Sophocles revealed a deep conflict between ancestral unwritten rules and state laws in his tragedy Antigone. On the one hand, religious beliefs, deeply rooted in the tribal community, dictated people to sacredly honor kinship ties and observe all the necessary rites with blood relatives. On the other hand, every citizen was obliged to follow state laws, which sometimes sharply contradicted traditional family-tribal norms. Creon went against moral rules and forbade the relatives of Polyneices to bury his body. However, his action can be justified from a political perspective. As a king, he supported the steady observance of state laws to protect the city.
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Creon’s main concern as a ruler was to maintain order in the city. Considering Polyneices was a traitor who dared to betray his homeland, he could not allow Antigone to bury his body because it could cause misunderstanding among the citizens (Sophocles 7). For this reason, he adopted a set of authoritarian rules and demanded an adherence to his laws to prevent chaos. This was especially important since Thebes was at risk of war. Becoming a king at a difficult time, he stood with the strong intention to recover the unsteady state order.
Creon established a strict ruling manner, even regarding his family, to be a fair ruler in the eyes of his people and gain loyalty from his citizens. This was his strategy for maintaining authority as a new king. In the first scene, he said that he would do what he considered good for the whole city (Sophocles 3). He separated his personal feelings and family affairs from the state laws. He did not change his mind and was true to his words by not allowing a burial for Polyneices whom he considered a traitor. These traits could be seen as cruel and immoral, but on the other hand, these qualities could characterize him as a man of his word. Creon demonstrated it again when he sentenced Antigone for burying Polyneices and breaking the law.
Creon did not want to protect lawbreakers to stop any kind of anarchy. He could not equally respect a savior and a traitor. He justified his actions towards Polyneices and Antigone by the interests of his homeland and was ready to apply the cruelest punishment for people who were against the state and law. (Sophocles 8). He considered all kinds of opposition and resistance to his order as an anti-state speech.
Creon is demonstrated in the tragedy as a stubborn and proud king. However, his stubbornness ensured that he did not hesitate when making important decisions and made him a powerful leader and a reliable ruler. Despite citizens’ disagreement with his punishment, Creon felt it was necessary to keep his verdict so he would not be perceived as a weak leader (Sophocles 15). Creon might be considered brutal and heartless, but he laid his whole life on the altar of serving the city.
To sum up, considering Creon’s decision from the authoritative viewpoint, his actions towards Polyneices and Antigone could be justified. As a new ruler, he tried to introduce policies that would protect the city. In such a way, he wanted to establish his power and achieve loyalty from his citizens. He implemented his laws in the name of maintaining order even when they went against many people’s ethical and moral principles.
Sophocles. Antigone, 2008. Web.
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