Sophocles (496 BC-406 BC ) was born near Athens and proceeded to become one of the great playwrights of the golden age. Thought to be the son of a wealthy merchant, he would have enjoyed all the comforts of a thriving Greek empire. His studies included all of the arts. By the age of sixteen, he was leading a choir of boys at a celebration of the victory of Salamis. Twelve years later, his studies complete, Sophocles took first prize in his first competition. More than 120 plays were to follow. He would go on to win eighteen first prizes, and he would never fail to take at least second.
An accomplished actor, Sophocles performed in many of his own plays. However, the young Athenian’s voice was comparatively weak, and eventually he would give up his acting career to pursue other ventures. In addition to his theatrical duties, Sophocles served for many years as an ordained priest in the service of two local heroes–Alcon and Asclepius, the god of medicine. He also served on the Board of Generals, a committee that administered civil and military affairs in Athens, and for a time he was director of the Treasury, controlling the funds of the association of states known as the Delian Confederacy.
Of Sophocles’ more than 120 plays, only seven have survived in their entirety. Of these, Oedipus the King is generally considered his greatest work. This tragedy of fate explores the depths of modern psycho-analysis as Oedipus unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother in an attempt to avoid the very prophecy he ultimately fulfills. A masterful work of plot and suspense, Oedipus the King is often heralded as a “perfectly structured” play. Shortly after the production of Oedipus at Colonus in 405, Sophocles passed away.
“Heaven never helps the men who will not act.”
“If anyone counts upon one day ahead or even more, he does not think. For there can be no tomorrow until we have safely passes the day that is with us still.”
“Nobody loves life like him that’s growing old.”
“To him who is afraid everything rustles.”
“To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task.”
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love.”
“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession.”
“One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you cant be certain until you try.”
“It is terrible to speak well and be wrong.”
“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.”
“What you cannot enforce, do not command.”
“Wisdom outweighs any wealth.”