Nomos vs. Physis in Sophocles’Antigone and the Modern World Essay

Nomos vs. Physis in Sophocles’Antigone and the Modern World Essay

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Nomos vs. Physis in Sophocles’Antigone and the Modern World


The Greek play, Antigone, written by Sophocles in the year 441 BCE, honors the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. It is hard to imagine that a play, written century ago for an imaginary god, would still be widely popular and have great significance in today's world. Using two main characters, Antigone and Creon, Sophocles creates a dialogue that examines two very different views of nomos (law) and physis (nature), the focal point of all Greek beliefs. These two terms were often the key in deciding what was considered right and wrong among the Greeks, and people still use nomos and physis in today's society centuries later. Throughout Antigone, Creon and Antigone use nomos and physis to defend their actions taken when Antigone breaks a law made by Creon, because she feels it impedes upon the unwritten laws of the gods, much like anti gay advocates defend their stance on protecting the sanctity of marriage, while gay activists oppose it because it violates their fundamental constitutional rights.

Using Creon and Antigone, Sophocles illustrates the way that nomos and physis support their opposing viewpoints. When Antigone's two brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, kill each other in battle, Creon, her uncle, succeeds to the throne. Once in power, he makes a law that no one can bury Polyneices because he was un-loyal to his native land. If anyone defied his new law by burying him, then the perpetrator would be killed and left unburied. However, Antigone felt that both of her brothers should have a proper burial, and disobeyed Creon's law by burying Polynneices knowing she would have to suffer the consequences. When brought before Creon, she defended her actions through phys...


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... constitution. They believe that the law should not decide who people can love, and that it is a persons right to marry whomever they want. Therefore, the terms nomos and physis are still used in today's society in similar ways to that of Creon and Antigone centuries ago.

Even though Antigone was written centuries ago, the basic principles of nomos and physis can still be applied in today's world. The way that the two terms are interpreted will vary from person to person, and there is no right or wrong answer. As long as there are controversial issues in the world, peoples opinions of nomos and physis will continue to evolve and change through time.

Works Cited

Sophocles. Antigone. Exploring Literature: Writing and thinking About Fiction,

Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. Ed. Joseph Terry. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc, 2001. 123-154.

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