Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Oedipus Plays of SophoclesPhilosophical Perspectives$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Paul Woodruff

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190669447

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190669447.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 October 2020

“Tyranny,” Enlightenment, and Religion

“Tyranny,” Enlightenment, and Religion

Sophocles’s Sympathetic Critique of Periclean Athens in Oedipus the Tyrant

(p.99) Chapter 4 “Tyranny,” Enlightenment, and Religion
The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles

Peter J. Ahrensdorf

Oxford University Press

By opening Oedipus the Tyrant with a plague befalling Thebes that parallels the plague befalling Athens, Sophocles points to a parallel between Oedipus’s Thebes and Sophocles’s own, Periclean Athens: namely, that between the singularly untraditional, rationalistic, and even antireligious spirit of enlightenment that characterizes Oedipus’s “tyrannical” rule over Thebes and the similar spirit that characterizes Pericles’s Athens. That spirit is tested by the deadly plague that befalls each city, and the religious responses to the plague in each expose the grave difficulties that beset the effort of both Oedipus and Pericles’s Athenians to rule by reason alone. Through the story of a terrifying plague that leads the enlightened Oedipus to embrace the ultimately destructive guidance of oracles and prophets, Sophocles warns his fellow Athenians, who also face a terrifying plague, both against a self-destructive religious backlash and against an antireligious political rationalism that might provoke such a backlash.

Keywords:   tyranny, enlightenment, political rationalism, religion, religious backlash, plague, Oedipus, Sophocles, Periclean Athens, Thucydides

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .