Notes on translations of Sophocles, Antigone

One of the best known passages in Greek literature is a speech by Antigone in Sophocles, Antigone in which the title-character defends her actions with an appeal to divine laws. We will look at the pasage in more depth later in the term. For the time being, though, we will concentrate just on an important nuance of translation. In the Fitts & Fitzgerald translation, used by H & P, Antigone's stance seems to be pretty strongly monotheistic, as the word "God" appears at lines 308 and 312. Actually, though, both translations are potentially misleading. The word in line 308 is actually "Zeus", and a reasonable translation in line 6 would be "the gods", rather than "God".

Many translations of Antigone are available online, and most handle the passage in a less "monotheistic" fashion than Fitts & Fitzgerald. For example, Jebb's relatively old translation , now in the public domain, translates H & P's lines 307-312 as follows"

"Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven. For their life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all time, and no man knows when they were first put forth. "