are my principles. Never at my hands will the traitor be honored above the patriot” (68). As for Creon, he claims that what matters is the order and safety of his people.
Creon will do whatever takes, as long as he has the power and control over what happens in Thebes: honoring those who serve the city and punishing those who dishonor the city’s laws. Antigone believes that is it her duty to bury her brother, blood of her blood. She has an extreme devotion for her family, and she believes she serves the gods. She needs to contend the laws that the gods hold in honor, and not those that mere mortals behold. Antigone says “Die I must – I’ve known it all my life – how could I keep from knowing? (82) but she is certain that she will suffer “nothing as great as death without glory” (64). Antigone buries Polynices corpse with all the proper rites to the eyes of the gods. With that act she has trespassed not only the social order of gender of that time, which tells that woman is beneath man; but she has broken the laws of the city of Thebes, and has put herself, in actions, above the king himself. Creon takes her offense as something almost personal when he says “I’m not the man, not now: she is the man if this victory goes to her and she goes free”.
He says that Antigone would not scape the most barbaric death. Antigone mocks Creon to his face when she says “if my present actions strike you as foolish, let’s just say I’ve been accused by folly by a fool” (82) and she adjusts that the “citizens here would all agree, /they would praise me too / if their lips weren’t locked in fear” (84) where she proves that few are the ones that speak up, but most are the ones that disagree with Creon’s position. Heamon, the groom of Antigone and son of Creon, tells his father he will obey him because that’s what a good son should do.
But he tells his father that he is the one who hears the murmurs in the dark, and that the city says Antigone does not deserve death for such a glorious action, rather she deserves a glowing crown of gold (95). Creon at that time reveals himself as an all-powerful king, who instead of serving the people, says that the “city is the king’s –that’s the law! ” (97). Tiresias, the blind prophet, tells Creon that it is him who has set a plague on Thebes. He says to Creon that “Stubbornness / brands [him] for stupidity –pride is a crime. (112) Tiresias says that Creon has “robbed the gods below the earth, / keeping a dead body here in the bright air, unburied, unsung, unhallowed by the rites. ” (115) and now proclaims that one of Creon’s flesh and blood will be given in return. Creon for the first time is afraid he has overridden the gods, so he decides to free the girl himself. Antigone realizes she can hear the voice of death; she suffers in wonders “What law of the mighty gods have I transgressed? (106); she now feels she is left alone and claims “I alone, see what I suffer now / at the hands of what breed of men – / all for reverence, my reverence for the gods! ” (107) ; she commits suicide and Creon finds her dead body. The prophet Teresias was right, his son Heamon took his own life because he saw his bride dead, and Heamon’s mother, the queen, killed herself as well after knowing the death of her son. Creon finally says he has learned “through blood and tears” (124) through his senseless and insane crimes.
He takes the blame for having murdered his son and his wife, against his will. Those lives were the price of his pride. Antigone, of Sophocles, paid the price of her own life for having transgressed the rules of her society; she was considered a threat to the power of Creon and to the order of the Thebes. A similar situation happens in Socrates of Plato, where he is seen as a threat to the social order. Socrates was accused by the people from his city, he defended himself on his trial, but his defense wasn’t convincing enough for the men of Athens, so he was condemned guilty and put to death.
Socrates was a wise man that over the time ended up with a bad reputation in the eyes of the society. He claims that “what caused [his] reputation is none other than a certain kind of wisdom . . . Human wisdom” (Plato, 24). He found himself the wisest of all people because he was the one that knew that human wisdom is worth nothing. Socrates asked god about his wisdom, and the oracular response was “This man among you, mortals, is wisest who, like Socrates, understands that his wisdom is worthless” (26). Intrigued by the oracle response, he started questioning all men who were known to be wise.
He challenged politicians, poets, craftsmen and orators; and none of them, he found, were as wise as him. Socrates was accused of “wrongdoing in that the busies himself studying things in the sky and below the earth; [Socrates] makes the worse into the stronger argument, and he teaches these same things to others”. This way Socrates, known as an “accomplished speaker”, got himself in trouble for challenging the city’s authorities and proving them they were not wise as they thought they were. Not only that, but young man followed him, which Socrates claims was on their free will, and learned from him by example.
Socrates became a threat to the order of the society he was in, because he was making authorities and before known wise man into fools for giving too much importance to things that were not worth too much care, like wealth and reputation; and to not give thought on what is the best state of their soul. The leaders of the society, the man of Athens who judged him, were obviously concerned not only with the threat that Socrates himself posed on the order of the city, but on the potential followers that Socrates might have left. Socrates was sentenced to death, yet he was not surprised.
He knew that the certain kind of wisdom he had was difficult to convince other people. He did not fear death, and even told the jurors “No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils. And surely it is the most blameworthy ignorance to believe that one knows what one does not know” (32). Socrates uses an eloquent speech throughout his defense, where he did not appeal to the emotional side and made the men who judged him have a pity on him, but he tried to convince him with rguments. It was from the beginning almost a lost cause, because it is hard to convince a man that his wisdom is worth nothing. Socrates probably seemed arrogant to the eyes of the jury, since he did not fear a thing, he accepted the facts and said that while he could breathe he would continue to do philosophy. The jury was accustomed to have people cry and beg for freedom, while Socrates still would claim that “it is not difficult to avoid death, it is much more difficult to avoid weakness, for it turns faster than death” (40).
As for Socrates dying was not a problem, since he doesn’t pretend to know what he doesn’t. He went to death convinced of this “Be sure that if you kill the sort of man I say I am, you will not harm me more than yourselves” (33). The authorities of the societies mentioned here both used a self-survival method to keep their power intact. Both Creon and the men of Athens decided that for the good of their societies, and so that the order and the hierarchy may be maintained, the ones who try to threaten such established order must be put to death.
In doing so, they would not only maintain the social order, but their power as leaders would strengthen, and the less likely people were to rebel themselves against the unshakeable rules. Works Cited Plato, G. M. A. Grube, and John M. Cooper. The Trial and Death of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Death Scene from Phaedo. Third Edition ed. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub. , 2000. 20-42. Print. Sophocles. “Antigone. ” The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York, NY: Penguin, 1987. 57-128. Print.