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GREEK CULTURAL VALUES

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Steven Xie

on 29 September 2015

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Transcript of GREEK CULTURAL VALUES

GREEK CULTURAL VALUES
IN
OEDIPUS THE KING

Do you think there are some characters, excluding the chorus, in the work whose chief role is to convey Greek social and cultural values?
What are some Greek social and cultural values that are present in Oedipus the King?
Belief in Gods and Fate
Sophrosyne
; a proper balance and awareness of one’s true position.

Family and Honor
Justice
Which characters exemplify the aforementioned values in the play?
CREON
TIRESIAS
JOCASTA
PRIEST
Ancient Greek Mythology
Greek deities are often depicted as being subject to the same fate and vice as humans.
Deities are neither all-good nor all-powerful.
Greek gods frequently influence Greek society and culture through human heroes.
Fate is not escapable by man.

The
Prince of Apollo
openly enjoins on us to sever from the body politic a
monstrous growth
that battens there.
” (Sophocles 8)
Creon accepts that divine law is not in the control of man.
(Emphasized by the fact that it is Creon's debut scene)
Marks the beginning of Oedipus's fateful downfall.
“Twice I have sent for him,
at Creon's bidding.
(Sophocles 17)
Creon is truly convinced of fate's inevitability.
Self-Restraint and Self-Control

Who would choose uneasy dreams to don a crown
when
all the kingly sway
can be enjoyed without?
[. . .]
The honest man needs time,
The sinner but a single day to bear his crime.
” (Sophocles 33)
Creon rationally explains why he does not desire kingship.
Creon's calm and rational composure throughout contrasts with Oedipus's rage and quick temper.
{
Justice
"
This I would have done… it’s
best to ask the god
again what should be done
" (Sophocles 76)
"
Kill the impious one, the parricide,
kill me."
(Sophocles 77)
Even though Creon was wronged and had a chance at retribution, he exercises leniency in Oedipus' punishment.
Even Oedipus believes he deserves death for his crimes.

It is, I ordered it to stir again your old delight.
" (Sophocles 77)
Creon grant's Oedipus' final wish to hold his children one last time.
Represents the Greek belief in
gods
and
fate
.
Tiresias is highly respected as a representative of fate.
Tiresias demonstrates fate's power over man in his calm demeanor in the face of Oedipus's rage.

And yet there’s one to meet the challenge. Look: They’re leading in the
holy prophet, sole temple of incarnate truth on earth
.
” (Sophocles 17)
Tiresias's position as a seer is respected by everyone in the kingdom, including Oedipus.
Tiresias is the only one who can 'meet the challenge' and convey the truth.

From this day forth
keep far from every person
here and me: The
rotting canker
in the state is
you
.
” (Sophocles 20)
Tiresias' accusations of Oedipus being the murderer weakens the citizens' faith in their king; his words are not taken lightly.
Tiresias' authority over Oedipus as a messenger of fate puts him in the position to insult even the king.

Perhaps you are a king, but
I reign too-in words
. I’ll have my equal say. I’m not your servant.
No, I serve Apollo.
” (Sophocles 23)
Tiresias is a messenger of the god of prophecy; he has just as much (if not more) authority as Oedipus.
His superiority over Oedipus is mirrored by the Greek belief in the gods' control over man.
Enforces man's lack of control over their fates.
}

I’m blind,
you say; you mock at that! I say you see
and still are blind
-appallingly:” (Sophocles 23)
Tiresias, despite being blind, has been granted insight to the works of gods and fate.
Reverence for Spiritual Insight:
Even though he is blind, Tiresias stills 'sees' more than Oedipus: He is respected for his spiritual sight in contrast to Oedipus's ignorance.
Jocasta's dissonance with the concept of fate and failure to retain her dignity and family honour due to her sins serve to emphasize their importance as Greek cultural values.
Reverence towards Gods and Fate
"
And even if he tries to change a word,
he still can never make–oh surely, King–
the death of Laius tally with the oracle,
which said it had to happen through a son of mine . . .
poor babe, who never killed a thing
but himself was killed–oh long before!
After this, I'll never change my look from left to right to suit a prophecy.
" (Sophocles 46)
Unlike the typical Greek, Jocasta shows her disdain for prophetic predictions and the concept of fate.
Emphasizes the importance of fate and prophecy in Greek culture.
With these garlands and with incense in my hands
to call at all the shrines.
For rampant fancies in a legion raid
the mind of Oedipus. He is so far from sense
he cannot gauge the present from the past
but pins his soul to every word of fear.
All my advice is bankrupt;
I address
myself to you Apollo, whose Lycean shrine
is nearest to these rites and prayers:
That you may work some way to make us clean.
(Sophocles 48)
Reverence towards Gods and Fate
Demonstrates natural wariness towards greek gods which is so commonplace in Greek culture.
Emphasizes the importance of pleasing the gods.
Aha!
Forecasts of the gods where are you now?
This is the man that Oedipus was terrified to kill, so fled;
and now, without the slightest push from him, he’s dead.
(Sophocles 50)
Reverence towards Gods and Fate
Family, Dignity, and Honour
The third time Jocasta brings up the Gods; completes the archetype of 3.
}
Jocasta's doubt of prophecy makes her appear more foolish when Apollo's prophecy is revealed to have come true.
Places emphasis on prophecy as a Greek value.
We heard her sobbing out Laius’s name (so long dead),
recalling the night his love had bred his murderer
And left a mother making cursed children with her son.
“Unhappy bed!”
she wailed. “
Twice wicked soil!
The father’s seedbed nurtured for the mother’s son!”

(Sophocles 70)
Jocasta's horror at the sins she and Oedipus have committed emphasize her abasement of the Greek value of family.
We see the value of honour and dignity in Greek society when the loss of such values propel Jocasta to her suicide.
Exemplifies the Greek belief in the inescapable control of god's hand over humanity.

In the market place sit others too -
at Pallas’s double altar, garlanded to pray,
and at the
shrine
, where Ismenus breathes oracles of fire.
” (Sophcles 6)
Establishes the inescapable control that the gods hold over humanity.
The fact that the citizens offer sacrifices to the gods for help in their time of need suggests a hierarchy in which Gods have more control over troubling affairs than even the king.

You had
good omens
once. You did your
work
.
” (Sophocles 6).
Suggests through Oedipus' fate that the gods have the ultimate grasp over humanity.
Suggests that Oedipus was able to defeat the Sphinx only because the fates allowed it.

We know you are no god, omnipotent with gods
, That is why we throw ourselves before you here, these, little suppliants and I.
” (Sophocles 6).
Establishes Oedipus' inability to determine his own fate.
Suggests that it was only because Oedipus worked together with the gods that he could save the city from the Sphinx - and that Oedipus, who is clearly favored by the Gods, must be the citizens' only savior.

Not primed by us, not taught by hidden lore,
but god-inspired, we so believe
, You raised us up again and made us sound.
” (Sophocles 6).
The priest places emphasis on the strength of the gods, reiterating the notion that Oedipus had only ever been successful because he was favored by them.
As a divine beast, the Sphinx could only have been defeated by a man who was supported by the gods.
Thank you for listening and participating.
Full transcript