We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Sophocles of Kolōnos (c. 406 BCE) was one of the most famous and celebrated writers of tragedy plays in ancient Greece and his surviving works, written throughout the 5th century BCE, include such classics as Oedipus the King, Antigone, and Women of Trachis. As with other Greek plays, Sophocles' work is not only a record of Greek theatre but also provides an invaluable insight into many of the political and social aspects of ancient Greece, from family relations to details of Greek religion. In addition, Sophocles' innovations in theatre presentation would provide the foundations for all future western dramatic performance, and his plays continue to be performed today in theatres around the world.

The Greek world had three great tragedians: Aeschylus (c. 525 - c. 456 BCE), Euripides (c. 484 - 407 BCE), and Sophocles. Their works were usually first performed in groups of threes (not necessarily trilogies) in such religious festivals as the competitions of Dionysos Eleuthereus, notably the City Dionysia in Athens. The plays were often performed again in lesser theatres around Greece, and the best were even distributed in written form for public reading, kept as official state documents for posterity, and studied as part of the standard Greek education.


Sophocles had an exceptionally long career. His first competition entry was in 468 BCE and his last (whilst still alive) was in 406 BCE when he was 90. Clearly a great admirer of his fellow playwrights, Sophocles even dressed the actors and chorus of his final play in mourning to mark the death of Euripides in 407 BCE. Sophocles won at least 20 festival competitions, including 18 at the City Dionysia. He also came second many times and never had the ignominy of being voted third and last in competitions. Sophocles was, therefore, at least in terms of victories, the most successful of the three great tragedians.

Tremendously popular in his own time, Sophocles was also an innovative playwright.

As a child, Sophocles had been the chief dancer in the festivities to celebrate victory over the Persians in 479 BCE. Early in his career Sophocles even acted in his own plays, but due to a weak voice he settled into the role of writer only. The playwright, based on his practical experience of acting no doubt, seems to have had a favourite principal actor, one Tlepolemus. As to Sophocles' character we have hints from Aristophanes, the great writer of Greek Comedy, who describes his contemporary as 'easy-going' and 'relaxed'.

Outside of theatre life, Sophocles was also an active member of the Athenian polis. He was a state treasurer (hellenotamiai) between 443 and 442 BCE and a general (alongside Pericles) involved with putting down the revolt on Samos in c. 441 BCE. In 413 BCE he sat on the ten-man council (the probouloi) which was convened to deal with the crisis of Athens' failed Sicilian expedition against Syracuse. In later life the playwright was involved in a legal battle with his son who claimed his father was senile and so sought his inheritance and control of the family property. We know that Sophocles was a pious individual and actually a priest in the hero cult of Halon. Following his death, the tragedian was himself honoured with a cult when he was renamed Dexion.

Approach & Innovation

Tremendously popular in his own time, Sophocles was also an innovative playwright, as he added a third actor to the tragedy play format and was the first to employ painted scenery (to suggest a rural scene, for example), sometimes even changing scenery during the play. The use of three actors (playing multiple roles and wearing masks) was a major breakthrough as now much more sophisticated plots became possible. Sophocles, therefore, stands between the earlier Aeschylus and the later Euripides. Sophocles was more interested in realistic action than his predecessors but kept the chorus segment (a group of up to 15 actors who sang rather than spoke their lines) as a more participatory cast member than his successors. For Sophocles the chorus became both a protagonist and a commentator on the events of the play, creating a closer relationship with the audience.

Love History?

Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!

Sophocles was also a great user of theatrical metaphor, for example, blindness in the Oedipus plays and bestiality in Women of Trachis, and his work in general sought to provoke and disturb the audience from their ready acceptance of what is 'normal' and what is not, forcing them through the play's characters to make difficult or even impossible choices. Other techniques he used to convey meaning and emphasis were dramatic entrances and exits of actors and the repeated use of significant props such as the urn in Electra and the sword in Ajax. Finally, in the language itself that Sophocles used we see more innovation. Rich language, highly formalised but with flexibility added by running over sentences and including segments of more 'natural' speech, and the unusual use of pauses result in Sophocles achieving a greater rhythm, fluidity, and dramatic tension than his contemporaries.

The plays of Sophocles, like those of his contemporaries, drew on classic tales of Greek mythology. This was the convention of tragedy (tragōida), and the familiarity of the story and setting to the audience allowed the writer to focus on specific elements and interpret them in a novel way. Sophocles is very often not so concerned with what happened (the audience already knew this) but with how these events happened. Another typical feature is that amongst the principal characters, there is usually a hero figure with exceptional abilities whose over-confidence and pride ensure a tragic ending.

One of his most famous works is Antigone in which the lead character pays the ultimate price for burying her brother Polynices against the wishes of King Kreon of Thebes. It is a classic situation of tragedy - the political right of having the traitor Polynices denied burial rites is contrasted against the moral right of a sister seeking to lay to rest her brother. A theme that runs through Sophocles' work is right battling against right and that the characters are mistaken in their interpretation of events. Only when tragedy results, when in fact, it is all too late, do the characters recognise truth.

Sophocles' Works

We know that Sophocles wrote around 120 plays in all but these have survived only in a fragmentary form. A reasonable chunk of the satyr play The Searchers survives but in many cases only a few lines have withstood the ravages of time. Sophocles' seven surviving full plays are:

  • Antigone (c. 442 BCE) about a woman torn between public and private duty.
  • Oedipus The King (429 - 420 BCE) about the famous king who loved his mother a little too much.
  • Philoctetes (409 BCE) on how Odysseus persuades the hero to join the Trojan War.
  • Oedipus at Colonus (401 BCE) the final part of the trilogy about Oedipus.
  • Ajax (date unknown) on the hero of the Trojan War and his wounded pride.
  • Electra (date unknown) about two siblings who take revenge for their father's murder.
  • Women of Trachis (date unknown) about the wife of Hercules and her failed attempt to regain her husband's affections.

Below is a selection of extracts from Sophocles' work:

Setting the tragic scene:

Am I deluded, or do I hear a lamentation just arising in the house? What am I saying? Someone is uttering no muted cry, but one of sorrow, and there is new trouble in the house. Notice how sadly, and with what a cloud upon here eyes, the old woman is approaching us to tell us something.
(863-870, Women of Trachis)

How passion is hard to master, and if left uncontrolled, can lead to tragedy:

Whoever stands up to Eros like a boxer is a fool; for he rules me.
(440-441, Women of Trachis)

That whatever happens, one can often only blame oneself:

It is you, whose fate is grievous, who have chosen this; this fortune has not come to you from one more powerful; for when it was possible to show good sense, you chose to approve the worse, rather than the better fate.
(1095-1100, Philoctetes)

A cautionary tale and the moral of the story:

Good sense is by far the chief part of happiness; and we must not be impious towards the gods. The great words of boasters are always punished with great blows, and as they grow old teach them wisdom.
(1348-1353, the final lines of Antigone)

That ultimately, one must accept one's fate:

Come, cease your lament and do not arouse it more! For in all ways these things stand fast.
(1777-1779, the final lines of Oedipus at Colonnus)


Sophocles then, has not only provided us with several masterpieces of literature, but through his innovations he also helped establish the standard formula for Greek Tragedy, which along with Greek Comedy, would define the foundations of all western theatre for millennia. The work of Sophocles has also escaped the boundaries of theatre and provoked discussion and reaction in other fields, notably psychology and the work of Sigmund Freud, which is perhaps testimony to the depth and difficulties of interpretation in the plays of this great Greek master.

The plays of Sophocles

Only seven of Sophocles’ tragedies survive in their entirety, along with 400 lines of a satyr play, numerous fragments of plays now lost, and 90 titles. All seven of the complete plays are works of Sophocles’ maturity, but only two of them, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus, have fairly certain dates. Ajax is generally regarded as the earliest of the extant plays. Some evidence suggests that Antigone was first performed in 442 or 441 bce . Philoctetes was first performed in 409, when Sophocles was 90 years old, and Oedipus at Colonus was said to have been produced after Sophocles’ death by his grandson.

The entire plot of Ajax (Greek: Aias mastigophoros) is constructed around Ajax, the mighty hero of the Trojan War whose pride drives him to treachery and finally to his own ruin and suicide some two-thirds of the way through the play. Ajax is deeply offended at the award of the prize of valour (the dead Achilles’ armour) not to himself but to Odysseus. Ajax thereupon attempts to assassinate Odysseus and the contest’s judges, the Greek commanders Agamemnon and Menelaus, but is frustrated by the intervention of the goddess Athena. He cannot bear his humiliation and throws himself on his own sword. Agamemnon and Menelaus order that Ajax’s corpse be left unburied as punishment. But the wise Odysseus persuades the commanders to relent and grant Ajax an honourable burial. In the end Odysseus is the only person who seems truly aware of the changeability of human fortune.


Head of Sophocles. Roman copy of Greek original (Artstor/UCSD Slide Gallery)

Sophocles’ long life spans most of the 5 th Century and coincides with the peak of Athenian political and cultural achievements. When Sophocles was still a child, the Greek city states won a decisive victory against the invading Persian armies in 490 BCE and again in 480. After the Persian Wars, Athens created the Delian League: a free alliance of states whose main purpose was to defend the Greek cities on the Ionian coast against future Persian aggression. Not long afterwards, however, Athens seized full control of the League, demanding tribute from its allies in the form of money or ships. In 454, the Athenian general Pericles had the funds of the Delian League moved from the island of Delos to the Acropolis in Athens. With these funds the city initiated an ambitious building program, which resulted in – among other things – the splendid Parthenon. This period under the leadership of Pericles saw a strengthening of democracy and an unprecedented bloom in the arts and in philosophy. Athens’ imperialist and expansionist policies soon caused friction with its allies, however, resulting in numerous revolts and led to the outbreak in 431 of a disastrous war against Sparta and its allies, known as the Peloponnesian War. Sophocles died before Athens was finally defeated in 404 BCE.

Not much is known about Sophocles’ personal background, though several ancient anecdotes give us an impression of him as a person and as a poet. Coming from a wealthy family he received a good education, and he was selected to lead a dance in honor of the Greek victory at Salamis in 480. He held several sensitive public positions throughout his life: he acted as treasurer of the Delian League in 443/2 as co-general with Pericles in 441 to suppress the revolt of Samos, one of Athens’ former allies and as one of the ten commissioners appointed to deal with the crisis caused by Athens’ crushing defeat in Sicily in 413.

One ancient commentator tells us that Sophocles was elected as general on the basis of widespread admiration for his play Antigone. Both during and after his life Sophocles enjoyed a reputation of being a good-tempered and moderate person. Aristophanes portrayed Sophocles in Frogs as graciously leaving the throne of tragedy to Aeschylus, clearly being above the squabble between the era's other two great tragedians. And indeed, the ancients regarded Sophocles as the ideal tragedian, finding a harmonious balance between the styles of Aeschylus and Euripides, who were sometimes his direct rivals in Athens' dramatic competitions. Sophocles allegedly won the City Dionysia18 times, the first time in 468 when he defeated Aeschylus. Aristotle, Hegel, and Freud later held up Sophocles’ plays as the most perfect products of Greek drama. Modern scholarship does not treat his work as unassailable, and our appreciation of Sophocles has only profited from this less reverent but more understanding attitude.

Of the approximately 120 plays that Sophocles is said to have written, we now possess seven tragedies, some lengthy sections, and multiple fragments. The survival of these seven plays is probably due to their canonization at some point in time as his best work. Only the last two of these seven can be dated with certainty: Philoctetes in 409 and Oedipus at Colonus– set in the same Athenian suburb where Sophocles was born – produced posthumously by his grandson in 401. Oedipus Rex seems to belong to the period of 430-425, but it is hard to place Ajax,Electra, and Women of Trachis. If the anecdote about Sophocles’ generalship in the Samian revolt is true, Antigonemight have been produced around 442 BCE. Stylistically, Antigonedoes seem to belong to his earlier period.

Sophocles is generally praised for his intricate characterizations and for the rich variations in his characters’ language: the style is always suited to the individual and to the mood of the particular scene. His characters sometimes debate each other in long crafted speeches, which may be due to the influence of sophistic rhetoric in Athens. The term ‘tragic irony’ was specifically coined in the 20 th Century to describe one of his narrative techniques, where a character does or says something that has a different significance to the audience, who already knows the outcome of the story.

Oedipus Rex, for instance,is famous for the statements of tragic irony made by the main character, who is figuratively blind to the truth of his own identity. The characters in Antigone, on the other hand, have more insight into their situation and destiny, so there is less opportunity for tragic irony. Sophocles is also credited with increasing the number of speaking actors from two to three, and with expanding the chorus from 12 to 15 members. He was apparently, according to Aristotle, the first to use painted scenery. His plays, however, rarely required much staging. The focus lay on the dramatic interaction between characters.

Written by Barbara Vinck, Ph.D. candidate, Classics, Columbia University

Works Consulted:

R. Blondell. Sophocles’ Antigone. Focus Publishing (1998)

M. Griffith, ed. Sophocles: Antigone. Cambridge University Press (1999)

Sophocles - History

Coming from not an aristocratic, but still a wealthy family, Sophocles had the opportunity to study all of the arts, starting with his early years. So, by the time he was sixteen, he was already known by the community for his knowledge and talents. Due to this, he was chosen to lead a choir of boys at a celebration of the victory of Salamis. He completed his studies twelve years later, when he was ready to show his fresh dramatic vision. So, during the City Dionysia, a festival held every year at the Theatre of Dionysus, dedicated to new plays, he acquired his first success.

Although it was his first competition, Sophocles took first prize, after defeating no other than Aeschylus himself, the indisputable master of Athenian drama. The historical chronicles explain that this unexpected victory came under unusual circumstances. At the time, the remains of the hero Theseus were being removed by Cimon, the Athenian statesman, from the isle of Scyros to Athens. The custom was that of choosing judges by lot, instead Cimon was asked to decide upon the winner of the competition. The successful production probably included Triptolemus.

And this was just to be the beginning, as Sophocles would go on winning eighteen first prizes. He wrote more than 120 plays.

Style and Writing Form

Sophocles’ unique style was particularly interesting. As he grew up and developed as a playwright his style changed. He went through three phases.In the first phase he fashioned his writings after those of Aeschylus, which dealt mainly with the relationship between man and the gods. The second phase was described as artificial in style.

The third phase was the one all of the existing plays come from today. This used characters under moral pressure. Sophocles has been credited for several things in the development of theatre, including abandoning the trilogy form, adding an extra speaking role, enlarging the chorus with three extra members, and using painted scenery.

Well-Rounded Citizen

During his life, Sophocles was involved in a number of activities as he was witty, intelligent and well liked. He was wealthy, an upright citizen, and politically active but did not overly exert any one agenda. He was an ordained priest for Asclepius, god of medicine, and Alcon, Asclepius’ Attican hero and companion.

He was a strategoi (an executive military commander) and served on the Board of Generals, a committee that administered civil and military affairs in Athens. He was a military consultant during the Peloponnesian Wars. He was also a field general, with Pericles, during the revolt at Samos and later under the more experienced commander Nicias. At one time he was also an imperial treasurer of Athens, controlling the funds of the association of states known as the Delian Confederacy during the political reign of Pericles.

According to great philosopher and Athenian contemporary Plato, Sophocles had a robust appetite for physical pleasures that did not decrease until he was very old in age. Sophocles, like many Greeks of this era, had a liking for young men. He was also married twice.

Sophocles married a woman named Nicostrata. She bore him Iphlon, who became a playwright as well. Sophocles had a second marriage later in life to Theoris of Sicyon with whom he had a son named Ariston. He did have three other illegitimate sons, but there is no mention of them beyond their existence. Towards the end of his life, he was noted as having a relationship with a hetaera (courtesan) named Archippe.

Upon his death at 90 years of age, Sophocles was buried in his family tomb near Deceleia, approximately a mile from Athens.


An understanding of history usually elucidates the present. Antigone’s story is still relevant in the present. Sophocles writes about a fictional king named Oedipus, who rules the city of Thebes (Anouilh 17).

Oedipus is banished from Thebes because he has inadvertently committed incest (Woodruff 92). He has two sons named Polyneices and Eteocles (Braun 62). He also has a daughter named Antigone (Woodruff 22).

After Oedipus is banished, Eteocles banishes his older brother and claims the throne. Polyneices leaves Thebes with plans to overthrow his sibling (Braun 137). He returns and attacks the city with the help of his newfound military. Polyneices and Eteocles kill each other in the midst of the onslaught (Braun 148). Creon, a despot, is later crowned king of Thebes (Woodruff 160).

Creon decrees that Eteocles will be remembered as a hero while his brother will rot in disgrace (Braun 128). Creon is the antagonist in of the story (Woodruff 14). He is a ruthless leader. He can be described as a dictator. His penalty for disobedience is death. Antigone defies Creon by planning to give Polyneices a proper burial (Braun 142).

Sophocles’ opinions about war are evident when the two brothers kill each other in the story (Woodruff 140). Sophocles believes that in war, there are no victories. When countries go to war, every side expects to have casualties. Lives are lost for the sake of petty squabbles. Antigone is also a casualty of war (Anouilh 134). She loses both of her brothers to a conflict that could have easily been resolved.

Failed State

Oedipus represents a failed state (Woodruff 129). He was the king of Thebes. He failed to meet the standards of his people. He was therefore banished shortly after he blinded himself for the atrocities he had committed. He also ruled his father’s kingdom before discovering that he had committed an act of patricide (Braun 31).

Many political leaders have been destroyed by mistakes that they made in the past. For example, a certain Italian minister was accused o having sex with an underage prostitute. Like Oedipus, his statesmen have lost faith in him. His integrity has been compromised.

Freedom of Expression

One of the political elements evident in the story is freedom of expression. Antigone intends to bury her brother in a dignified manner. Creon represents an oppressive regime (Braun 92). He plans to have her punished because her actions are akin to civil disobedience (Woodruff 152).

Creon justifies his cruelty by regarding Polyneices as an enemy of the state (Braun 147). In the present, Polyneices would be regarded as a traitor and a domestic terrorist. Attacking Thebes may be termed as an act of treason (Woodruff 67). However, his sister’s compassion for him is not an act of treason. It is an act of love and honor. Antigone believes in the gods of her people (Anouilh 24). She defies her king because she believes that her actions are justified. She is even willing to die in the name of honor.

Antigone is a symbol of martyrdom (Braun 167). She is willing to die for her beliefs. She believes that she must honor her brother. Creon represents an autocratic government (Woodruff 150). Antigone’s actions drive Creon mad (Anouilh 45). He accuses Antigone’s younger sister, Ismene of committing the same offence (Braun 178). Ismene confesses to burying her brother despite the fact that she was not involved (Woodruff 192).

Ismene’s selfless actions represent family ties. She is willing to die for her sister. Shortly after her confession, Creon discovers the truth. He orders his men to bury Antigone alive in a cave while sparing her sister (Anouilh 67). Creon’s subjects notice a change in his behavior. They assume that he is a lunatic. His son, Haemon is appalled by his actions (Braun 90). Antigone’s simple act of compassion leads to the fall of an empire (Anouilh 78).


The Greek tragedian Sophocles (496-406 B.C.) ranks foremost among Greek classical dramatists and has been called the poet of Greek humanism par excellence.

The son of Sophilus, a well-to-do industrialist, Sophocles was born in Colonus near Athens and grew up in the most brilliant intellectual period of Athens. Nothing concrete is known about his education, though it is known that he had a reputation for learning and esthetic taste. He was well versed in Homer and the Greek lyric poets, and because of his industriousness he was known as the "Attic Bee." His music teacher was a great man of the old school, Lamprus. Tradition says that because of his beauty and talent Sophocles was chosen to lead the male chorus at the celebration of the Greek victory at Salamis.

In 468 B.C., at age 28, Sophocles defeated Aeschylus in one of the drama contests that were then fashionable. During the remainder of his career he never won less than second prize and gained first prize more than any other Greek tragedian. He was also known for his amiability and sociability which epitomized the ideal Athenian gentleman (kaloskagathos). In public life he distinguished himself as a man of affairs. In 443-442 he held the post of Hellenotamias, or imperial treasurer, and was elected general at least twice. His religious activities included service as priest of the healing divinity, and he turned over his house for the worship of Asclepius until a proper temple could be built. For this he was honored with the title Dexion as a hero after his death. He is reported to have written a paean in honor of Asclepius. Sophocles had two sons, lophon and Sophocles, by his first wife, Nicostrata, and he had a third son, Ariston, by his second wife, Theoris.


The dates of Sophocles's seven known plays are not all certain. In Ajax (447 B.C.E. ) the hero, described as second only to Achilles, is humiliated (reduced to a lower position in the eyes of others) by Agamemnon and Menelaus when they award the arms of Achilles to Odysseus. Ajax vows revenge on the Greek commanders as well as on Odysseus. Except, the goddess Athena makes him believe he is attacking the Greeks when he is in fact attacking sheep. When he realizes what he has done, he is so upset that he commits

The title character in Antigone (442� B.C.E. ) is a young princess whose uncle, King Creon, has forbid her to bury her brother Polyneices. Her brother, in attempting to seize the throne from his brother Eteocles, killed Eteocles in a fight and also died himself. Antigone has been interpreted as showing the conflict between devotion to family and devotion to the state. In Trachiniae (437� B.C.E. ) Heracles's wife, Deianira, worries about the fifteen-month absence of her husband. Deianira sends him a poisoned robe that she believes has magical powers to restore lost love. Her son, Hyllus, and her husband denounce her before dying, and she commits suicide. In this play Sophocles describes the difficult situation of the person who, without meaning to, hurts those whom he or she loves.

Oedipus Rex (429 B.C.E. ), which many have considered the greatest play of all time, is not about sex or murder, but man's ability to survive almost unbearable suffering. The worst of all things happens to Oedipus: unknowingly he kills his own father, Laius, and is given his own mother, Jocasta, in marriage after he slays the Sphinx. When a plague (a bacteria-caused disease that spreads quickly and can cause death) at Thebes forces him to consult an oracle (a person through whom a god is believed to speak), he finds that he himself is the cause of the plague. Sophocles brings up the question of justice—why is there evil in the world, and why does the man who is basically good suffer? The answer is found in the idea of dike �lance, order, justice. The world is orderly and follows natural laws. No matter how good or how well-meaning man may be, if he breaks a natural law, he will be punished and he will suffer.

Historical Context for Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

A detailed drawing of the Parthenon by Vincenzo Coronelli, 1688. (Wikimedia Commons) The structure belonged to the effusion of culture that followed Athens' emergence from the Persian Wars as an imperial powerhouse. Classical Greece

“The Classical Period begins with the Greek victories over the Persians in 490 and 480/479 B.C. and ends around the year 330 B.C. with the reign of Alexander the Great. . It is during this period that the most renowned and influential philosophers, writers, and artists of Greece were active and democracy developed.

“. War with the Persians, waged by a shifting alliance of Greek city-states led by Athens and Sparta, dominated the early phase of the period to about 450 B.C. Greek victories at Marathon (490), Salamis (480), and Plataea (479) turned back Persian invasions of the Greek mainland. Following these victories, Athens split from Sparta and continued the war with the purpose of taking back the territory of Ionian Greece lost to the Persians in the Archaic Period. To pursue the war, the Athenians created the Delian League, a confederation of city-states that became the basis of an Athenian Empire. The Athenians defeated the Persians in Anatolia and concluded a peace treaty in 449. During the last phase of this war, Athens had also fought a war with Sparta, Corinth, and their allies which also resulted in a peace treaty in 446.

“. Following the truces in the early 440s was a short period of peace during which Pericles, leader of Athens, undertook an ambitious building project on the Acropolis of Athens that saw the creation of the Parthenon and the chrys-elephantine statue of Athena by Pheidias. Tensions with its subject states and with Sparta grew, escalating in 431 in the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, a civil war between the Athenian and Spartan alliances that also extended to the western colonies. The war proved disastrous for Athens, causing the destruction of an Athenian fleet at Syracuse in 413 and ending in the loss of its navy at Aegospotami in 405. The Spartans triumphed finally in 404 and imposed an oligarchic government on Athens.

“. Despite the turmoil of most of the Classical Period, Greek culture flourished. Greek philosophy sought to provide a rational explanation for phenomena, seeking to discover the underlying forms and order within nature and society. Philosophers such as Protagoras argued for the importance of subjective experience as a source of knowledge. Systems of rhetoric and logic developed that culminated in the fourth century with the work of Plato and Aristotle who sought to create ideal systems of government and ethics. Philosophies such as Stoicism and Epicureanism emphasized the cosmopolitan nature of humanity and sought to provide a more personal response to the troubles of the time. Drama, tragedies and comedies performed as part of religious festivals, became a major literary form during this time with the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. Theater and stage design began to develop in conjunction with these literary developments. Philosophers, writers, and artists traveled widely, bringing a measure of unity to Greek culture absent from its political life. ”

Excerpted From:

Neil Asher Silberman, John K. Papadopoulos, Ian Morris, H. A. Shapiro, Mark D. Stansbury-O'Donnell, Frank Holt, Timothy E. Gregory. "Greece." The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press 1996.