Wisdom From Sophocles - A Collection of My Favorite Quotes

Dear Henry,

I've compiled a list of the rest of my favorite Sophocles quotes from the books Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Philoctetes, and Ajax, that I hadn't included in earlier posts.  There are a lot of them (25!).  Sophocles is incredibly quotable and has some great wisdom.

1. "Count no mortal happy til he has passed the final limit of his life secure from pain."  From Oedipus, the King

While I think someone can be happy, even in pain, because I live with chronic pain, I understand the challenges of finding happiness in it.

2. "One soul, I think, often can make atonement for many others, if it be devoted." From Oedipus at Colonus

I think the entire philosophy of Christianity rests on this idea and I'm very grateful for His atonement.

3. "There is no felicity in speaking of hidden things." From Oedipus at Colonus.

Right?  Sometimes we should just shut up!

4. "What you cannot enforce, do not command." From Oedipus at Colonus

Another tidbit that really struck deep. How often do we make fuss about things we have no way of changing?

5. "It is not in words that I should wish my life to be distinguished but rather in things done."  From Oedipus at Colonus

Absolutely!  Talk is cheap. Actions are the only things that matter.

6. "Whatever God has brought about is to be bourne with courage." From Oedipus at Colonus.

Once again, Sophocles spoke directly to the events of my life.  My life, as it is, IS because of divine will (if you have questions, please see "The Accident".  Somedays, though, it is hard to deal with it courageously and I end up whiney.

7. "The boasts of a proud tongue are for Zeus to hate." From Antigone.

We all know someone!

8. "Death yearns for equal law for all the dead." From Antigone

Because of my work with Old Lick Cemetery, this quote felt very meaningful.

9. "What deeper wound than a loved one who is evil?" from Antigone.

I think everyone has this wound.  There are so many people who have chosen to be evil.

10. "It can be no dishonor to learn from others when they speak good sense." from Antigone.

I wonder how many times I've ignored sound advice simply because I do not like the one who was giving it.

11. "No city is property of a single man."  From Antigone

If we could only remember this bit of wisdom when we cast our ballots.  

12. "Fate has terrible power. You cannot escape it by wealth or war." from Antigone.

We all try, though!

13. "War never takes a bad man except by chance. It's always the good men." From Philoctetes

I have particularly noticed this through my work on the Everyday Patriot Project.  Perhaps it's the reason so many Congressional Medals of Honor are awarded posthumously.

14. "All is disgust when someone leaves his own nature and does things that are unlike him." from Philoctetes

It's easy to dislike people that aren't authentic, isn't it?

15. "You are not bad yourself. By bad men's teaching, you come to practice your foul lesson." From Philoctetes.

This is another quote I relate to far too well.  I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to become something better than my upbringing.

16. "The fortunes that the gods give to us men we must bear under necessity." from Philoctetes

*sigh*  this is much easier said than done.

17 "But men that cling willfully to their sufferings, as you do, no one may forgive nor pity." from Philoctetes

Yikes!  I am so guilty of this. 

18. "One short day inclines that balance of all human things to sink or rise again" from Ajax.

Right? What goes up, must come down!

19. "Know that the gods love men of steady sense and hate the wicked." from Ajax

It amazes me how long we've had this knowledge and yet, we still don't have steady sense.

20. "An enemy's gift is ruinous and no gift."  from Ajax

A good reminder not to take candy from creepy people!

21. "Resolve to win, but always with the god's help" from Ajax

How often do we take for granted divine assistance or feel like we did things all on our own?

22. "But it does not good to bemoan things pointlessly." from Ajax

Whining never gets us far, does it?

23. "Ignorant men don't know what good they hold in their hands until they've flung it away." from Ajax

Raise you hand if you've thrown away something important!!

24. "When a man lies dead and helpless, all the world delights to mock and injure him." from Ajax

This seems pretty accurate, doesn't it?  

25. "A man who's in the right may have some boldness" from Ajax

Sometimes it seems that it is the wrong one who is bold though.....

I may end up having just as many quotes from the History of the Peloponnesian War.  Thucydides is also quite quoteable and it seems like war tends to provide many situations to gain wisdom through experience.

xoxo a.d. elliott 


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

Her online photography gallery can be found at shop.takethebackroads.com


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