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|Title:||On Sophocles’ Antigone 1037-39:Electrum, Gold, and Profits|
Department of English, NTNU
|Abstract:||This paper is an attempt to explore Creon’s acrimonious retort to Tiresias in Antigone: “Make your profits, import electrum from Sardis if you wish, and gold from India” [κερδαίνετ’, ἐμπολᾶτε τἀπὸ Σάρδεων ἤλεκτρον, εἰβούλεσθε, καὶ τὸν Ἰνδικὸν χρυσόν] (Anti 1037-39). In these remarks, Sophocles cautiously broaches the subject of moral decadence in the fifth century BCE or thereabouts. In this mention of the circulation of electrum in Greek cities, the play points to the prosperous foreign trade routes and the induction of the precious metals and coins from Sardis and India to Ancient Greece. In blaming the affluence of Athens for corrupting even a prophet, Sophocles also touches on the emerging concept of money, the traffic between the East and the West, the possible trade routes in ancient times, and the connection of various economic spheres from at least the heroic time to the classical period. This paper seeks to illuminate how the innovation of electrum coinage had a profound impact on the interaction between ancient Greeks and Asians, to investigate how the commencement of electrum coinage might have shaped both the practice of the local and foreign exchange, and to articulate how the imagined auriferous far-away India could stimulate transcontinental trade. The ultimate purpose of this paper is to address the questions how the Greek temples amassed their wealth during the classical period, how the innovation of coinage facilitated the formation of a powerful political-religious conglomerate in Athens, and how the sliding scale, both literally for valuing coins and metaphorically for evaluating ethical standards, motivated a profound rethinking of changing norms and values.|
|Appears in Collections:||Concentric: Studies in English Literature and Linguistics|
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