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Sophocles ( ancient Greek Σοφοκλῆς Sophocles , classic debate [sopʰoklɛːs] * 497 / . 496 BC. In Colonus ; † 406 / .. 405 BC in Athens ) was a poet in the time of the Greek classics. Along with Aeschylus and Euripides, he is considered the most important of the ancient Greek tragedy poets . His preserved pieces, especially Antigone and King Oedipus , are played on stages all over the world.


Sophocles came from the demos Colonus, Phyle Aigeis . He was the son of the wealthy arms manufacturer Sophil (l) os. Even as a boy he won in physical and musical agons . 480 BC He was the cantor at the Siegespaian after the battle of Salamis and caused a sensation with his beauty. His music teacher was probably Lampros . According to his own statement, he learned the craft of piece-writing from Aeschylus , whether personally or as a spectator of the tragic agon. 468 BC BC he defeated Aeschylus, who had returned from Sicily, with his first tetralogy , the first piece of which was Triptolemus . In his piece Nausicaa Sophocles appeared as a lyre player , into the piece Thamyras as a ballplayer. 443/442 BC He was Hellenotamias (administrator of the treasury of the Attic-Delian League ), 441/39 BC. Together with Perikles strategist in the Sami war . Ion of Chios amusingly described a symposium from this period in which Sophocles took part. Sophocles was probably also 428 BC. BC strategist in the war against the Anaier. 413-411 BC He belonged to the oligarchical probul college. Despite numerous honorable appointments by foreign kings, Sophocles - unlike Aeschylus and Euripides - did not leave Athens.

Sophocles exercised a variety of cultic functions. As the priest of the healer Halon, he introduced the cult of Asclepius from Epidaurus in Athens and took the god into his house until his own temenos was established . That is why Sophocles was revered as the hero Dexion after death. He was the founder of a musenthiasos . Apparently it also acted as a medium through which the gods spoke to people. It is reported that a dream apparition of Heracles made him find a golden wreath stolen from the Acropolis . From the reward he is said to have donated a shrine to Heracles Menytes.

In addition to his poetic activity, Sophocles took on a number of important political offices in Athens. He was married twice. His first marriage was with Nikostrate; from this connection Iophon emerged, who became known as a tragedy poet . The son Ariston comes from the second marriage with the Sicilian Theoris . Both are the progenitors of a dynasty of tragedy poets. Already in ancient times there were speculations about his bisexuality. As reported by Athenaeus and Ion of Chios on same-sex activities.

Ancient biographies report that when his son Iophon wanted him to be declared underage, Sophocles read out verses from his play Oidipous auf Kolonos in court, thereby proving the utter baselessness of his son's complaint. Sophocles' personal relationships with Pericles, Herodotus , Ion of Chios and - perhaps only anecdotally - also with Nicias are documented . When Sophocles learned of the death of his great rival Euripides, he is said to have seen the Dionysia of 406 BC in mourning clothes . Have opened.

Sophocles is around ninety years old in 406 or 405 BC. Died. He is said to have choked on a grape or died of a bolus from the grape, which is probably not true. He was buried in the family vault on the road to Dekeleia, eleven miles from Athens. His tomb was decorated with a siren or with a caledon .

Even his contemporaries saw Sophocles as the darling of the gods. Blessed with genius, kindness and beauty, he is still considered one of the outstanding people in history to this day. He is often assigned the phrase “do not kill the messenger” - but for no reason.


Sophocles, King Oedipus in the manuscript Rome written in 1340, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana , Vaticanus graecus 920, fol. 193v

Sophocles left an extensive work. The Suda names 123 pieces (30 complete tetralogies and one trilogy). 132 pieces are known by title; some pieces probably had multiple titles. He also wrote elegies, paiane and a prose about the choir. Fragments of Sophocles' elegy on Herodotus are known.

Sophocles won 20 or 24 times in the tragic agon and never got third prize.

He himself has divided his artistic development into three sections. His first pieces were full of Aeschylean exuberance, the middle-phase pieces full of astringency and artificiality. It was only in the last phase that he found his personal style.

We owe a number of scenic and dramaturgical innovations to Sophocles. The most important of these was certainly the introduction of the third actor and stage machines; this must have happened while Aeschylus was still alive. He has also increased the number of choir singers from 12 to 15. In contrast to Aeschylus, with one exception, he did not write any content-related tetralogies; but this is not a novelty of Sophocles, since it can be shown that Aeschylus and Phrynichus had already given up the content-related binding of the tetralogies.

Preserved works

  • Theban trilogy
    • Antigone ( Ἀντιγόνη ), 442 BC Chr.
    • King Oedipus ( Οἰδίπους τύραννος Oidipous tyrannos ), 429–425 BC Chr.
    • Oedipus on Kolonos ( Οἰδίπους ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ Oidipous epi Kolōnō ), 401 BC Listed posthumously
  • Aias ( Αἴας ), 455-450 BC Chr.
  • The Trachinierinnen ( Τραχίνιαι Trachiniai ), before 442 BC. Chr.
  • Elektra ( Ἠλέκτρα ), approx. 413 BC Chr.
  • Philoctetes ( Φιλοκτήτης ), 409 BC Chr.

Lost or fragmentarily transmitted works

  • Achaion syllogos
  • Achileos Erastai
  • Aias Lokros
  • Aichmalotides
  • Aigeus
  • Aithiopes
  • Akrisios
  • Aleadai
  • Alexandros
  • Alkmeon
  • Amykos
  • Amphiareos
  • Amphitryon
  • Andromeda
  • Antenoridai
  • Athamas A
  • Athamas B
  • Atreus / Mykenaiai
  • Chryses
  • Daidalos
  • Danae
  • Dionysiskus
  • Dolopes
  • Epigonoi (The Epigones)
  • Epi Tainaroi / Epitainarioi
  • Erigone
  • Eris
  • Eriphyle
  • Eumelos
  • Euryalos
  • Eurypylos
  • Helenes Apaitesis
  • Helene's Arpage
  • Helenes Gamos
  • Herakleiskos
  • Heracles
  • Hermione
  • Hipponous
  • hubris
  • Hydrophoroi
  • Ichneutai (The Sniffer Dogs)
  • Inachos
  • Iobates
  • ion
  • Iphigeneia
  • Iphicles
  • Ixion
  • Kamikoi
  • Kedalion
  • Kerberos
  • Clytaimestra
  • Colchides
  • Kophoi
  • Kreousa
  • crisis
  • Lackey
  • Laocoon
  • Larisaioi
  • Lemniai
  • Manteis / Polyidos
  • Meleager
  • Minos
  • Momos
  • Mousai
  • Mysoi
  • Nauplios Katapleon / Nauplios pyrkaeus
  • Nausicaa / Plyntriai
  • Niobe
  • Niptra
  • Odysseus Akanthoplex
  • Odysseus Mainomenus
  • Oikles
  • Oinomaos
  • Palamedes
  • Pandora / Sphyrokopoi
  • Peleus
  • Phaiakes
  • Phaidra
  • Philoctetes o en Troiai
  • Phineus A
  • Phineus B.
  • Phoinix
  • Phrixus
  • Phryges
  • Phthiotides
  • Poimenes 1
  • Polyxenes
  • Priam
  • Procris
  • Rizotomoi
  • Salmoneus
  • Sinon
  • Sisyphus
  • Scythai
  • Skyrioi
  • Syndeipnoi
  • Tantalos
  • Telepheia
  • Telephos
  • Tereus
  • Teukros
  • Thamyras
  • Thyestes
  • Triptolemus (468 BC?)
  • Troilos
  • Tympanistai
  • Tyndareos
  • Tyro A
  • Tyro B

(109 works in total)

From the satyr play Ichneutai ( The Sniffing Dogs ) around 400 legible verses on papyrus were discovered in Egypt in 1911 .

In 2005, on a papyrus from the Egyptian excavation site Oxyrhynchus with a new photographic technique verses from the tragedy Epigonoi (German The epigones ) found. Here in a translation from English:

A: Devouring the whole, sharpening the flashing iron.
B: And the helmets shake their purple colored bushes,
and the weavers vote for those who wear the breastplates
the wise shuttle-song that wakes the sleeper.
A: And he glues the drawbar of the triumphal chariot together.


The statue that Iophon erected for his father soon after his death has not survived , nor has Polygnotos ' portrait in the Stoa Poikile .

Four types give an idea of ​​Sophocles' appearance:

  • as a young man, original perhaps 360/50 BC Chr.
  • the Lateran type (Sophocles in the prime of his years), copy of that of Lycurgus 340/30 BC Bronze statue donated to the Dionysostheater
  • the Farnese type (Sophocles as an elderly man), around 310 BC Created
  • Sophocles as an old man (Hellenistic work)

Editions and translations


Overview representations

  • Bernhard Zimmermann : The Attic Tragedy. In: Bernhard Zimmermann (Hrsg.): Handbook of Greek literature in antiquity. Volume 1: The literature of the archaic and classical times . CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-57673-7 , pp. 484–610, here: 573–586 (see also pp. 644–649)

Introductions and investigations


  • Lexicon Sophocleum adhibitis interpretum explicationibus, grammaticorum notationibus, recentiorum doctorum commentariis. Composuit Fridericus Ellendt . Editio altera emendata, curavit Hermannus Genthe . Berlin 1872 ,

Web links

Wikisource: Sophocles  - Sources and full texts
Wikisource: Sophocles (Greek)  - Sources and full texts (Greek)
Commons : Sophocles  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. The spelling of the father fluctuates in the tradition. Σωφίλος Sōphílos reports Suda , keyword Stichwortοφοκλῆς , eagle number: sigma 815 , Suda-Online , while Diodor 13,103,4 Σοφίλος Sophílos writes; the unknown author of the Vita des Sophocles has the spelling Σοφίλλος Sophíllos , which can already be found on the marble Parium 56; it is also followed by Aelian , De natura animalium 7.39, Clemens of Alexandria , Protrepticus 7.74.2, the Anthologia Palatina 7.21 and Tzetzes , Chiliades 3.274; 6,650; the spelling is not uniform in modern scientific literature either; compare for example Bernhard Zimmermann: Sophocles. In: Bernhard Zimmermann (Hrsg.): The literature of the archaic and classical time (= handbook of ancient studies . Dept. 7, volume 1). CH Beck, Munich 2011, p. 573: Sophilos , while in the older version of the manual Wilhelm Schmid : The Greek literature at the time of the Attic hegemony before the intervention of the sophistry (= handbook of classical studies. Dept. 7, volume 2). 2. Revision. CH Beck, Munich 1934, p. 311 gave preference to Sophillos .