The Importance of Burial in Antigone

The concept of ‘body’ in Greek culture is very holy that the Greeks deemed the physical body as something to be taken care of.  More so of the concept of burial, where it is a belief that without proper ritual or burial or any form of memorial service the body of the deceased will doom to wander in the River Styx in Hades.  The Greek culture puts a higher premium that the deceased should merit solicitous attention from the relatives.

This custom is very much exemplified in Sophocles’Antigone. The main character Antigone buried his brother Polynices “with a little dirt” despite her sister Ismene’s warning not to defy Creon’s orders.  Usually women in Greek culture are expected to mourn over a dead relative but because Creon forbids the burial of Polynices, Antigone must have felt like she was robbed of her duty to pay her last respects for her brother.  And so, the very courageous act of burying her brother Polynices “with a little dirt” jumpstart the first movement of the play.

Antigone’s decision to defy Creon’s orders does not mean that she wanted to be a martyr, or act heroic in any matter, but I think her decision to bury her brother is motivated because of filial love for her brother, the sincere outpouring of her loss.  This act also exemplifies the culture of honoring the deceased, a typical Greek custom.

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