Sophocles (c.496–c.406 BC), translated by Theodoridis, G., (contributor-contact-email)

Open Access logo

Sophocles’ Philoctetes, written during the Peloponnesian War and performed in 409 BC, is a tragedy set during the period of the Trojan War. It follows the character Philoctetes, a skilled archer, who possesses the bow of Heracles. Philoctetes is marooned on the island of Lemnos by the Greeks due to an agonising snake bite on his foot.

The play’s narrative unfolds with Odysseus and Neoptolemus, Achilles’ son, arriving at Lemnos to retrieve Philoctetes and his bow, deemed essential for Greek victory in Troy. Neoptolemus, an honourable young man, is initially reluctant but agrees to deceive Philoctetes to gain his trust, and the bow. As Neoptolemus wrestles with his conscience, he eventually opts not to take the bow from Philoctetes. Despite ensuing arguments and Odysseus’ intervention, Neoptolemus resolves to take Philoctetes back to Greece. The play concludes with the deified Heracles appearing, convincing Philoctetes to go to Troy, promising his cure and glory. Philoctetes later achieves renown in Troy for his actions, including the vanquishing of Paris.

Author Details

cover image

Theodoridis, G.,

Support Open-Access:

Your contribution keeps our classical translations available to all. Every dollar helps support classics education and funds the expansion of our catalogue. Value what we do? Donate now.

© Copyright, All Rights Reserved. This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.