Inheritance and the Athenian nature of Sophoclean tragedy
This chapter explores inheritance in Sophocles’ extant tragedies to determine whether Sophocles relied on Athenian practice and how his tragedies could have been comprehended by a wider Greek audience. In six tragedies Sophocles presents problematic scenarios identifiable as crucial to the survival of individual oikoi. Discussions of intestate inheritance, the use of wills and the position of heiresses in Athenian law, Spartan law and the Gortyn law code suggest that Sophocles was aware of differences between poleis and increasingly adopted a deliberate strategy of mutual comprehensibility. Awareness of Athenian practice reveals Sophoclean tragedy's relevance to inheritance disputes, the archonship and the functioning of courts in Athens. However, those lacking this awareness could still comprehend the tragedies as tragedies, implying that all audience members could experience pity and fear, which could in turn have affected real decisions to enforce, ignore, interpret, or change inheritance-related laws in any polis.
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