In the fifth stasimon of Antigone the chorus observes that "the whole city is subject to a violent sickness" and invokes Dionysos to "come with kathartic foot." It is generally assumed that the katharsis the chorus has in mind is purification of Thebes from a plague or pollution arising from the unburied corpse of Polyneikes; katharsis of this sort is however unattested as a function of Dionysos. It is argued that this is rather the earliest explicit attestation of the kathartic effect of ecstatic Dionysiac dancing upon nosos ("sickness") as mental disorder, the chorus equating the mental nosos of Kreon, Antigone and Haimon with the nosos of civil strife affecting Thebes. A large number of passages indicate that mention of feet in cultic and especially Dionysiac contexts almost invariably refers to dancing, which is a dominant motif of the fifth stasimon both in its content as hymn to Dionysos and formally as a hyporcheme. Evidence from the fifth century and from Plato for the connection of Dionysos with kathartic dancing as a cure for mental disorder is stronger than previous discussions maintain. It is suggested that Sophokles elides two senses of nosos-mental disorder and civil strife-and that the chorus are invoking Dionysos to relieve them of the stress of these, rather than of a general plague or pollution. Whereas mental disorders and civil strife are constant themes of the play, the corpse as pollutant affects only altars-nothing like a "violent plague" is attested in the text. This reinterpretation of the ode suggests that it relates rather to the tragic conflict still to be played out among the principal characters than to the corpse, which is shortly buried with invocation of Hekate and Plouton rather than Dionysos.
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