11-06-0485 BCE

Sophocles

SOPHOCLES, Greek playwright, born (d: 406 BCE); the second of three great ancient Greek tragedians. He was preceded by Aeschylus, and was followed by or contemporary to Euripides. According to the Suda, a tenth century AD encyclopedia, he wrote 123 or more plays during the course of his life. For almost 50 years, he was the dominant competitor in the dramatic competitions of ancient Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia. His first victory was in 468 BC, although scholars are no longer certain that this was the first time that he competed.

He has, of course, come down to us as the author of tragedies, two of which, Oedipus Rex and Electra, have been ill-used by Freud and his followers to beat up on mommies and daddies of Gay men and women. No one seems ever to have questioned why, if Oedipus was so hung-up on his mother and hated his father, he didn’t grow up to be a fag. What’s more, Electra, who hated her mother and loved her father doesn’t show the slightest signs of dykiness. Sophocles’ greatness as a dramatist notwithstanding, he is remembered as well as the comic butt of Euripides’ ridicule because his clothing had been stolen by a male hustler when he wasn’t looking. His own two favorite butts belonged to the boys Smicrenes and Demophon.

Several ancient writers have commented on Sophocles’ love of youths. Athenaeus alleged that in addition to seeking and keeping female courtesans, “Sophocles was fond of young lads, as Euripides was fond of women.” He quotes from a now-lost book by Ion of Chios regarding an incident of Sophocles flattering a serving boy at a symposium and then using a strategem to kiss and embrace him, as well as another, ascribed to Hieronymus of Rhodes, in which Sophocles is tricked by the above-referenced hustler. Plutarch, in his “Life of Pericles,” mentions an incident, during a naval expedition, in which Sophocles praised the beauty of a young recruit. Pericles rebuked him by warning that a general must keep not only his hands clean, but also his eyes.