Both Sophocles’ King Creon and Homer’s Achilles are often judged too harshly by modern readers. This is not to endorse either character’s actions, but only to admit that each had his reasons for desecrating the dead as he did. Furthermore, at least Creon and Achilles had some idea of what reverence and respect are, which is why each man could recognize his respective sins in the end.
In commanding that Polyneices’ corpse be left unburied outside the city walls, Creon was motivated not only by a desire to intimidate Thebes’ enemies, but also by a sense of justice. Polyneices had, after all, led an invasion army hellbent upon slaughtering Theban children and raping Theban women — and evidently Polyneices was untroubled by the fact that he himself was a countryman to his mercenary army’s intended victims. Hence some case can be made that the vultures were only giving a malicious traitor his due.
As for Achilles, the fair-minded will remember that the death of that Achaean champion’s dearest and best friend preceded the unsavory, vengeful, impious business of dragging Prince Hector’s body around and around and around the Trojan citadel.
So although I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: To claim that modern America is descending into paganism is grossly unfair… to pagans. Our empire is defined neither by justice nor revenge but by squalid voyeurism and necrophilia, which sophists pass off as education.
We live in the Age of Entertainment, and our culture breeds vultures who will feed off anything and respect nothing — except for safety, health, and hygiene.
Well, whatever else we might say, I’m not sure THAT can carry the burden of revealing our culture’s essence. On its face, it’s just not popular enough.
(Indeed, we might even ask if the phrase “our culture”–as if there’s some unitary thing, with a common identity to describe–makes any sense. I’m skeptical.)
Mr Salyer, our culture respects wealth more then health, else our plutocracy would permit itself a little flesh on its bones. This exhibit is emblematic of contemporary America in that even its cadavers are imported from China.
Salyer, ignore the humbugs. This is the best little essay I’ve read here in months. I’ll be keeping a lookout for your next piece.
Indeed, an excellent essay.
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