The aim of this paper is to provide arguments for a lower number of satyr plays in the corpus of Sophocles than usually assumed. Since in classical Athens playwrights used to enter the dramatic competition at the Great Dionysia with a set of three tragedies plus one satyr play, the common belief in modern research is that roughly a quarter of Sophocles’ literary output – amounting to 120 dramatic pieces – must be satyric and not tragic (§ 1). The present paper puts forward two sets of arguments to confute this method of reasoning. First (§ 2), a case is made for the hypothesis that Sophocles staged plays not only at the Great Dionysia, but also at the Lenaia, where only tragedies and no satyr plays at all were performed (a major piece of evidence in support of this hypothesis is IG II2 2319, which may record a victory of Sophocles at the Lenaia in 419-18 BC). Secondly (§ 3), it shows why it cannot be ruled out that Sophocles, like Euripides, also wrote ‘prosatyric’ plays (“Alcestis-like” cases). Since the number of Sophoclean satyr plays is therefore likely to have been lower than traditionally assumed, the paper urges future researchers to greater caution when proposing new identifications of satyr plays in the body of this poet’s fragments (§ 4).
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