Quotations by Sophocles


If you have done terrible things, you must endure terrible things; for thus the sacred light of injustice shines bright.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Ajax, l. 11
Added on 22-Sep-08 | Last updated 22-Sep-08
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Hush! Check those words. Do not cure ill with ill and make your pain still heavier than it is.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Ajax, l. 362
Added on 8-Sep-08 | Last updated 8-Sep-08
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A wise doctor does not mutter incantations over a sore that needs the knife.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Ajax, l. 581.
Added on 24-Nov-08 | Last updated 24-Nov-08
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TECMESSA: Ignorant men
Don’t know what good they hold in their hands until
They’ve flung it away.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Ajax, l. 964 [tr. Moore (1959)]

Alt trans.:
  • “Men of perverse opinion do not know / The excellence of what is in their hands, / Till some one dash it from them.” [George Young (1888)]
  • "Men of ill judgement oft ignore the good / That lies within their hands, till they have lost it."
  • "For those who are base in judgement do not know the good they hold in their hands until they cast it off."
Added on 2-Jun-08 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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All men make mistakes. But a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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No other touchstone can test the heart of a man, the temper of his mind and spirit, till he be tried in the practice of authority and rule.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone [Creon]
Added on 30-Jun-08 | Last updated 30-Jun-08
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Stubbornness and stupidity are twins.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 1020 [tr. Wyckoff (1954)]
Added on 2-Dec-11 | Last updated 2-Dec-11
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I well believe it, to unwilling ears;
None love the messenger who brings bad news.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 276-277 [Sentry to Creon]

Alt. trans:
  • "No man loves the bearer of bad tidings."
  • "Nobody likes the man who brings bad news."
Added on 21-Jul-08 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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Think not that thy word and thine alone must be right.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 706
Added on 15-Sep-08 | Last updated 15-Sep-08
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A state is not a state if it belongs to one man.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 737.
Added on 5-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Jan-09
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But the power of destiny is something awesome; neither wealth, nor Ares, nor a tower, nor dark-hulled ships might escape it.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 951
Added on 27-Jul-08 | Last updated 27-Jul-08
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Death is not the worst evil, but rather when we wish to die and cannot.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Electra, l. 1007

Alt. trans.: "For death is not the worst, but when one wants to die and is not able even to have that."
Added on 16-Jun-08 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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Do not grieve yourself too much for those you hate, nor yet forget them utterly.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Electra, l. 177
Added on 27-Oct-08 | Last updated 27-Oct-08
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Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Hipponous, frag. 280

Alt. trans.: "Hide nothing, for time, which sees all and hears all, exposes all." (Cited as "Fragments, l. 284 (Hipponoos)")

Added on 25-Aug-08 | Last updated 25-Aug-08
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It was my care to make my life illustrious not by words more than by deeds.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Oedipus at Colonus, l. 1143
Added on 29-Sep-08 | Last updated 29-Sep-08
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One word
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Oedipus at Colonus, l. 1616
Added on 20-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Oct-08
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What you cannot enforce,
Do not command!

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Oedipus at Colonus, l. 839 [tr. Fitzgerald (1941)]
Added on 31-Aug-15 | Last updated 31-Aug-15
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The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Oedipus Rex, l. 1231

Alt. trans. "The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Let every man in mankind’s frailty
Consider his last day; and let none
Presume on his good fortune until he find
Life, at his death, a memory without pain.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Oedipus Rex, l. 1529 (concluding words)

Young translation:
And of no moral say
"That man is happy," till
Vexed by no grievous ill
He pass Life's goal.
Added on 9-Jun-08 | Last updated 9-Jun-08
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Wisdom is a curse when wisdom does nothing for the man who has it.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Oedipus Rex, l. 316 [Teiresias]

Alt trans: "How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be When there's no help in truth!"
Added on 4-Aug-08 | Last updated 13-Apr-09
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The truth is always the strongest argument.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Phaedra, frag. 737
Added on 11-Aug-08 | Last updated 11-Aug-08
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Fortune is not on the side of the faint-hearted.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Phaedra, fragment 842

Also "Fortune never helps the fainthearted" [Fragments, l. 666]
Added on 23-Jun-08 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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As many as are involved in misery of their own choosing, such as you, for them there is no forgiveness nor pity.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Philoctetes, l. 1319
Added on 15-Dec-08 | Last updated 15-Dec-08
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Sleep, ignorant of pain, sleep, ignorant of grief, may you come to us blowing softly, kindly, kindly come, king.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Philoctetes, l. 827.
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Come, blowing softly, Sleep, that know'st not pain, / Sleep, ignorant of grief, / Come softly, surely, kingly sleep, and bless ...." [E. H. Plumptre (1871)]
Added on 8-Dec-08 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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I would rather miss the mark acting well than win the day acting basely.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Philoctetes, l. 94
Added on 14-Jul-08 | Last updated 14-Jul-08
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Well one must learn
By doing the thing; for though you think you know it
You have no certainty, until you try.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Trachiniae [The Women of Trachis], [First Lady] [tr. Young]

Full text.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Don’t you know that silence supports the accuser’s charge?

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Trachiniae [The Women of Trachis], l. 813.
Added on 18-Aug-08 | Last updated 18-Aug-08
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Rash indeed is he who reckons on the morrow, or haply on days beyond it; for tomorrow is not, until today is past.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Trachiniae, l. 943
Added on 17-Aug-16 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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Rash indeed is he who reckons on the morrow, or haply on days beyond it; for tomorrow is not, until today is past.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Trachiniae, l. 943
Added on 7-Sep-16 | Last updated 7-Sep-16
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The best, wherever we are, to follow still
The customs of the country.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, #674 [tr. E. Pumptre (1865)]
Added on 11-Aug-09 | Last updated 11-Aug-09
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Whoever neglects the arts when he is young has lost the past and is dead to the future.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 304 (Minos)
Added on 26-Jan-09 | Last updated 26-Jan-09
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A fearful man is always hearing things.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 58 (Acrisius)

Alt trans: "To the man who is afraid, everything rustles."
Added on 3-Nov-08 | Last updated 3-Nov-08
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No one who errs unwillingly is evil.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 582 [Tyro]
Added on 10-Nov-08 | Last updated 10-Nov-08
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It is the task of a good man to help those in misfortune.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 661.
Added on 27-Nov-08 | Last updated 27-Nov-08
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No treaty is ever an impediment to a cheat.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 671.
Added on 17-Nov-08 | Last updated 17-Nov-08
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If my body is enslaved, still my mind is free.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 677
Added on 12-Jan-09 | Last updated 12-Jan-09
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What house, bloated with luxury, ever became prosperous without a woman’s excellence?

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 679
Added on 19-Jan-09 | Last updated 19-Jan-09
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If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 702
Added on 1-Dec-08 | Last updated 1-Dec-08
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If one begins all deeds well, it is likely that they will end well too.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 715.
Added on 22-Dec-08 | Last updated 31-Aug-15
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A soul that is kind and intends justice discovers more than any sophist.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 88 (Aletes)
Added on 6-Oct-08 | Last updated 6-Oct-08
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All a man’s affairs become diseased when he wishes to cure evils by evils.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Fragments, l. 98.
Added on 7-Jul-08 | Last updated 7-Jul-08
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