The Eumenides — The Oresteia

The final, breathtaking play in the tragic Oresteia is The Eumenides. It deals with the critical question as to whether or not the condemned prince Orestes is guilty of murder.

Orestes Pursued by the Furies

Orestes Pursued by the Furies

The deadly Furies of Clytemnestra are hunting him and the haunted prince must flee to save himself. He finds refuge in the temple of Apollo in Delphi. Yet, though momentarily comforted, the Furies arrive and Orestes must once again take flight, this time under the protection of the wing-footed god Hermes.

The frightened prince arrives in the city of Athens. There, the martial goddess Athena calls together a jury of twelve Athenians, with her as judge, to determine Orestes’ guilt. When all votes are cast, including Athena’s, the court decides in favor of Orestes. He is not accused of murder. The enraged Furies are soothed and placated by Athena who promises a good name and place for them in Athens.

In Ancient Greece the majority of plays were tragedies. Some tragedies did not have a tragic ending. The Oresteia is one such play.

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