Sophocles (497 BC, 496 BC, or 495 BC – 406 BC) was an Ancient Greek writer who wrote 123 plays, according to the Suda. Only 7 of his tragedies have survived complete. Sophocles was the second of the three greatest Ancient Greek writers of tragedies, the others were Aeschylus and Euripides. The most famous of Sophocles’ tragedies are those concerning (relating to, being about) Oedipus and Antigone: these are often known as the Theban plays, although each play was actually a part of different tetralogy, the other members of which are now lost.


Sophocles, the son of Sophillus, was a wealthy member of the rural community of Colonus Hippius in Attica, which would later become a setting for his plays, and was probably born there.  His birth 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’ first great play was in 468 BC when he took first prize in the Dionysia theatre competition over the reigning master of Athenian drama, Aeschylus.  According to Plutarch the victory came under unusual circumstances.

Surviving plays

  • The Theban plays (The Oedipus Cycle):
  • Antigone
  • Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex or Oedipus Tyrannos)
  • Oedipus at Colonos
  • Ajax
  • The Trachiniae
  • Electra
  • Philoctetes