Sophocles was born just outside Athens, in 496 BC, and lived ninety years. His long life spanned the rise and decline of the Athenian Empire; he was a friend of Pericles, and though not an active politician he held several public offices, both military and civil. Sophocles wrote over a hundred plays for the Athenian theater, and is said to have come first in twenty-four contests. Only seven of his tragedies are now extant, these being Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus the King, Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes, and the posthumous Oedipus at Colonus. He died in 406 BC.Pat Easterling was Regius Professor of Greek in Cambridge from 1994 until her retirement in 2001; before that she taught in Manchester, Cambridge and London (UCL). Her main field of research is Greek literature, particularly tragedy; she also has a special interest in the survival of ancient texts and the history of performance; her most recent book is Greek and Roman Actors: aspects of an ancient profession (Cambridge 2002), which she co-edited with Edith Hall. She is currently writing a commentary on Sophocles' for the series Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, of which she is a general editor.