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Sophocles (496 B.C. - 406 B.C.)


Sophocles, one of the greatest dramatists of the Athenian golden age, was born near Athens in about 495 B.C. His father was a wealthy merchant, and he enjoyed an aristocratic education in the arts. As a young man, his skills in music and dancing were such that he was chosen to lead a choir of boys at the celebrations of the victory over the Persians at Salamis.

Sophocles' first performance as a playwright, at the age of twenty-eight, was at the City Dionysia of 486 B.C., in which he took first place in a victory over Aeschylus. He went on write over 120 more plays, which won eighteen first-place awards and in many of which he performed himself.

Unfortunately, only seven of his tragedies survive, among which are the three Theban plays - Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus - as well as Electra and Ajax. Of these, Oedipus Rex is considered his best work and is often called a "perfectly structured" play.

Sophocles was active until the end of his life, and passed away shortly after the production of Oedipus at Colonus in 405 B.C., aged ninety-one.

Famous quotations by Sophocles:

  • Enemies' gifts are no gifts and do no good.

  • Suggested sites for Sophocles:

    Encyclopedia article about Sophocles
    Texts by Sophocles
    A tragedy about young Antigone and her faithfulness to her slain brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices. She must choose to obey the rules of the state and King Creon or the rules of family.
    Oedipus At Colonus
    Oedipus, now blind, and Antigone, his guide, arrive at Colonus. They are welcomed by King Theseus, because of a prophecy which states that Oedipus will bring good fortune to those who shelter him.
    Oedipus The King
    Without knowing it, Oedipus kills his father, marries his mother, produces a child, and blinds himself when he figures out what he has done.

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