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Sophocles (496-406 BC)

Biographical Information

Main Works

Featured Works: Oedipus the King, Antigone


Selected Quotations


Biographical Information

Ancient Greek dramatist, born at Colonus (near Athens), 496 BC, died 406 BC; best known for his tragedy Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King)

wealthy, educated, dancer, musician, wrestler, public officer (tax collector), military commander, ambassador, priest

disciple of Aeschylus (525-456 BC), older contemporary of Euripides (c. 480-406 BC)

Main Works

Ajax, play dealing with the suicide of the Greek hero Ajax, who goes insane after losing the armor of the dead Achilles in competition with Odysseus

Trachiniae, play dealing with the death of Herakles (Hercules), unwittingly poisoned by his own wife Deianeira

Antigone (441 BC), play dealing with the rebellion and death of Antigone, Oedipus's daughter

Oedipus the King (c. 425 BC), play dealing with Oedipus's becoming aware of his past actions (killing his father, marrying his mother) and blinding himself in despair and self-punishment

Electra, a play dealing with Electra, daughter of Agamemnon and sister of Orestes

Philoctetes (409 BC), a play dealing with an episode of the Trojan War involving the archer Philoctetes

Oedipus at Colonus (401 BC), play dealing with the death of Oedipus at the sanctuary of the Furies at Colonus (near Athens)
The genre of tragedy appears to have originated in Ancient Greek choral songs and rituals in honor of the Dionysus (god of nature, vineyards, wine). The word tragedy is derived from the Greek: tragos ("goat") + oide ("song"), perhaps related to animal sacrifices in the original rituals. Thespis (6th c. BC) is said to have first introduced an actor interacting with the singing chorus. Aeschylus (525-456 BC) is credited with introducing a second actor. Sophocles (496-406 BC) introduced a third actor. Euripides (c. 480-406 BC) is another well-known ancient Greek tragedian. The plays became very popular as part of dramatic competitions during the Dionysia or festival in honor of Dionysus.

Persian Wars (Greeks vs Persians) (499-479 BC)

Battle of Marathon (Greek victory) (490 BC)

Battle of Thermopylae (Persian victory) (480 BC)

Battle of Plataea (Greek victory) (479 BC)

Peloponnesian War (Greek civil wars involving the cities of Athens and Sparta) (431-404 BC)

Athens violates peace treaties with Sparta (431 BC)

Athenians encouraged by Pericles (495-429 BC)

Pericles dies of the plague (429 BC)

democracy replaced by oligarchy in Athens (411 BC)

destruction of Athenian fleet at Aegospotami by combined Spartan/Persian force (405 BC)

Athens under siege, capitulation (404 BC)
Selected Quotations

"And it is I,
I and no other have so cursed myself"
(Oedipus the King, trans. David Grene)

"But the hand that struck me
was none but my own.
Why should I see
whose vision showed me nothing sweet to see?"
(Oedipus the King, trans. David Grene)


to come


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