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Sophocles was one of the three great masters of the genre of Greek tragedy. His life spanned the 5th century bce, and saw him compose approximately 123 dramas, while simultaneously occupying a series of important offices within the democratic state of ancient Athens. His plays demonstrate a mastery of dramatic technique, as well as of the resources of Greek poetic language; driven by a restless searching for innovation, they confront viewers with profound questions about a man’s, or woman’s, position within their city, and the often turbulent nature of their relationship with the gods. The fascination that his dramas exerted on succeeding generations has ensured their survival down to our own day, where their ongoing cultural influence can be documented around the world.Sophocles’ life (497/6–405bce) spanned almost the whole of that century of Athens’s history that later generations would call classical; the enduring reputation of his dramas (see .

Article

Aias  

Herbert Jennings Rose and Jenny March

Aias (Αἴας, Lat. Aiax)(1) Son of *Telamon (1), king of *Salamis (1), hence Aias Telamonius, and also known as the Great(er) Ajax. He brought twelve ships from Salamis to Troy (Il. 2.557). In the Iliad he is of enormous (πελώριος) size, head and shoulders above the rest (3.226–229), and the greatest of the Greek warriors after *Achilles (2.768–789). His stock epithet is “bulwark (ἔρκος) of the Achaeans,” and his characteristic weapon a huge shield of seven-fold ox-hide. He clearly has the better of *Hector in a duel (7.181–305) after which the heroes exchange gifts, Aias giving Hector a sword-belt in return for a sword; and he is at his memorable best when with unshakeable courage he defends the Greek wall and then the ships (see especially 15.676–688, 727–746, 16.101–111). He is also a member of the Embassy to Achilles, when he gives a brief but effective appeal to Achilles on friendship's grounds (9.624–642). At *Patroclus's funeral games he draws a wrestling match with *Odysseus, strength against cunning (23.

Article

Isabelle Torrance

Euripides was a key figure in the development of ancient drama, and the continuing impact of his work on modern forms of theatre cannot be underestimated. His tragedies were dramaturgically innovative and intellectually challenging. Divine epiphanies, emotionally charged debate scenes, and novel musical performances are all typical in Euripides. Several of his plays exploit the sort of disaster-averted scenario that was one of Aristotle’s favourite plot types and that flourished in operatic adaptations of classical myths. Pointed theological and philosophical questions are raised by characters in Euripides’ plays, and this radical aspect of Euripidean drama explains both why he was a target for contemporary comedians, notably Aristophanes, and why he was dismissed by Nietzsche and others in the nineteenth century. The past century, however, has seen a renewed and reinvigorated appreciation for Euripides, whose dramas have provided a valuable medium not only for artistic expression and experimentation but also for engaging with pressing contemporary social and political issues such as racial discrimination, warfare, postcolonialism, gender fluidity, and PTSD.