“Nor did I think your orders were so strong that you, a mortal man, could over-run the gods’ unwritten and unfailing laws. Not now, nor yesterday’s, they always live, and no one knows their origin in time. So not through fear of any man’s proud spirit would I be likely to neglect these laws.”

With these words did Antigone make her apology for disobeying the king’s order not to bury her brother Creon with the proper rites. This passage, perhaps more than any other, reflects a concept that was at the core of Ancient thought: that all human affairs, even those of the king himself, were subject to the higher, divine laws of the gods. By refusing to obey the king’s order, Antigone was not committing a crime since she was actually abiding by the divine decrees, which are superior to the king’s. To the Greeks, he who broke these laws was called tyrant, as Plato explains in the Republic: “And when an individual ruler governs neither by law nor by custom, but following in the steps of the true man of science pretends that he can only act for the best by violating the laws, while in reality appetite and ignorance are the motives of the imitation, may not such an one be called a tyrant?” (301 b-c)