CAREFULLY PLACED a quarter of the way through Sophocles’ play Antigone is one of the most famous choruses in Greek tragedy. “Many the wonders,” sings the chorus of Theban elders, “but nothing walks stranger than man.” What follows appears to be a celebration of the clever achievements of humanity (polla ta deina, the first words of the chorus in Greek, can also mean ‘many the clever things’). Seafaring, agriculture, hunting and fishing, equitation and the yoking of oxen for ploughing, language and thought, technology – all of these amazing feats are enumerated in the first three stanzas with what ...


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