Sophocles circa. 495 BC - 406 BC Second of three great ancient Greek Tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides). Thirty years younger than Aeschylus fifteen years older than Euripides .
Dionysus For almost 50 years, Sophocles was the dominant competitor in the dramatic competitions of ancient Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionisia .
Dionysus (Greek mythology) god of wine and fertility and drama; the Greek name of Bacchus The youngest of the Olympian gods, he is somewhat insecure about his divine identity because he was conceived in the womb of a mortal woman, Semele. In partnership with Apollo ,he dominates not only the assemblies of local gods but also the whole course of Greek religion. Although he is originally from Thebes, Dionysus can be found in two parts of Delphi: in the heights of Mount Parnassus , where the members of the Thyiads, gather every other year to honor him in the festival; and in the sanctuary of the Pythia , in a tomb cradle beside the golden statue of Apollo, where he waits in mortal slumber until his servants come to wake him and where the Pure Ones, the priests of Apollo, privately offer sacrifice to him.
Age of Pericles Being a friend of Pericles, Sophocles was given special responsibilities to lead Athens after the defeat at Sicily. PERICLES was the leading statesman of Athens for some forty years, during which period Athens reached her highest point of power and splendour. It was Pericles who raised Athens to be an Empire-state. Much of it, therefore, was spent in the adornment of Athens with those splendid works of art of which some of the finest remains are now treasured in many fine museums, and on the religious festivals which, with their poetic and spectacular accompaniments, rejoiced the hearts and cultivated the taste of poor and rich alike. Pericles was an able general, but was most distinguished as an orator. Indeed, it was with him that oratory became a political force of the first magnitude at Athens.
Birth Birthplace - rural deme (small community) of Colonus Hippius in Attica, which would later become a setting for his plays. Colonus is a village near Athens Birthdate - took place a few years before the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC : the exact year is unclear, although 497/6 is perhaps most likely.
Sophocles’ SUCCESS Sophocles wrote 123 plays and won 24 victories (ie 96 of his plays won first prize, as they were always produced in fours). He never came third (ie last) in a dramatic competition. Note: He never wrote &quot;trilogies&quot;, and the three Theban plays are separated by decades. His first play was put on in 468 - nearly 20 years before the first drama which survives - so there is no such thing as a youthful or immature work of Sophocles! His first victory was in 468 BC, although scholars are no longer certain that this was the first time that he competed.
Parents of Sophocles His father, Sophilus, a man of wealth and excellent repute, gave him the benefit of all the literary accomplishment of the age. His family was well off; probably His father was a factory owner producing armour.
Childhood The young Sophocles, graceful and handsome won awards in wrestling and music At sixteen led the chorus of boys ( paean ) with dance and lyre at the Athenian celebration of the victory against the Persians at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC .
Children He had two sons (Iophon & Ariston) by two marriages - both became tragedians. Iophon, who accused his father of mental illness in court because he was denied of property Ariston, who named his son Sophocles after his father and the heir of his father’s wealth.
Son accused him One, Iophon , brought a lawsuit against him (in his 90s) saying he was gaga ( an offensive term that insults somebody's mental abilities, especially those of a senior citizen ) He was acquitted after he had proven that he was still in possession of all his mental faculties by reading the chorus of the Oedipus at Colonus (688 ff.), a piece which he was currently writing.
Sons and Grandson Both Iophon and Ariston followed his footsteps to become playwrights themselves. Iophon, produced about fifty plays, though some of them--we know not exactly which or how many--were written in collaboration with his father. He won the second prize in a competition in which Euripides was first. Ariston’s son also named Sophocles was seven times victorious, reproducing also his grandfather's Oedipus at Colonus , which his father, Ariston , first brought out.
Education He was educated with the old Greek system, in which music, dancing, and gymnastics training played an important part. After the defeat of the Persians, a chorus of boys was chosen to sing a paean round the trophy of victory, he was selected to lead the chorus, and to play the accompaniment on the harp. Tradition says that he &quot;learnt tragedy from Aeschylus&quot;; but as there is no trace of any personal relationship between the two poets, it is probable that the phrase refers merely to that general influence which Aeschylus would naturally exert over his successors
Artistic Career His artistic career began in 468 BC when he took first prize in the Dionysia theatre competition over the reigning master of Athenian drama, Aeschylus . The first prize awarded to him, greatly to the disgust of the veteran dramatist Aeschylus , prompted the latter to depart for Sicily. Since then, Sophocles became a man of importance in the public halls of Athens as well as in the theatres.
Politics & Religion In 443/2 he served as one of the Hellenotamiai , or treasurers of Athena (Treasurer of the Imperial Fund), helping to manage the finances of the city during the political ascendancy of Pericles. He served Athens as a general (this was an elected post in Athens - each of the ten &quot;tribes&quot; - constituencies - chose one each year). He was also elected by the Athenian people as one of the ten generals for 441/0, during which he participated in the crushing of the revolt of Samos, Sophocles was elected twice (in 440 and again later - supposedly due to the success of Antigone) He was also elected, in 413 BC at the age of 83, to be one of the commissioners crafting a response to the catastrophic destruction of the Athenian expeditionary force in Silicy during the Peloponnesian War
was appointed special commissioner (proboulos) to clear up the mess after the failure of the Athenian adventure in Sicily. The Life calls him philathenaiotatos - very patriotic indeed! He refused invitations from numerous kings to go and live elsewhere. He was severely religious - and let his house be used for worship of the healing god Asclepius while a temple was being built. When a gold crown was stolen from the Acropolis, Heracles appeared to him in a dream and told him where it was! In 420 he welcomed and set up an altar for the icon of Asclepius at his house, when the deity was introduced in Athens. For this he was given the posthumous epithet Dexion (receiver) by the Athenians.
Tragedies Only seven of Sophocles’ tragedies have survived into modern times with their text completely known. Ajax (440 B.C.E) - manly sense of honor in all its strength Antigone (442 B.C.E) - heroism is exhibited in a purely feminine character Oedipus the King , (coming in Sophocles' middle period) Trachiniae (430 B.C.E)- or Women of Trachis , are described the sufferings of Hercules and the levity ( remarks or behavior intended to be amusing, especially when they are out of keeping with a serious occasion ) of Dëianeira, atoned for by her death Electra (410 B.C.E) - probably written in the latter part of his career. Philoctetes (409 BC) Oedipus at Colonus (produced after his death, in 401) - one of the most amazing achievements of old age in all art
Sophocles' plays Most of Sophocles' plays show an undercurrent of early fatalism . The most famous of these are the three tragedies concerning Oedipus and Antigone : these are often known as the Theban plays or The Oedipus Cycle , although they were not originally written or performed as a single trilogy.
Three Theban plays (The Oedipus Cycle) Antigone , a play about Oedipus' daughter, is an example of Sophocles' use of prominent female characters. Oedipus Rex (or Oedipus Tyrannos ), which won second prize at the Dionysia festival in 427. Oedipus at Colonus , which won first prize when produced by his grandson. The most famous of Sophocles’ plays are known as Sophocles’ masterpieces or The Theban Plays, or the Oedipus cycle. They tell the story of the mythical king Oedipus of Thebes and his descendants, taking up the theme of humans being trapped both by fate and their own frailties. Although these three plays are related in plot, they were not written or performed at the same time, and so were likely not originally intended to be a trilogy. The plays were written across thirty-six years and were not composed in chronological order. The order in witch Sophocles wrote them is - Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus.
Characteristics of Sophocles’ plays In earlier time, the Greek art of the drama had begun with little more than a chorus and one actor using a mask. While Aeschylus added another character in the play , Sophocles used female characters in his plays. To express his ideas, Sophocles had to change the way tragedies were played, by adding a third (and once even a fourth) actor , and enlarging the chorus as well as reduced its importance in the presentation of the plot. According to Aristotle, Sophocles introduced the art of skenographia , painting on the skene , i.e. the use of large painted panels hung on the front to the stage building to indicate the setting for a particular play. He plays consider more the relation between humans rather than between humans and gods.
From Greek Philosophers Aristotle used Sophocles's Oedipus the King as an example of perfect tragedy, which suggests the high esteem in which his work was held by later Greeks. one of his sayings recorded by Plato : &quot;I thank old age for delivering me from the tyranny of my appetites.“ In his younger days he appeared to have been somewhat over fond of women and wine, and this he himself admitted Because of the attractiveness of his verse - the &quot;honey&quot; - he was called &quot;the bee&quot;. His character was summed up by the comic writer Aristophanes as &quot;he always took life as it came.&quot;
Fragmentary plays Fragments of The Tracking Satyrs ( Ichneutae ) were discovered in Egypt in 1907. These amount to about half of the play, making it the best preserved satyr play after Euripides' Cyclops , which survives in its entirety. Fragments of The Progeny ( Epigonoi ) were discovered in April 2005 by classicists at Oxford University with the help of infrared technology previously used for satellite imaging. The tragedy tells the story of the siege of Thebes . A number of other Sophoclean works have survived only in fragments, including: Aias Lokros ( Ajax the Locrian ) Akhaiôn Syllogos ( The Gathering of the Achaeans ) Hermione Nauplios Katapleon ( Nauplius' Arrival ) Nauplios Pyrkaeus ( Nauplius' Fires ) Niobe Oenomaus Poimenes ( The Shepherds ) Polyxene Syndeipnoi ( The Diners , or, The Banqueters ) Tereus Troilus and Phaedra Triptolemus Tyro Keiromene ( Tyro Shorn ) Tyro Anagnorizomene ( Tyro Rediscovered ).
Death died in 406 BC and thus lived to be over 90 There are various accounts of his death did he choke on an unripe grape sent him by the actor Callippides , or was he reading the Antigone (aloud - silent reading was unknown to the ancients) when his voice froze in mid-sentence and he gave up the ghost? He was buried in the family tomb on the way to Deceleia, about a mile from Athens, and over his tomb the figure of a siren was erected. Acc. to Phrynicus, he was &quot;fortunate in death, as he had been fortunate in life&quot; because he lived in the Golden Age of Athens
Prepared by Dr. Arlene Salve Opina Centro Escolar University Gil Puyat, Makati