The Greek dramatist Sophocles, born to a wealthy family at Colonus, near Athens, was admired as a boy for his personal beauty and musical skill. He served faithfully as a treasurer and general for Athens when it was expanding its empire and influence. In the dramatic contests, he defeated Aeschylus in 468 b.c. for first prize in tragedy, wrote a poem to Herodotus (see Vol. 3), and led his chorus and actors in mourning for Euripides just a few months before his own death. He wrote approximately 123 plays, of which 7 tragedies are extant, as well as a fragment of his satiric play, Ichneutae (Hunters). His plays were produced in the following order: Ajax (c.450 b.c.), Antigone (441 b.c.), Oedipus Tyrannus (c.430 b.c.), Trachiniae (c.430 b.c.), Electra (between 418 and 410 b.c.), Philoctetes (409 b.c.), and Oedipus at Colonus (posthumously in 401 b.c.). With Sophocles, Greek tragedy reached its most characteristic form. He added a third actor, made each play independent---that is, not dependent on others in a trilogy---increased the numbers of the chorus, introduced the use of scenery, shifted the focus from religious to more philosophical issues, and brought language and characters, though still majestic, nearer to everyday life. His finely delineated characters are responsible for the tragedy that befalls them, and they accept it heroically. Aristotle (see Vols. 3, 4, and 5) states that Sophocles said he portrayed people as they ought to be; Euripides, as they are. His utter command of tragic speech in the simple grandeur of his choral odes, dialogues, and monologues encourages the English reader to compare him to Shakespeare (see Vol. 1).
Mark Griffith is the Klio Distinguished Professor of Classical Languages and Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
Author's (Mark Ahavel) Biography The author was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1963 in a Roman Catholic hospital during the middle of Vatican II (1962-'64). And his exact birthday coincides with the day that the prophet Muhammad completed is Hijrah (migration) to Medina, according to Muslim tradition, a significant event in the life of the Prophet for Muslims. In 1963, the Baha'i Faith celebrated their 100th anniversary and they established their International House of Justice on Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel. From the year and the date of the author's birth, one can certainly find ecumenical and interfaith significance, perhaps a portent of his destiny. The author was baptized as an infant in a Roman Catholic parish, and was raised in a Protestant congregation and its parochial school from kindergarten to the 5th grade. These were faith-formative years for the author, raised in a Christian tradition. He felt the Call to the Ministry during his first two years of college but it was unclear what kind of ministry God was wooing him to. He completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education at a private Christian liberal arts college of his denomination by the end of 1985. He was in the seminary from 1990 to 1994, earning his Masters of Divinity degree in May 1994. He served five years in the pastoral ministry in a conservative Christian body. He was sensing God was leading him to a more ecumenical ministry. His ecumenical ministry began through creating and managing a global online prayer site In 2009, the same year, he began teaching the World Religions course at the community college as an Adjunct Instructor. The teaching of this broad course stretched his own understanding tremendously and he intensified his research in the world's religions, beyond the Judeo-Christian foundation of which he was most acquainted. He is a member in the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature.