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Sophocles


Sophocles. Musei Capitolini, Roma (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering.
Sophocles (Musei Capitolini, Roma)
Sophocles (497-406): Athenian poet, author of many tragedies, of which seven survive.

Sophocles is the second of the three great Athenian tragic poets, and the one with whose plays we are most familiar: the names of Ajax, Antigone, and Oedipus are well-known. Of his 118 plays, however, only seven remain, in which people are confronted with extremely difficult situations. His other plays are Philoctetes, Trachinian women, Electra, and Oedipus at Colonus (posthumously produced by his grandson, who was also called Sophocles).

It is said that to express his ideas, he had to change the way tragedies were played, by adding a third (and once even a fourth) actor, and enlarging the chorus.

Sophocles was also active in Athenian politics. In 441/440, 428, and 423/422 he served as army commander, and after the defeat at Sicily, he was given special responsibilities to lead Athens out of this crisis (413). The playwright was a personal friend of Pericles and Herodotus of Halicarnassus.

After his death, Sophocles received heroic honors, and it was said that he had once charmed the winds when they were blowing unseasonably.

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This brief article has been written to offer background information
to the real articles on Livius.Org. One day, this webpage will be
improved. A list of completed articles can be found here.
Jona Lendering for 
Livius.Org, 2005
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