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THE PLAYS AND FRAGMENTS
WITH CRITICAL NOTES, COMMENTARY, AND
TRANSLATION IN ENGLISH PROSE,
R:"C. JEBB, Litt. D.,
REGIUS PROFESSOR OF GREEK AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE IN THE
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE :
HON. DOCT. PHILOS., BOLOGNA.
EDITED FOR THE SYNDICS OF THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.
[All Rights reserved.]
THE Antigone, one of the earliest of its author's extant plays,—the Ajax alone having a rival claim in this respect,belongs by time, as by spirit, to the very centre of the age of Pericles. At the probable date of its composition, the Parthenon was slowly rising on the Acropolis, but was still some years from completion; Pheidias, a few years older than Sophocles, and then about sixty, was in the zenith of his powers. The traditional, and best, reading of a verse in the ode to Dionysus (v. 1119) suggests the fresh interest in Southern Italy which Athenians had lately acquired by the foundation of Thurii', and recalls the days, then recent, when one of the new colonists, Herodotus, had been in the society of Sophocles. The figure of Antigone, as drawn by the poet, bears the genuine impress of this glorious moment in the life of Athens. It is not without reason that moderns have recognised that figure as the noblest, and the most profoundly tender, embodiment of woman's heroism which ancient literature can show; but it is also distinctively a work of Greek art at the highest. It is marked by the singleness of motive, and the self-restraint, which belonged to such art; it deserves to be studied sympathetically, and as a whole; for there could be no better example of ideal beauty attained by truth to human nature.
1 In his able work, The Age of Pericles (vol. II, p. 132), Mr Watkiss Lloyd makes an interesting remark with reference to the Antigone. Thurii stood near the old site of Sybaris. Têlys was despot of Sybaris when it was destroyed by Croton (circ. 510 B.C.). Shortly before that event, he had put some Crotoniat envoys to death, and exposed their unburied bodies before the walls, according to the historian Phylarchus (circ. 220 B.c.) in Athen. p. 521 D. Callias, the soothsayer of Têlys, afterwards forsook him,-alarmed by the omens (Her. 5. 44). This story may well have been brought into notoriety at Athens by the keen interest felt just then in
Thurii. Creon's part would thus suggest a striking reminiscence. i J. S. III.
Such a study of the play, as a work of art, stands here in a more than usually intimate relation with that study of language and of detail which it is the secondary office of an interpreter to assist. The poetical texture of the work is, even for Sophocles, remarkably close and fine; it is singularly rich in delicate traits which might easily escape our observation, but which are nevertheless of vital consequence to a just appreciation of the drama in larger aspects. The Antigone is thus a peculiarly exacting subject for a commentator. In estimating the shortcomings of an attempt to illustrate it, it may at least be hoped that the critic will not altogether forget the difficulties of the task.
A reference to the works chiefly consulted will be found at p. liv. The editor has been indebted to Mr W. F. R. Shilleto, formerly Scholar of Christ's College, for his valuable assistance in reading the proof-sheets; and must also renew his acknowledgments to the staff of the Cambridge University Press.
The present edition has been carefully revised.
R. C. JEBB.
CAMBRIDGE, December, 1890.