Sophocles' Oedipus

Stephen V. Tracy

in Pericles

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780520256033
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943629 | DOI:
Sophocles' Oedipus

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Sophocles and Pericles were two of Athens' leading intellectuals. They were also almost exact contemporaries, Sophocles being perhaps a year or two older than Pericles. Although Sophocles was primarily a poet and Pericles a statesman, they knew one another very well, having served together as generals in putting down the Samian revolt in 440–439 B.C. The setting of Sophocles' most famous play, Oedipus the King, is a city suffering from a plague. The exact date of the play's first production is not known, but it is generally agreed that it belongs to the 420s, probably the early 420s—that is, not very long after Pericles' death. The city in question is Thebes, which was founded in Boeotia by Cadmus and, as the play opens, is ruled by Oedipus. It appears inescapable that the play's fictional plague will have recalled the historical plague that struck Athens at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War and had ended not long before the tragedy was produced.

Keywords: Sophocles; Pericles; Athens; Oedipus the King; Oedipus; tragedy; plague; Thebes; Peloponnesian War

Chapter.  2562 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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