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Inner Purity and Pollution in Greek ReligionVolume I: Early Greek Religion$
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Andrej Petrovic and Ivana Petrovic

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768043

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198768043.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 October 2021

Sophocles’ Sophrosyne, Unsound Thinking, and Pollution

Sophocles’ Sophrosyne, Unsound Thinking, and Pollution

(p.175) 9 Sophocles’ Sophrosyne, Unsound Thinking, and Pollution
Inner Purity and Pollution in Greek Religion

Andrej Petrovic

Ivana Petrovic

Oxford University Press

Chapter 9 considers the way that Sophocles’ plays do not reference inner purity and pollution explicitly; however, they do reflect on the merits of religiously correct thinking and the perils of incorrect thinking about the gods. It provides an overview of passages where the leader’s unsound thinking results in communal pollution: in Antigone, Creon’s mind is identified as a source of a communal miasma affecting the entire city (v. 1015); in Oedipus Tyrannus, we encounter a hymn to purity of words and deeds (vv. 863–72) as a foil for Oedipus’ fatal and polluting thinking and behaviour. In Ajax, it is Ajax’ ‘thinking of thoughts inappropriate for mortals’ (v. 777) that results in blasphemy which is instantly punished by a divinely sent delusion. In essence, the Sophoclean gods ‘love those who think safely, and hate badness’, as Athena declares in Ajax (vv. 132–3). Purity and piety are strongly intellectualized and are rooted in theological contemplation.

Keywords:   Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus Tyrannus, Ajax, blasphemy, loimos, miasma of the leader, sophrosyne

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