Sotades was born in Maroneia, either the one in Thrace, or in Crete. He lived in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC). The city was at that time a remarkable center of learning, with a great deal of artistic and literary activity, including epic poetry and the Great Library. Only a few genuine fragments of his work have been preserved; those in Stobaeus are generally considered spurious. Ennius translated some poems of this kind, included in his book of satires under the name of Sola. He had a son named Apollonius.
Sotades was the chief representative of the writers of obscene and even pederastic satirical poems, called Kinaidoi, composed in the Ionic dialect and in the metre named after him. The sotadic metre or sotadic verse, which has been classified by ancient and modern scholars as a form of ionic metre, is one that reads backwards and forwards the same, as “llewd did I live, and evil I did dwell.” These verses have also been called palindromic. Sotades was also the author of some of the first recorded palindromes, and many credit him with the invention of that particular genre of composition.
One of his poems attacked Ptolemy's marriage to his own sister Arsinoe, from which came the infamous line: "You're sticking your prick in an unholy hole." For this, Sotades was imprisoned, but he escaped to the island of Caunus, where he was afterwards captured by Patroclus, Ptolemy's admiral, shut up in a leaden chest, and thrown into the sea.
British Orientalist and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) hypothesised the existence of a "Sotadic zone". He asserted that there exists a geographic zone in which pederasty, i.e. romantic-sexual intimacy between a boy and a man, is prevalent and celebrated among the indigenous inhabitants, and named it after Sotades.
- Suda σ 871
- Plutarch, On the Education of Children, 11a; Athenaeus, xiv. 621a. Translation from Graham Shipley, The Greek World After Alexander, 323-30 B.C., page 185. Routledge.
- Waitt, Gordon; Kevin Markwell (2008). "The Lure of the "Sotadic Zone"'". Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. 15 (2).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sotades". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.