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Socrates and Antigone: Philosophical Comparison

Human society has gone through multiple numbers of epochs and stages in its development, and on each of those stages, human beings have coined certain rules and laws to regulate their lives. In the modern world, the rational mind seems to rule the creation of laws, but in the ancient world customs, traditions, and religious beliefs played an important role in the formation of the people’s outlook of the world. Literature, as one of the most ancient forms of art, reflects these peculiarities of human society in several works among which Plato’s Apology and Antigone by Sophocles illustrate the prejudiced and conservative society of ancient Greece. This paper compares the reasons for the condemnation of Socrates and Antigone, the protagonists of the two literary works, to find any similarities and differences and compare those reasons with the currently adopted legislative and moral principles.

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Starting with Socrates’ story, it is evident that the very cause for the trial over the famous Greek philosopher and scholar would be incredible for modern society. The plot of Plato’s work develops around the trial of his teacher Socrates whose views on the surrounding world and laws that rule its existence do not fit into the traditional understanding of the mythological picture of the world adopted in ancient Athens (Plato, 2009). The rivals filed a lawsuit against Socrates claiming that he offended the Greek gods and called for defiance of the latter by the whole population of the city of Athens. Therefore, the actual cause of the trial was the fact that Socrates was ahead of his epoch in understanding the laws of nature and social development, but he had no choice but to be condemned by the majority that did not understand this (Plato, 2009).

The story of Antigone is similar in many points. The first, and the major one, the similarity of the story written by Sophocles, the famous Greek dramatist, and philosopher, with Plato’s work is the fact that the protagonist is condemned and punished because of the rational actions that are not understood by society (Sophocles, 2009). Antigone tries to honor the memory of her brother Polynices by burying him against the order of King Creon of Athens. The latter punishes Antigone by burying her alive, and when the priests prove the king’s mistake in appointing such a punishment, Creon tries to save Antigone but finds her hung in the tomb. This causes several other deaths, including the suicide of Creon’s son Haemon, who loved Antigone and could live without her (Sophocles, 2009).

Thus, in both histories, we can observe the primitive, mythological understanding of the world and human relations. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates is tried and finally sentenced to death because of the envy of his rivals who could not stand the fact that Socrates knew more than they and wanted to teach people how the world is developing and what are the forces conditioning its development (Plato, 2009). Thus, the reason for Socrates’ condemnation cannot be called just under the modern conditions, but they were just in the 4th century B. C. when the trial took place. The ancient Athenian society was devoted to gods and considered them to be the rulers of every form of life on Earth (Plato, 2009). Every person who dared offend gods or express doubt in their eternal power was condemned to death for this. Thus, Socrates fell victim to his desire for knowledge and being ahead of his contemporaries in his understanding of the world.

The same can be said about Antigone, with the only exception that even nowadays the violation of laws, rules, and orders, is considered to be a serious crime. The point about Antigone is that the girl tried to save the good memory of her brother, whom Creon ordered not to bury as the person that dared to express disrespect to the gods (Sophocles, 2009). Antigone, driven by her familial feelings, violated the order and buried Polynices. For this, she has buried alive herself according to the order of Creon (Sophocles, 2009). Needless to say, the severity of the punishment is unprecedented in the modern world, but both the very presence of the punishment and understanding that order violation is wrong are present in the modern world. Drawing from this, the condemnation of Antigone can be considered more just than the death sentence for Socrates.

To conclude, both Socrates and Antigone were tried and condemned according to the laws and rules of the society and the epoch they lived in. Ancient Athens was the city of strong religious beliefs and conservative views of the world as such; therefore any person trying to violate the established traditional views was condemned to death and public scorn in that society. According to the ancient views, the condemnation of both Socrates and Antigone is just because they violated the laws of the country, but the modern human society can consider only Antigone’s condemnation to be just if the severity of the punishment is not taken into account.

Works Cited

Plato. “Apology.” Classics. 2009. Internet Classics Archives. Web.

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Sophocles. “Antigone.” Internet Archive. 2009. Full Text of Antigone. Web.

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