The most famous of Sophocles' tragedies are those concerning Oedipus and Antigone: these are often known as the Theban plays, although each play was actually a part of different tetralogy, the other members of which are now lost. Sophocles influenced the development of the drama, most importantly by adding a third actor and thereby reducing the importance of the chorus in the presentation of the plot. He also developed his characters to a greater extent than earlier playwrights such as Aeschylus.
Sophocles, the son of Sophilos, was a wealthy member of the rural deme (small community) of Colonus Hippius in Attica, which would later become a setting for one of his plays, and he was probably born there.  His birth took place a few years before the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC: the exact year is unclear, although 497/6 is perhaps most likely.  Sophocles' first artistic triumph was in 468 BC, when he took first prize in the Dionysia theatre competition over the reigning master of Athenian drama, Aeschylus
Sophocles was born extremely wealthy (his father was a wealthy armour manufacturer) and was highly educated throughout his entire life. Sophocles became a man of importance in the public halls of Athens as well as in the theatres. At the age of 16, he was chosen to lead the paean, a choral chant to a god, celebrating the decisive Greek sea victory over the Persians at the Battle of Salamis.
Sophocles died at the age of ninety or ninety-one in the winter of 406/5 BC, having seen within his lifetime both the Greek triumph in the Persian Wars and the terrible bloodletting of the Peloponnesian War. As with many famous men in classical antiquity, Sophocles' death inspired a number of apocryphal stories about the cause. Perhaps the most famous is the suggestion that he died from the strain of trying to recite a long sentence from his Antigone without pausing to take a breath. Another account suggests he choked while eating grapes at the Anthesteria festival in Athens. A third account holds that he died of happiness after winning his final victory at the City Dionysia.