The Theology Of Sophocles -- By: William S. Tyler
BSac 17:67 (July 1860) p. 575
The Theology Of Sophocles
In the museum of the Lateran at Rome, there is a statue — discovered within the last quarter of a century among the ruins of ancient Anxur — whose faultless symmetry of form and harmony of expression suggest to the uninstructed beholder the thought, that it must be some Greek artist’s ideal of perfect manly beauty, executed in the best period of Grecian art, and preserved, by a kind Providence, for the instruction of an age whose prerogative it is to collect and interpret the wisdom of the ancients. But by its resemblance to all the known likenesses, that have come down to us from antiquity, it is proved to be a portrait statue of the master who carried Greek tragedy, which is the culmination of Greek poetry, to its highest perfection. Not only the general features, and the outshining soul, bespeak this most favored of the sons of the muses; but the smallest details of dress and manner are highly characteristic. While wisdom sits enthroned on the brow, and eloquence on the lips; while every limb seems to have been shaped according to the nicest laws of proportion, and rhythm regulates every attitude and movement, the mouth seems formed for the utterance of musical harmonies; the drapery, displaying rather than veiling the fine structure of the body, images the transparent purity and refinement of his style; and the light fillet, which confines the natural and graceful tresses of this, in common with all the other statues of the poet, indicates the almost uninterrupted series of triumphs which crowned his long and prosperous life.1
With these plastic representations, the descriptions of ancient writers fully accord. Literature and art agree in repre-
BSac 17:67 (July 1860) p. 576
senting Sophocles as one of the most gifted and fortunate of mortals, the favorite, alike, of men and gods. Born of wealthy parents, in the most beautiful of the suburbs of Athens; educated under the best masters of gymnastics and music in that harmonious system of culture which aimed to develop a healthy mind in a healthy body; endowed with every gift of nature, and adorned with every grace of art, when the Greeks were assembled in Salamis to celebrate their victory over the barbarian hosts of Xerxes, in the sixteenth year of his age, he was chosen, among all the children and youth of Athens, naked and lyre in hand, to lead the chorus, in dance and song, around the trophy. Triumphing over the acknowledged master of tragedy at his first appearance on the stage, at the age of twenty-five; carrying off the first prize, in more than twenty of his pieces; the second, in many more, and never falling into the third rank; raised to the highest honors, civil and mi...
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