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Who's Who Ancient Greece: The Arts

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Poet & Playwright

Tragic poetry (drama)

sophoklesBorn in the Athenian municipality of Kolonos, Sophocles was the son of a very wealthy Athenian manufacturer of weapons, which he supplied to the government.

At the age of 16, Sophocles, accomplished in music and althetics, and also physically beautiful, was selected to lead the chorus in the celebration of the defeat of Xerxes and the Persians in the naval battle of Salamis. Later he composed the music for the choruses of his tragedies. He was friends with all of the leading political and intellectual figures of his day, including Periklis and Herodotus.

maskSophocles won drama contests 26 times , never placing below second, and is credited with some 86 tragedies and 18 satiric dramas, as well as elegies, paeans, and and ode to Herodotus, the historian.

Only seven tragedies and one unfinished satiric drama remain of all his work. Innovations introduced by him to the theater of the time including the abandonment of the convention of writing trilogies or tetralogies only with a common theme, the reduction of the amount of lyric poetry, and the rather pompous style that had marked Aeschylian drama.

He also increased the chorus members from 12 to 15, initiated the painted backdrop, increased the number of actorsfrom two to three, and improved all aspects of the spectacle. The most famous of his tragedies is Antigone.