Highlights of Ancient Greek History: 469 BCE to 404 BCE

Ancient Greece has brought a great deal of influential philosophers and playwrights into the world, including Sophocles who focused on writing tragedies. In this article, you will learn more about Sophocles’ contributions to the world of ancient Greek drama, as well as the importance of the Delian League in history.

469 to 406 BCE: Sophocles lives during this time.

Out of all the significant ancient Greek playwrights, Sophocles belonged to an elite trio of tragedians whose work has survived. The first plays that he wrote were penned later than those of Aeschylus but before the works of Euripides. An encyclopedia dating back to the 10th century states that Sophocles wrote 123 plays during his lifetime. Only seven have survived in their complete form: Ajax, Antigone, Trachinian Women, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes, and Oedipus at Colonus.

The most famous plays of Sophocles centered on Oedipus and Antigone. His contribution to the way drama flourished in ancient Greece was by adding a third actor. The importance of the chorus was even more lessened when it came time to present the plot. He also developed characters that were more in depth.

During ancient Greek competitions, Sophocles was a common participant. He competed in about 30 of these contests , winning around 24. He never earned lower than second place in a competition. To compare Sophocles to other playwrights of his time, Aeschylus won 14 competitions and many times was defeated by Sophocles.

454 BCE: The Delian League is known as a naval alliance comprised of Athens and other city-states. It comes into existence during talks on the isle of Delos.

The Delian League was founded in 477 BC and included 173 Greek city-states that were under the leadership of Athens. The goal of the league was to unite in the fight against the Persian Empire after the Greeks enjoyed a victory in the Battle of Plataea , at the end of the Greco-Persian Wars. The official meeting place was once the island of Delos, but Pericles moved this to Athens in 454 BC.

Shortly after, Athens started to exploit the League’s navy for its own profit. Because of this, Athens and the less powerful members of the League started to experience conflict. By 431 BC, the harsh control of the Delian League placed Athens in the midst of the Peloponnesian War. When the war ended in 404 BC, the League had become dissolved.

477 BCE: Pericles calls for the construction of the Parthenon.

431 to 404 BCE: The Peloponnesian War breaks out between Athens and Sparta.

Athens (and its empire) and the Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta) went to war against one another in what was called the Peloponnesian War. Historians have traditionally viewed the war as taking part in three different stages. The Archidamian War often marks the first phase, where Sparta launched several campaigns to invade Attica. At this time, Athens took advantage of its naval influence and raided the coast of the Peloponnese. This part of the war was over in 421 BC after the signing of the Peace of Nicias. However, the treaty was no more after fighting resumed in the Peloponnese.