Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived.
Sophocles wrote over 120 plays during the course of his life, but only seven have survived in a complete form: Ajax, Antigone, Women of Trachis, Oedipus Rex, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus.
Sophocles was born a few years before the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC: the exact year is unclear, although 497/6 is the most likely.
For almost 50 years, he was the most celebrated playwright in the dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia.
He competed in 30 competitions, won 24, and was never judged lower than second place. Aeschylus won 13 competitions and was sometimes defeated by Sophocles, while Euripides won four competitions.
Sophocles influenced the development of drama, most importantly by adding a third actor, thereby reducing the importance of the chorus in the presentation of the plot. He also developed his characters to a greater extent than earlier playwrights such as Aeschylus.
Sophocles died at the age of ninety or ninety-one in the winter of 406/5 BC. As with many famous men in classical antiquity, his death inspired a number of apocryphal stories.
The most famous is the suggestion that he died from the strain of trying to recite a long sentence from his Antigone without pausing to take a breath.
1. “A man, though wise, should never be ashamed of learning more, and must unbend his mind.”
2. “If you try to cure evil with evil, you will add more pain to your fate.”
3. “I was born to join in love, not hate – that is my nature.”
4. “The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”
5. “Fate has terrible power. You cannot escape it by wealth or war. No fort will keep it out, no ships outrun it.”
6. “Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the Gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to be wise.”
7. “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”
8. “Man’s worst ill is stubbornness of heart.”
9. “Always desire to learn something useful.”
10. “There is a kind of excellence in me and you—born in us—and it cannot live in shame.”
11. “Oh my love take me there. Let me dwell where you are. I am already nothing, I am already burning. Oh my love, I was once part of you—take me too!”
12. “My basic principle is that you don’t make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right”
13. “That will come when it comes; we must deal with all that lies before us.
The future rests with the ones who tend the future.”
14. “It is the task of a good man to help those in misfortune”