Oikos And Polis Essay

1206 words - 5 pages



In Sophocles' Antigone, the dilemma between nomos of the city and nomos of the home divides blood relatives and causes an inevitable conflict. Kreon, Thebes’ ruler, supports nomos of the states and honors polis before oikos. In contrast, Antigone promotes blood ties of oikos and divine laws that govern the dead. Kreon punishes Antigone for carrying out her duty to Polyneikes, and in doing so, he presents a different perspective and reversed order of priorities. In Antigone, polis and oikos depend on one another and share a symbiotic relationship. Since both are unstable, they cannot exist by themselves without problems. This, in turn with Kreon's stubbornness, leads to an untenable encounter.
Antigone respects her blood relations, and she is driven by this to oppose the laws created by Kreon. Even though she recognizes the sin in which Oidipous bequeaths upon his kin, she refuses to abandon her brother is determined to "not be caught betraying him" (Sophocles, 58). Kreon's man made laws cannot "keep [her] from [her] own," and in this she accepts the blood line of her doomed oikos. Furthermore, Antigone justifies herself by honoring her brother above other relationships that she is capable of producing. Antigone states that she "would never have assumed this burden...if it had been [her] children or [her] husband who had died...no more brothers could ever be born- This was the law by which [she] honored [Polyneikes] above all others" (966-77). Using this reasoning, the death of Antigone’s brother means extinction of the blood line and proper burial is still needed, even if it the traitor was Eteokles. Antigone's breach of nomos is a necessary one, for the dead cannot be revived and must be honored, especially those that end the family line.
Unlike Antigone, Kreon is hypocritical and unjust in his punishment of Polyneikes. According to Kreon, Polyneikes does not deserve burial because he is a traitor to Thebes. Not only did he want to “set fire to his fatherland”, but also to “devour the blood he shared with his own kin” (225-28). For this reason, Kreon wrongs against the corpse of Polyneikes; but in the process, he fails to see Eteokles’ punishment for his refusal to alternate the throne of Thebes. Additionally, Kreon is discriminatory and close-minded in his ruling; he sees honoring the divine laws and the family, which Antigone fights for, as giving way to a woman. He declares: “While I am alive, a woman will not rule!” (576) to Antigone, showing his disregard towards her as an uncle and rather as a ruler towards a female threat. Kreon’s uncle-niece relationship with Antigone is just as lacking as his bond with Haimon. When the Chorus suggests that he learn from Haimon, Kreon questions its judgment. He asks the Chorus- “Should men of my age be taught what to think by someone who has only reached as yet his age?” (786-87) Kreon ignores Antigone and Haimon by means of gender and age. His change of heart was brought by the blind prophet...

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