Sophocles: The Theban Plays
Sophocles: Philoctetes

Sophocles: Ajax

 The suicide of Ajax the Great. Etrurian red-figured calyx-krater, ca. 400–350 BC. Said to be from Vulci. Wikimedia CommonsThe Ajax ( Ancient Greek: Αἴας) is a Greek tragedy by Sophocles, thought to be amongst the earliest of his extant plays, and probably produced before 441 BC.

The setting is the Trojan War, after the events of the Iliad and the subsequent death of Achilles, whose arms have been awarded to Odysseus. This decision is bitterly resented by his rival Ajax, whose homicidal anger against the Greek leaders is thwarted by divine intervention. Athena drives him mad so that he attacks sheep and cattle instead. The play opens in the aftermath, as Ajax recovers his wits and is stricken with shame. His wife Tecmessa consoles him, but he resolves upon suicide. Warned by the seer Calchas, his half-brother Teucer arrives too late to prevent Ajax from falling upon his sword. Menelaus and Agamemnon forbid his burial, until they are persuaded to relent by Odysseus.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Seven Plays in English Verse, translated by Lewis Campbell. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text, with English translation, commentary and notes by Richard C. Jebb (1896). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Sophocles Vol. II; Ajax, Electra, Trachiniae, Philoctetes. Greek text with facing translation by F. Storr (Loeb edition, 1916). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text, with Latin translation by Scaliger and English notes by J.R. Pitman (1830). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text with English notes by T. Mitchell (1844). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text, edited by F.W. Schneidewin, with English notes by R.B. Paul (1851). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text, edited by Edward Wunder (1864). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text, edited by Christian August Lobeck (1866). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text with English notes by F.A. Paley (1888). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, Greek text, edited by Frederick Blaydes (1908). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, translated by E.D.A. Morshead (1864). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, translated by J. Clunes Wilson (1906). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Ajax, translated by R.C. Trevelyan (1919). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Sophocles Vol II; Trachinae, Ajax, Philoctetes, Electra, verse translation by Thomas Dale (1824). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Sophocles, translated by Thomas Franklin (1848). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Sophocles, Vol II; Ajax, Electra, Trachiniae, Philoctetes, Fragments, translated by Lewis Campbell (1879). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Tragedies of Sophocles, translated by Richard C. Jebb (1904). Multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: Ajax, translated by R.C. Trevelyan. HTML and TXT format.

Loebulus: L021 - Sophocles II: Ajax. Electra. Trachiniae. Philoctetes. Greek and English parallel text. Loeb edition, PDF format.

Perseus: Greek text edited by Francis Storr (1913). Translation and notes by Richard Jebb (1907). HTML and XML formats.

Poetry in Translation: Ajax, translated by George Theodoridis. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Ajax, translated by R.C. Trevelyan. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Greek text and multiple translations. Multiple formats.

Wilderness House Literary Review: Ajax, translated by Dennis Daly (2012). PDF format.

Performances and Reviews

Kings College London

Ajax, 1958.

Theater of War

New York TimesThe Anguish of War for Today’s Soldiers, Explored by Sophocles, by Patrick Healy, 11 November 2009.

Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus

Ajax, staged by Vangelis Theodoropoulos, 2015.

American Theatre of Actors

Ajax, New York, 2016.

Youtube: Ajax by Sophocles directed by Jeff S. Dailey.

Translation reviews

The NationChilling New Translation of Sophocles’ ‘Ajax, by Emily Watson, 1 July 2008.

Other Resources

Ancient-literature.com: Ajax - Synopsis and analysis.

Boston University: Ancient and Modern Lessons from Sophocles’ Ajax, by Caitlin Outterson.

Duke University: Ajax by Sophocles, notes by William A. Johnson.

History of Ancient Greece: Sophocles, podcast by Ryan Stitt.

Librivox: Ajax, translated by Lewis Campbell. Public domain audiobook.

Theatre Database: Ajax, analysis originally published in The Tragic Drama of the Greeks by A.E. Haigh.

TheatreHistory.com: Ajax - summary and analysis, originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 1. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906.

US Naval Academy: Focusing on the “Margins” of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes, by Associate Professor Christy Stanlake.

Wikipedia: Sophocles - Ajax (play).

Youtube: Sophocles' Characterisation of Ajax, by Tom Mackenzie. Discussion by Felix Budelmann (Fellow and Tutor in Classics, Magdalen College, Oxford).

Youtube: Hero Cult and Sophocles' Ajax, by Tom Mackenzie. Discussion by Felix Budelmann (Fellow and Tutor in Classics, Magdalen College, Oxford).

Youtube: Paul Woodruff - The Ajax dilemma.

YouTube: Whiteboard Summary of Ajax by Sophocles, by Catherine Holland.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Homer: Iliad - introduces Ajax as a notable character among the Greek captains of the Trojan War.

Homer: The Odyssey - includes the oldest version of the story of Ajax's death.

Aethiopis - describes the contest between Ajax and Odysseus.

Little Iliad - another account of the contest.

Pindar: Fifth Isthmian Ode - gives an account of Ajax's birth.

Aeschylus - wrote a lost trilogy on Ajax, the Aiantis.

Aristotle: The Poetics.

A.E. Haigh: The Tragic Drama of the Greeks (1896).

 Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.

Bloom's Western Canon: Ajax is listed.

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