How Many Plays Survive From Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, theater played a significant role in the cultural and social life of the people. The Greeks are often credited with inventing theater as we know it today, and their plays have had a lasting impact on the world of drama.

But how many of these ancient Greek plays have survived to the present day? Let’s explore.

The Importance of Ancient Greek Theater

Ancient Greek theater was not just a form of entertainment; it was also a means for exploring philosophical, political, and social issues. The plays were performed in open-air amphitheaters and were accompanied by music and dance.

These plays were written by playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. They used a combination of dialogue, monologues, and choral songs to tell their stories.

The Surviving Plays

Out of the hundreds of plays believed to have been written during ancient Greece’s golden age (5th century BCE), only a small fraction survive to this day. It is estimated that around 32 plays from this period are still intact or partially preserved.


  • The Persians: This play is the oldest surviving tragedy in existence. It recounts the Persian Wars from the perspective of the defeated Persians.
  • Seven Against Thebes: This play tells the story of the conflict between Eteocles and Polynices, two brothers who fight for control over Thebes.


  • Oedipus Rex: One of Sophocles’ most famous works, this play explores themes of fate, prophecy, and the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Antigone: This tragedy follows the story of Antigone, who defies the king’s orders to bury her brother and faces the consequences.


  • Medea: This play tells the story of Medea, a woman who seeks revenge against her husband after he leaves her for another woman.
  • The Trojan Women: Set after the fall of Troy, this play explores the suffering and hardships faced by the women of Troy.


  • Lysistrata: A comedic play that centers around a woman who convinces other women to withhold sex from their husbands as a means to end the Peloponnesian War.
  • The Birds: In this satirical play, two Athenians create a utopian city in the sky with birds as their allies.

The Lost Plays

While we are fortunate to have some surviving plays from ancient Greece, it is worth noting that many have been lost to time. Some estimates suggest that over 1,000 plays were written during this period, but only a fraction remain.

The loss of these plays is due to various reasons such as natural disasters, wars, and simply being forgotten or discarded over time.


Ancient Greek theater has left an indelible mark on the world of drama. While only a small number of plays have survived from this period, they continue to be studied and performed today. These plays provide us with insights into the culture, values, and beliefs of ancient Greece, reminding us of the enduring power of storytelling.