- Mini Bio
- Name: Sophocles
- Born: c. 496 BC, Colonus, Attica
- Died: c. 406 BC, Athens
- Resting place: Tomb of Sophocles, Varymbombi, Municipality of Acharnes, Greece
- Occupation: Tragedian Playwright and Poet
- Genre: Tragedy
- Bibliography: According to the Suda, a Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient world, Sophocles penned 123 plays of which only seven have survived in their entirety
- Notable works: Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Electra and Oedipus at Colonus
- Awards: As a playwright, he entered 30 dramatic competitions winning 24 of them with his contemporaries Aeschylus and Euripides only winning 13 and 4 throughout their respective careers
- Marriage resume: Nicostrata and Theoris of Sicyon. Both wives bore him a son: Iphlon from his first marriage and Ariston from the second
- Nickname: The Bee
- Trivia: In 441 BC, he was elected as one of the 10 generals and in 440 BC he served in the Samian War
"The ideal condition would be, I admit, that men should be right by instinct; But since we are all likely to go astray, the reasonable thing is to learn from those who can teach"Sophocles
"There is an ancient saying, famous among men, that thou shouldst not judge fully of a man's life before he dieth, whether it should be called blest or wretched"Sophocles
"I make the people as they should be, and that one makes them as they are" (referring to how Euripides makes his characters worthless)Sophocles
"Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day"Sophocles
"Rash indeed is he who reckons on the morrow, or haply on days beyond it; for tomorrow is not, until today is past"Sophocles
"If it were possible to heal sorrow by weeping and to raise the dead with tears, gold were less prized than grief"Sophocles
"The whetstone of my poems has perished" (uttered upon hearing of the death of Euripides in Macedonia)Sophocles
"They are not wise, then, who stand forth to buffet against Love; for Love rules the gods as he will, and me"Sophocles
"A prudent mind can see room for misgiving, lest he who prospers should one day suffer reverse"Sophocles
"Knowledge must come through action; you can have no test which is not fanciful, save by trial"Sophocles
"It is a good thing to escape from death, but it is not great pleasure to bring death to a friend"Sophocles
"Men of ill judgement oft ignore the good that lies within their hands, till they have lost it"Sophocles
"If I am Sophocles, I am not incompetent. If I am incompetent, I am not Sophocles"Sophocles
"Aeschylus, even if you write what is necessary, you do not do so knowingly"Sophocles
"How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be when there's no help in truth"Sophocles
"Numberless are the world's wonders, but none more wonderful than man"Sophocles
"Big words are always punished, and proud men in old age learn to be wise"Sophocles
"Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all"Sophocles
"Death is not the worst evil, but rather when we wish to die and cannot"Sophocles
"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love"Sophocles
"It is no weakness for the wisest man to learn when he is wrong"Sophocles
"Of all human ills, greatest is fortune's wayward tyranny"Sophocles
"Think not that your word and yours alone must be right"Sophocles
"There's nothing in the world so demoralizing as money"Sophocles
"I will never reveal my dreadful secrets, or rather, yours"Sophocles
"What is the end of all this spilling of blood for blood?"Sophocles
"An identical desire drives lovers to act and not to act"Sophocles
"For God hates utterly the bray of bragging tongues"Sophocles
"The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves"Sophocles
"It is better not to live at all than to live disgraced"Sophocles
"Fortune is not on the side of the faint-hearted"Sophocles
"No man loves life like him that's growing old"Sophocles
"Thoughts are mightier than strength of hand"Sophocles
"In a just cause the weak o'ercome the strong"Sophocles
"A short saying often contains much wisdom"Sophocles
"The truth is always the strongest argument"Sophocles
"Nobody likes the man who brings bad news"Sophocles
"Grief teaches the steadiest minds to waver"Sophocles
"Alas! I stand on the dread brink of speech"Sophocles
"War loves to seek its victims in the young"Sophocles
"No oath can be too binding for a lover"Sophocles
"If ills you do, ills also you must bear"Sophocles
"Whoever isn’t for us is against us"Sophocles
"The dice of Zeus fall ever luckily"Sophocles
"The tyrant is a child of pride"Sophocles
"A lie never lives to be old"Sophocles
"Time eases all things"Sophocles
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As a dramatist, Sophocles was ahead of his time. He focussed on character development and expanded the options for conflict by introducing a third actor to his scripts. Aristotle was an admirer of his tragedian writing, especially Oedipus whilst many critics consider him to be the greatest of all the ancient Greek playwrights.
Although he wrote in excess of 120 plays, only seven survived the passage of time to successfully navigate 2,400 years and are still being studied and re-enacted in theatres across the globe today.
Quotes About Sophocles
The journalist Joel Stein recognised his box office draw:
"Sophocles wrote about killing your kids and having sex with your mom and gods descending at the last second to save the day. He knew how to pull off a decent opening weekend"
The scholar George Grube shared this summary:
"The gods are taken for granted in Sophoclean tragedy which centres upon human characters. His men and women, though they thus occupy the centre of the stage, themselves accept the pattern of the virtues. They are human, they fail and are punished, and they accept the punishment. The fault is not always their own, there are insoluble problems, but it is a curious feature of Sophoclean tragedy that the general impression of serenity is not broken by the cruel fate of an Oedipus, the clash of irreconcilable loyalties in Antigone, even the matricide of Orestes"
The American classicist Charles Segal opined this opinion:
"To be an individual in Sophocles is to have a special destiny apart from other men and to suffer a potentially dangerous, indeed fatal, isolation from the community and its secure values"
The historian Victor Ehrenberg spoke of his political career:
"He was elected for the highest office, but not for the Samian War"
Ehrenberg then assessed Sophocles' lack of political clout:
"He had no special personal responsibility, and he was not elected for any particular knowledge or efficiency of his own. He was to represent the board, and the intelligence as well as the name and social standing of the poet were prominent enough, and his personal integrity sufficiently trusted, to serve that purpose well"
The politician and general Pericles remarked on the expectations of Greek military officers:
"Sophocles, a general ought to have not only hands that are clean but also eyes"
The critic Michael Billington shared this comparison for the ages:
"Look around any modern warzone and you will find parallels with Sophocles"
The Austrian classical philologist Albin Lesky delved into the character of Sophocles:
"The poet who knew the tragedy of human life and the very depths of sorrow as no other did, lived his outward life in a warm and peaceful light, and served his fellows as an example of a happy man"
The playwright Phyrnicus gave this eulogy:
"Blessed is Sophocles, who had a long life, was a man both happy and talented, and the writer of many good tragedies; and he ended his life well without suffering any misfortune"
The poet Ion spoke of a meeting:
"I met Sophocles the poet on Chios while he was sailing as general to Lesbos, a playful man and clever over wine. Hermesilaos, Sophocles’ host and proxenos of the Athenians, was entertaining him"
The critic Roy C. Dicks pondered hidden meanings:
"Sophocles urged audiences to consider doing the right thing when life dealt them terrible blows"
The philosopher George Steiner remarked on timelessness of Sophocles:
"Antigones proliferate in an age which has known live burial and the obscene refusal of sepulchre to enemies and victims"
The author Richard Cumberland shared this depiction:
"Sophocles in times more pacific has a softer versification, and a stile more sweet and feeble; of habits and education more effeminate, of a fair and comely person"
The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel described the play Antigone as:
"a collision between the two highest moral powers"
The author Moritz Mücke summed him up thus:
"Unlike Thucydides, Sophocles might not have intended his work to be a ''possession for all time,'' but his take on the Oedipus myth became one of the main ingredients of the Western canon; only in its relation to Athenian culture and character can it be fully appreciated"
The writer Don Taylor shared this assessment:
"Sophocles is one of us, not one of them, buried in centuries of dust in forgotten libraries"