Bin Laden and Greek Tragedy

I was wondering how long it would take to start seeing Classical connections in the papers for this one … from the Spokesman Review:

U.S. officials said they buried bin Laden at sea, and the controversy begins. According to an Associated Press story: “Muslim clerics said today that Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea was a violation of Islamic tradition that may further provoke militant calls for revenge attacks against American targets.”

Immediately, I thought of the Greek tragedies in which improper burials were important to the overall narrative.

Antigone, the main character of Sophocles’ ancient play by the same name, finally kills herself, after being condemned for giving her brother a proper burial. He was thought to be a traitor. Turns out, the gods were on his side. But by the time the word came down, too late for Antigone.

And in the Iliad, Achilles kills his enemy Hector,and drags the body behind his chariot, in a huge act of disrespect. In one of the Illiad’s most touching scenes, Hector’s father pleads with Achilles for a proper burial for his son and Achilles relents.

So this burial stuff is as ancient, and powerful, as the long-ago Greeks.

Antigone is still performed in high schools and colleges and students still read the Iliad. Brad Pitt played Achilles in the movie Troy in 2007. (See photo).

So this rage over bin Laden’s burial at sea isn’t going to go away soon.