Departmental Papers (Classical Studies)

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The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome




Sophocles’ plays stand out for their portraits of isolation. They showcase characters cut off from others by their difficult personalities and by the circumstances of disease, disgrace, criminality, defiance of authority, exile, bereavement, and early death. Yet from what we can tell, these conditions were quite unlike Sophocles’ own experience. Though the ancient biographies of poets are late and often unreliable, our evidence supports the summary given by Sophocles’ biographer of an enviable life: “he was illustrious both in life and in poetry, he was well educated and raised in comfortable circumstances, and he was chosen for political offices and embassies.”

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This material was originally published in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome edited by Michael Gagarin, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit

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Date Posted: 23 December 2016