The Prevalence of Divine in Ancient Greek Mythology

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Presumably, everybody can remember an occasion that seems to have been shaped in advance by a certain external force. A seemingly unlikely coincidence, an unexpected ending, an essential sign, or a chance, which an individual needed but did not consider real – many have such or similar experiences. They are so frequent that they found their way into art even in classical times.

The prevalence of divine will over the desires and decisions of humans is among the most popular motifs in Ancient Greek mythology, which predominantly inspired the authors of the time. Antigone by Sophocles is a textbook example; one of its main characters, Theban ruler Creon, breaks the imprescriptible laws of the Gods and experiences tragic consequences. Specifically, he does not want to bury the body of his enemy, although the tradition tells him to do that. Antigone, the sister of the dead, buries him herself and later commits suicide to avoid dying in the cave where she was imprisoned as a penance. Her death despairs her fiancée and Creon’s son, Hemon, who also kills himself. The author presumably hints that by such means, the Gods punished the human who placed his wish above their unwritten rules.

Modern literature turns to the idea of divine intervention as well. In particular, Cry, the Beloved Country by Paton includes several plotlines where God, fate, or some other force seems to be framing the events. Thus, James Jarvis would hardly ever reconsider his prejudice without losing his son, Arthur, whose anti-racial speeches interested his father only after his death. Another example is Kumalo, the protagonist, who realizes the scale of the problems that his motherland is experiencing only when his son becomes a criminal. A believer may regard these situations as God’s attempts to cease the destructive ignorance of the characters.

To summarize, many pieces of art have scenes and/or storylines that look as if a certain outside force pre-wrote them. In Sophocles’ Antigone, an autocratic ruler experiences a tragedy as a punishment for neglecting the divine laws. In Paton’s Cry, The Beloved

Country, characters lose their children to acquire an understanding of the sociopolitical context in which they and their compatriots are living. In non-religious terms, both works show how unreasonable it is to focus solely on personal, neglecting social.