Chorus of Theban Elders [ singing]
Ray of the sun, the most 100
beautiful light of lights ever
to appear to Thebes of seven gates,
you appeared at last, O eyelid
of a golden day. Over Dirce's(30)
streams you came, and 105
the man shielded in white,
come from Argos in full armor,
you propelled into headlong flight
with your bridle gleaming brightly.(31)
Coryphaeus [reciting]
Stirred up against our land110
through Polyneices' contentious quarrels,(32)
screaming shrilly,
he flew into our land like an eagle,(33)
covered in snow-white wings
amid weapons manifold and115
helmets crested with horse-hair.  
Chorus of Theban Elders [singing]
Arresting flight above our houses,
threatening with blood thirsting spears
in a circle the mouth of our seven gates,
he(34) departed before he sated120
his jaws with our blood,
before Hephaestus' pinewood blaze(35)
seized our corona of towers.
Such was the din of Ares(36)
that strove against his back,125
a din hard for the dragon's foe to subdue.
For Zeus exceedingly hates
the boasts of a big mouth, and seeing them
coming on with a mighty flow,
in haughtiness of ringing gold,130
he hurls the brandished fire at him(37)
who was already rushing to scream victory
at his finish line(38) high on our battlements.
Coryphaeus [reciting]  
Swung outward, he fell on ground that repelled him,
the fire-bringer who, 'till then, was reveling 135
in frenzied bacchic(39) onslaught
and breathing the blasts of most hostile winds.
But things went another way.
Smiting heavily, he apportioned
one doom for this one, another for that one,
mighty Ares, our trace-horse on the right.(40) 140
Seven captains at seven gates,
marshaled as equal against equal, left
behind bronze homage for Zeus Turner,(41)
except the pair filled with hate who, born
of one father and one mother, leveled mutually 145
victorious spears against one another and gained,
both of them, a share in a common death.
But since Victory has come, Victory who brings renown,
who reflects back to chariot-rich Thebes its own joy,
distanced from the recent wars, 150
now clothe yourself in forgetfulness.
Let us go to all the gods' temples
in all-night dancing.
May earth-shaking
Bacchus of Thebes be our leader.

[Enter Creon, attended by slaves (491)]

Here the king of the domain, 155
†Creon, son of Menoeceus† . . . new(42)
in the new chances of the gods,
is coming. What cleverness is he rowing
that, by common proclamation,
he has set forth(43) this special assembly 160
of old men for discussion.
Gentlemen, the gods who heaved and tossed the city
on high seas have set its affairs straight again.
You I have summoned by messengers apart from the rest
because I know well that you always revered the power 165
of Laius' throne, and again when Oedipus righted the city
and when he was destroyed, you still continued
with steadfast thoughts toward their(44) children.
Since they perished in a twofold fate 170
in one day, striking and being struck
with murderous pollution among kinsmen,
I hold all the power and throne
according to nearness of kin to the dead.(45)
Now, there is no way to learn thoroughly the essence 175
of the whole man as well as his thought and judgment
until he has been seen engaged in ruling and making laws.
For, in my opinion, whoever, in guiding a whole city,
does not adhere to the best counsels,
but from fear of something keeps his tongue locked, 180
that man seems to me now and before this to be most evil.
Whoever deems a philos more important
than his fatherland, this man I say is nowhere.
I for one--may Zeus who always sees all know this--
never would I keep silent on seeing ruin185
approaching the citizens instead of safety,
neither would I ever regard as my philos
an enemy of the land, since I am aware that
this land is the one who carries us safely and,
while sailing upon her upright, we make our philoi.190
By these laws do I enlarge the city.
Now, I have issued proclamations, brothers to these laws
for the citizens concerning the children of Oedipus.
Eteocles, who perished fighting for this city,
fully proving his bravery in the spear battle,195
let them conceal him with a tomb and perform all the rites
that go to the bravest dead below.
The kindred blood of this man, Polyneices I mean,
the exile who, on returning home, wanted to burn his fatherland
and the temples of his family's gods from top to bottom 200
with flames, and wanted to taste common blood, and lead
the rest into slavery, this person, it has been proclaimed to the city
that no one honor with a tomb or lament with cries,
but let him lie unburied, his body(46) devoured by birds 205
and by dogs and mangled for the seeing.
Such is my thought. Never by me, at any rate, will
evil men have precedence of honor over just men.
But whoever is well-disposed to this city, dead
and alive, equally will be honored by me at any rate.210
These are what please you, son of Menoeceus, Creon,
about the one hostile and the one friendly to this city.
To use every law,(47) I suppose, is within your power
regarding the dead and us who are living.
Take care that you be watchers of my orders.215
Set forth this task for a younger man to undertake.
No, men to watch over the corpse are ready.(48)
Then, what other things would you enjoin upon me?
Do not yield to those disobeying these things.
There is no one so foolish that he lusts to die.220
That is truly the wage. But profit
with its hopes often destroys men.
[A man enters by the ramp from the country. Since Sophocles had only three actors at his disposal, the actor playing his role must be the same as the one who plays Ismene. He cannot be the actor who plays Creon or Antigone, since he appears on stage with them.]
Lord, I cannot say that I arrive breathless
from quickly lifting nimble feet.
In fact, I stopped(49) many times to think,225
whirling around on the roads to turn back.
My spirit kept talking to me and saying:
"Poor fool, why are you going to a place where
you will pay the penalty when you arrive? Wretch, are you
dawdling along again? If Creon learns about this
from someone else, how then will you not feel pain?"230
As I rolled around such thoughts, I was gradually and
slowly completing the journey, and so a short road
became a long one. At last, coming here to you won out.
Even if I am saying nothing, I will say this anyway.
I come here, clinging to the hope235
that I will suffer nothing except what is fated.
What has robbed you of your spirit?
First, I want to tell you this about me.
I did not do the deed, and I do not know who was the doer,
and it would not be right for me to get into any evil.240
You position yourself well in the ranks,(50) drawing
up fences around yourself against what is coming.
Clearly you are going to mark(51) something new and unheard of.
Yes, terrible things impose much hesitation.
Will you say it, and then be off with you?
Well, then, I'm telling you. The corpse--someone has 245
performed funeral rites for it and is gone, having scattered thirsty dust
upon its flesh(52) and completed the necessary purifications.
What are you saying? What man was it who dared this?
I do not know, since there was no blow
from a pickaxe, no dirt was dug up by a hoe. The ground 250
was hard and dry, undisturbed and unscored
by wagon wheels. The doer left no marks.
When the first watchman of the day showed us,
a wonder hard to grasp came over all of us.
You see, he had disappeared. He was not covered with a tomb,255
but a light dust was upon him as if from someone
avoiding pollution. No marks appeared
of a beast or dog that had come and torn him.
Bad words started howling at one another
as guard reproached guard, and it would have ended260
in blows. No one was there to stop it.
Each man was the one who did the deed,
and none beyond doubt, and each was pleading, "I do not know."
We were even prepared to take up hot ingots in our hands
and walk through fire and swear an oath by the gods265
that we did not do the deed, or share in knowledge of it
with the man who planned and accomplished it.
At last, when nothing was left for us to look for,
someone spoke out, and he turned every head
to the ground in fear, for we could not270
answer him or see how, in doing so, we could
prosper. His word was that this deed
had to be reported to you and must not be hidden.
This plan prevailed, and the lot condemned me,
unlucky me, to take this good thing to you.275
I do not want to be here. Those here do not want me,
I know. Nobody loves the messenger of bad news.
Lord, deep and anxious thoughts have long been counseling,
might not this deed be one driven by the gods.
Stop,(53) before your words fill me with rage,280
so you will not be discovered both senseless and old.
You are saying what is intolerable when you say
divinities have forethought for this corpse.
While they were hiding him, were they honoring him
as a benefactor, someone who came to fire their temples285
ringed with columns and offerings and
to scatter their land and laws hither and yon?
Or, do you see gods honoring evil men?
It cannot be. No, from the first men of the city,
bearing these things with difficulty, have been howling at me290
in secret, shaking their heads and not keeping their necks
rightly beneath the yoke so as to love and submit to me.
Because of those men, I know well these men have done
these things under the seduction of bribes.
No base custom(54) ever grew among men like silver.295
It sacks cities and uproots men from their homes.
It teaches and perverts the useful minds of men
so that they take up disgraceful endeavors.
It showed men how to practice wickedness300
and to know impiety in every deed.
Men who execute these actions in the pay of another,
sooner or later bring about their own punishment.
[To the Watchman.]
But, if Zeus yet enjoys respect from me,
know this well--I am speaking now on my oath--305
unless all of you find the perpetrator of this rite
and produce him before my eyes,
Hades(55) alone will not be enough for you until,
hung up alive,(56) you reveal this outrage.
This way you can go on stealing in the future310
with the knowledge of where profits must be made,
having learned that you must not be philos to profits from everywhere.
From disgraceful gains, more men
you could see ruined than rescued.
Will you allow me to speak, or do I just turn around and go?315
Do you not know, even now, how annoying you sound?
Are you stung in your ears or to your very essence?
Why do you score where I hurt?
The doer offends your mind, but I your ears.
My, but you are a babbler.320
That may be so, but not the one who did this deed.
That too, while also forfeiting your very essence for silver.
It is terrible for one who supposes to suppose falsely.
Go ahead, play around with suppositions, but if you do
not show me what men did this, you are going to admit325
that terrible are those profits that bring pain.
[Watchman is exiting to the country.]
I really hope they find him, but whether
he is caught or not (luck will decide),
there is no way you will see me come back here.(57)
Now, saved beyond hope and judgment,330
I owe the gods a big debt of gratitude.