Autonomy in Sophocles' Antigone 1

Chappell, Sophie Grace (2022). Autonomy in Sophocles' Antigone 1. In: Colburn, Ben ed. The Routledge Handbook of Autonomy. London: Routledge, pp. 13–22.



The first place in recorded history where anyone talks about “autonomy” is Sophocles’ Antigone, line 821, where the Chorus describe Antigone as autonomos. My main question is what this word means in the Greek original, and what that teaches us about (the history of) the concept of autonomy. My answer is that, strikingly to a modern ear, it means that Antigone is seen as “making a law for herself”, but equally strikingly, that this is not praise of her but a damaging criticism.

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