Image of humanity and gods

Mythology and human destiny

The play Antigone by Sophocles also looks at the image of humanity and gods. In Ancient Greece, the prevailing view of man is closely linked to mythological and religious aspects. Man is portrayed sometimes as a controlling being, sometimes as powerless in the face of the will of the gods. The gods, however, are not understood as absent and unknown, but rather as always involved in human life and activity.

Hesiod, for example, describes in his work Theogony the origin of the gods from the five primordial deities, which in turn were born through chaos. Homer has proved to be more effective. In his work the Iliad he describes the Trojan War, in which Achilles, son of Thetis and Peleus, was involved. Achilles desecrated the temple of Apollo during the war against the Trojans by destroying a statue dedicated to this god. Consequently, Apollo intervenes in the war. He directs Paris’ arrow into Achilles’ vulnerable heel, thereby killing the hero.

We can also think of Zeus’ various love affairs with human women, whom he often tricked because of his wife Hera, who was considered vengeful. Disguised as a bull, he abducted Europa, swam with her to the island of Crete and, according to legend, had three children with her.

The gods are “steering forces” because they dictate a certain destiny to people. This does not have to be just, based on a reason-based moral concept, but often simply arises from the whims of the gods and even affects innocent people.

Sophocles’ play Antigone offers a good example of a human fate determined by the gods. In the second stanzaic song (second stasimon) of the Chorus, the reader learns that once the gods have placed a curse on someone, this fate is unavoidable: “Happy are they that never taste of crime, / But once a house is shaken by the gods, / Than madness stalks the family without fail, / Disaster for many generations.” (Act 2, Scene 7, ll. 582-585).

“House” here means the family, in this context the ancestors and descendants surrounding Antigone: “I see grie...

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