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Discussion - Oresteia > The Eumenides

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments There is so much in this final play of the trilogy to discuss that I don't know where to begin. So instead of posing any questions, as I normally do, I'll just see what points people want to put forward and where people want to go with the discussion.


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver First I just have to say that I loved the 3rd and final play, it was my favorite of all 3 plays. I found the trail to be quite interesting. It was interesting to see all those issues of which we have spent time discussing about justice to come up at the end and the way in which the audience can sort of become a part of the jury and decide for themselves who makes the better case, the Furies, or Apollo.

As well a great deal has been discussed on the view point of the gods in relation to justice and if they have a since of justice and if so what it is. In this final play we are given the look into how the Greeks viewed the gods in relation to issues of justice, and how they believed the gods felt about justice.

I absolutely loved the Furies.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I confess that I am in no way a sophisticated reader of these plays. So feel free to be dismissive of my feelings of being a little let down by the trial.

It seems to me that the rationale behind Athena's verdict was pretty shaky: the mother has no standing as a parent? And it felt like the Furies sold themselves off pretty cheaply.

I am sure others found much deeper significance and I look forward to reading your comments.


message 4: by Silver (new)

Silver Zeke wrote: "I confess that I am in no way a sophisticated reader of these plays. So feel free to be dismissive of my feelings of being a little let down by the trial.

It seems to me that the rationale behind ..."


That was more of Apollo's rational than Athena's. It was Apollo who made that argument, using Athena as an example because she was created without a mother. But in the end Athena of course sided with Apollo because the gods stuck together.

I do agree what Apollo's arguments were weak, and I thought the Furies made the better case. First Apollo makes personal attacks upon the Furies by retorting that all the gods despise them. Than he contradicts himself.

When the Furies try to use Zeus as an example for how he has treated his own father, Apollo argues that you cannot compare the actions of the gods with mortal men because Zeus can free his father any time he wants to while Agamemnon is dead for good and nothing can change that.

But than when the Furies make the case about Apollo trying to value fatherhood as more important than motherhood, he suddenly makes his argument about mother's not being parents, and points to Athena as his example. Thus he is now using what the gods have done to apply to the mortal world. Surely Apollo is aware that mortal man cannot just pull humans out the tops of their heads like Zeus can.

I did not agree with the outcome of the trial because Apollo's arguments were not very rational or convincing, but I found the process of it to be interesting.


message 5: by Adelle (last edited Oct 13, 2010 11:47AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments I finished The Eumenides this morning. Oh, absolutely, lots of stuff in this play; multiple directions discussion could take.

I saw that Silver liked this the best of the three plays--in part because of the trial.

For myself, I liked best Agamemnon. For me, Agamemnon was tension-filled... the barely suspressed feelings of the actors overflowing the wordage of the lines, grabbing the audience by its emotional labels--or the toga equivelent thereof---and engaging the viewers. And even though I think the emotional reaction 5th century BC Greece would have been absolute horror at man-acting Clytemnestra, 5th century BC-ers were human...and they might have had some slight recognition that Clytemnestra might have been telling the truth: that she was enraged by the ...death/murder/sacrifice of her daughter. But the audience would have been engaged. And the marvel is that the play works emotionally today as well. But likely from the other side of the spectrum: We mostly emphasize with Clytemnestra....but a small part of us can recognize the pressures and obligations of Agamemnon perhaps have some sympathy for his dilemma.

For myself, I didn't care as much about the trial. Perhaps there's a little Fury in me...maybe I relish the emotional overmuch....The Eumemides, the play, seemed to lack passion.

And, too, I must say that I was disappointed in the trial. Yes, Greek standards of was doubtless different than today in the USA standards.


OK, what disappointed me in the trial was that it didn't seem to be looking for The Truth...or even the truth.


And Athene in line 430 is right on! "You wish to be thought to act justly rather than to do so."

'
The Furies enter their side of the argument as a technocratic/black-white issue: "Mother-slayers are guilty. Mother-slayers are guilty. That's the law. Case closed." (Granted, they did put forward a better argument later in the trial.)

Orestes, I thought, brought in a good defense. First he offered proof that he's not "polluted" about line 445. (Kind of like a 5th C BE lie detector test: If I can talk, then I must walk [free].)

And clever of him---and not truth-serving---to bring in Apollo. Line 464, about: "And together with me Loxias is answerable."

In absolute terms, whatever Apollo's involvement was, Orestes was the one who killed his own mother. BUT, might not Orestes putting Apollo forward as just as guilty or just as innocent influence some of the votes in the trial?

And Athene. I had mixed feelings about her. On the one hand, she's not looking to find the truth, the guilt, the innocence. Her end game is to protect Athens, I think. Her first question: 676: How must I dispose to escape your censure? Hardly the question i would expect to hear voiced at a trial.


But, I did admire how she went about achieving her goal.

(I'm afraid of accidently erasing my post as I write. Will post and continue.)


message 6: by Silver (new)

Silver One of the things of which I found interesting, is that we have the Furies whom are referred to as being "goddesses" thus they are feminine, defend Cly and arguing against Orestes for killing his mother, while they completely discount any relevance in Cly's killing her husband, to them that is a complete non-issue, they say because there was no blood relation.

Than we have Apollo, who is the masculine, defending Orestes, and arguing that the death of the father and husband was a greater crime than the killing of the mother, and he tries to argue that mothers are not even true parents so killing of one's mother is insignificant.

The trial was a sort of battle of the sexes.


message 7: by Adelle (last edited Oct 13, 2010 11:39AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments It seems to me that in saying "for there is no mother who bore me...Therefore I not give greater weight to the death of a woman" about 740, that Athene is implying that SHE is going to be emotionally neutral...therefore HER judgment should ,be considered valid.

But with her very next breath, she slips in "ONE WHO SLEW HER. The watcher of the house. So Athene IS introducing emotional aspects to sway the voters.

And she knows her Erinyes. She spends the next few pages stroking the egos of the angry Furies. "You are not defeated." "No dishonor"

And then the bribes. "I promise you you shall have"

And near threats. I could borrow Zeus's lightening bolt....Ah, "But there is no need. Let me persuade you."

Etc. Etc.

Oh, this I liked. Remember back to the first play, the scene in which Clytemnestra told Agamemnon that he should yield to her because he was strong enough to yield. Athene yields and yields...in some ways....in repeated soothing the Erinyes...."I shall not weary of telling you of the good things I offer." about 883.


Do you think, perhaps, Athene can do this because, having sprung directly from Zeus's head, that she's more cerebrial, less emotional?


message 8: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Silver wrote: "One of the things of which I found interesting, is that we have the Furies whom are referred to as being "goddesses" thus they are feminine, defend Cly and arguing against Orestes for killing his m..a battle of the sexes."

I think we tend to view it as a battle of the sexes because we've been culturally conditioned to "see" that aspect. But, and correct me if I'm wrong, didn't Orestes have to kill his mother lest the Furies pursue him and torture him? I thought there was a whole page of terrible outcomes that the Furies would pour over his life if he did NOT kill his mother. So they would seem to be equal opportunity torturers. And had Electra been half the man her mother was (had she acted "man-like") and killed her mother, the Furies would have been after her.


Apollo. Yes, Apollo certainly does seem to be backing the masculinity. But I can see his point. Killing a mother is (5th century BC) not as bad as killing a husband or a father. Husbands and fathers are (then) just so much more important.

Culturally, financially, socially, women just were not as necessary. One could always get another wife. And she'll take care of any existing children. Much more difficult to find another husband willing be marry an older woman and willing to take care of any existing children. So what happens to the children?


Mmm. I think you can look at society today. What with more women working outside the home for actual money, the absolute NEED for a husband has lessoned.
What was that ad from the 80s? "I can bring home the bacon. Fry it up in the pan...." Gainful employment has in many ways improved women's position vis-a-vis men. Provided more options, if you will.

Orestes: line 600. My mother, in effect, killed two people: her husband, and my father. I thought that rather good.


I wonder about Apollo's remarks about lind 658.

"she who is called the child's mother is not its begetter,
but the nurse of the newly sown conception.

The begetter is the male, and she is as a stranger for a stranger for a stranger preserves the offspring,
if no god blights its birth."


Kind makes you stop and read that twice.

And yet....I don't know where science was 5th century BC. It's possible tha the understanding back then was that the male provided the "life-force" and that the child grew within the mother much as wheat seeds, etc, grew in the soil. What I'm saying is, perhaps they believed that the mother/soil provided no actual ... material.... simply an environment in which to grow.
In a way, is it possible that they viewed, on some level, the mothers of the children as we view surrogate mothers?

IE, back then: the children obviously belong to the father. now: the children obviously belong to the couple/or person who contracted for them.

I think there have been court cases. The surrogate mother claiming, "This is my child. I should have some rights. What about ME?" Clytemnstra having claimed, "My daughter is my child. I should have some rights. What about ME?"


message 9: by Silver (last edited Oct 13, 2010 11:47AM) (new)

Silver Adelle wrote: "Silver wrote: "One of the things of which I found interesting, is that we have the Furies whom are referred to as being "goddesses" thus they are feminine, defend Cly and arguing against Orestes fo..."

It was Apollo who was going to torture Orestes if he did not kill his mother. As the Furies during the trial repeatedly express their complete lack of interest in Oreste's need to avenge his father, they only care that he killed his mother. And Cly's killing of Agamemnon means nothing to them.

It was Apollo who demanded that Orestes kill his mother, which is why he now comes to defend him at the trail.

Here are the lines from the 2nd play in which Oreste's recites the words of the oracle of Apollo:

Apollo's great oracle
surely will defend me. Its orders were
that I should undertake this danger.
It cried out in prophecy, foretelling
many winters of calamity would chill
my hot heart, if I did not take revenge
on those who killed my father. It ordered me
to murder them the way they murdered him,
insisting they could not pay the penalty
with their possessions. The oracle declared,
"If not, you'll pay the debt with your own life,
a life of troubles."


The Furies came to torment Oreste's only after he killed his mother.


message 10: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments You may well be right, and I'll re-read that section. My interpretation was that Apollo told Orestes what would happen to Orestes if he did not kill his mother. But I never got the sense that Apollo was going to cause these things to happen. My sense was that the Furies would cause the tribulations and that Apollo was using that as a spur.

But again, I may have misinterpreted. Will re-read.


message 11: by Silver (new)

Silver Adelle wrote: "You may well be right, and I'll re-read that section. My interpretation was that Apollo told Orestes what would happen to Orestes if he did not kill his mother. But I never got the sense that Ap..."

Hmmm I guess it does make a mention of the Furies further down below, which I had overlooked before.

It mentioned other miseries as well—
attacks by vengeful Furies, stemming
from a slaughtered father's blood, dark bolts
from gods below, aroused by murdered kinsmen
calling for revenge, frenzied night fits.


I am not sure what to make of that. As it contradicts the words of the Furies during the trail. Were there different sets/types of Furies which concerned themselves with different sorts of crimes?

For here it talks of Furies which stem of the slaughtered blood of fathers, but the Furies during the trail clearly are concerned specifically with those whom kill blood relatives.


ORESTES
She killed her husband and my father.

CHORUS LEADER
But her death evens out the score for her.
You're still living.

ORESTES
When she was still alive
you didn't hound her into exile. Why?

CHORUS LEADER
She and her victim shared no common blood.

ORESTES
And my mother and me? Are we blood linked?

CHORUS LEADER
How else could she sustain you in her womb,
you murderer? Do you now reject
the closest bond there is, a mother's blood?



message 12: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Furies mentioned further down :) Thanks for finding that! Now I won't have to re-read The Libation Bearers.

Silver, you make good points about the remarks made at the trial. I want to try to address them (I haven't any answers right now), but I have to read Veblan for F2F. I do most sincerely look forward to looking at the trial scene again and --maybe---figure out why the Furies are presented there as they are. Look forward to engaging your points Friday or Saturday. Sorry for the absence.


message 13: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4614 comments Silver wrote: "The trial was a sort of battle of the sexes.
."


It is also a battle between the old gods and the new. The Furies as the ancient "chthonic" gods are threatened by Athena and Apollo as the new Olympians. The Furies back down only when Athena guarantees that they will still have power in the world. The result of the trial is as much about this as it is about the fate of Orestes, I think. There are also political undercurrents: what will happen to the old ways when this new thing, democracy, takes hold? In some sense these feelings haven't changed -- conservatism is always concerned about change. Athena is able to persuade the Furies that this change does not mean that they will no longer have a place. Even today our system of justice maintains a place for vengeance.


message 14: by Silver (new)

Silver Adelle wrote: " Furies mentioned further down :) Thanks for finding that! Now I won't have to re-read The Libation Bearers.

Silver, you make good points about the remarks made at the trial. I want to..."


I think I figured out a way to make sense of the whole Furry thing. And it is a sort of damned if you damned if you don't type of deal.

The conclusions I have come to is that becasue Cly and Agamemnon are not blood related than Cly's murder of her husband does not fall into Fury jurisdiction so it is not for them to punish her, or torment her while she still lives for the crime.

But becasue Orestes is related by blood to his father, than he is obligated to avenge his father's death, and if he does not the Furies will torment him for it. Yet as it so happens the murderer of his father is his own mother, so to avenge his father he must kill his mother and killing his mother will incur the wrath of the Furies.

So if he does not avenge his father the furies will torment him

Yet if to avenge his father he must kill his mother, than the furies will torment him.

But since he was acting under the order of Apollo, in the end he was let off the hook and saved from the ultimate wrath of the Furies.


message 15: by Silver (new)

Silver Thomas wrote: "Silver wrote: "The trial was a sort of battle of the sexes.
."

It is also a battle between the old gods and the new. The Furies as the ancient "chthonic" gods are threatened by Athena and Apol..."


Yes I found that interesting to, the differences between the olds gods and the new, the concept of how much older the Furies were compared to Athena and Apollo.

Part of the trail was an expression of the fears the Furies had of what would become of the world if the old laws are overturned by the new, as they express in one of their speeches their fears that if they are overturned, thus their power seemed to be weakened, than chaos would erupt and people would think they could get away with anything. They feared that the change would disrupt order as much as they were fearful for themselves and their own position.

I also found it interesting how Apollo came of as being a young, arrogant, sort of spoiled brat almost, in how he was so contemptuous of the Furies, yet Athena acknowledged their value and their worth and spoke to them with respect, and acknowledged their greater knowledge over the younger gods. Though of course she still ultimately sided with her own by ruling in Apollo's favor.


message 16: by Audrey (new)

Audrey | 199 comments The big, mitigating factor in this trial is that Orestes was acting under the orders of the gods. In addition to seeing Athena as "siding with her own" against the older gods (which I agree with), I think it's important to consider the ramifications for the gods if Orestes is found guilty. He killed Clytemnestra because Apollo told him to. Apollo not only admits to this, but actively defends Orestes at the trial. If Orestes is found guilty, anyway, it considerably undercuts the gods' authority. Though there are several instances in mythology of gods using mortals to fight their battles, I can't think of any other time when a mortal would be punished for following a god's orders. The closest I can think of is the Trojan War, where Aphrodite offers Helen to Paris, and Paris angers Zeus by taking her up on the offer. I don't think this is quite in the same category, because Aphrodite is really just tempting Paris with something she thinks he'll find appealing. Apollo, on the other hand, actually threatens Orestes with the Furies if he doesn't comply. He seems to have presented the matter as a moral obligation. Think of the consequences to society if the gods' opinions on moral responsibility couldn't be trusted.


message 17: by Audrey (new)

Audrey | 199 comments I also think it's significant that the vote is evenly divided. That means that, even with the mitigating factors of the obligation to avenge family members, Apollo's coming out in support of Orestes, Athena's support for Orestes, and the fact that Orestes acted under threat from a god, half of the jurors still found him guilty. I think this shows that the murder of one's mother is still considered an incredibly serious crime.


message 18: by Silver (new)

Silver Audrey wrote: "I also think it's significant that the vote is evenly divided. That means that, even with the mitigating factors of the obligation to avenge family members, Apollo's coming out in support of Orest..."

Yes that is a good point, I had forgot about that. Particularly considering the fact that all of the jurors back than would have indeed been men, it is important to note, that there was still a number of them, that despite Cly killing her husband, and father of her children, which would have been seen as the greater crime to killing a mother, and in spite of the duty for the son to avenge his father, in addition to being commanded by Apollo there was still a number of members on the jury that found the thought of killing ones own mother to be an unpardonable and inexcusable offence.


message 19: by Adelle (last edited Oct 14, 2010 01:33PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Silver wrote in post 14...re the Furies...damned if you do/damned if you don't.

Your reasoning looks dead on to me. The blood-of-kin aspect is what they seemed centered on. Hence they had no interest in torturing Clytemnestra.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

On an entirely different note, I was fascinated to learn that "interactive" theater is not a modern concept at all. The Eumenides ends with the whole cast AND the audience in a procession through the city, as the "women of the city" chant or sing the triumphant final chorus of the play and the trilogy. Very thrilling that must have been; the atmosphere must have been electric, sort of like the atmosphere in Chile late yesterday.


message 21: by Silver (new)

Silver One of the other things which I found quite interesting about this play, is that the time in which it was written, the people still very much believed in these gods, and believed they were an active part in their lives.

For them Athena and Apollo are still very much real, and yet they are portraying them as characters within a play. And thinking about it as a play, the idea that there were be mortal men personifying Apollo and Athena and presuming to speak for them. Though what transpires in the play is drawn from what they already known happens within the original myth. It is strange to think of these people acting out these roles of what of these gods whom were still very real to them.

I guess to the Greeks mimicking the gods was not really considered to be an offence against them. Or would the play in a way be seen as a reverence to them?


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, I was wondering the same thing. Would Apollo really appreciate being portrayed the way he was? Or did the audience somehow think he came across pretty godlike?


message 23: by Silver (new)

Silver M wrote: "Yes, I was wondering the same thing. Would Apollo really appreciate being portrayed the way he was? Or did the audience somehow think he came across pretty godlike?"

Yes, I thought Apollo came off as being a bit petulant and somewhat immature even. But that could just be my modern influence thinking that way. In the Greek eye, they could have seen Apollo's behavior as perfectly admirable.


message 24: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4614 comments Silver wrote: "One of the other things which I found quite interesting about this play, is that the time in which it was written, the people still very much believed in these gods, and believed they were an activ..."

Earlier in the discussion someone compared this trilogy to a "passion play," and that makes a lot of sense to me in light of your comment. Milton's God might be a good comparison -- God in Paradise Lost is a character as well, and Milton's religion was far less flexible for him than Greek religion was for Aeschylus. In either case the audience knows that this is just a play written by a mortal man, and an entry in a competition as well. No doubt there were critics who disagreed with Aeschylus's portrayal.


message 25: by Silver (new)

Silver Thomas wrote: "Silver wrote: "One of the other things which I found quite interesting about this play, is that the time in which it was written, the people still very much believed in these gods, and believed the..."

Yes, I had for a moment thought of Paradise Lost, but the difference for me is that while fellow Christians might have disagreed with Milton's creating God as a character, I do not think Milton feared much that God himself would strike him down.

But in the Greek belief of the gods I would think there would be a much more real threat from retaliation from the gods themselves if they took offence to the way they were portrayed in the play.


message 26: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4614 comments Silver wrote: "But in the Greek belief of the gods I would think there would be a much more real threat from retaliation from the gods themselves if they took offence to the way they were portrayed in the play.
"


There were instances of desecration (such as the destruction of the herms during the Peloponnesian War) and blasphemy was not tolerated, but I can't think of any instance where a god was said to have intervened personally, except in literature. Are there any historical examples of this?


message 27: by Silver (new)

Silver Thomas wrote: "Silver wrote: "But in the Greek belief of the gods I would think there would be a much more real threat from retaliation from the gods themselves if they took offence to the way they were portrayed..."

Not that I know of, but what I meant to say was that as we can see from the myths of the Greeks, the Greeks did believe that the gods actively interfered in their lives and had a real influence upon their day to day lives, and did retaliate against men.

The Greek gods are portrayed as being quite interactive, so you would think that the Greeks would have feared the possibility that if the gods took offence to how they were portrayed in the play, they would act against them.


message 28: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4614 comments Audrey wrote: "In addition to seeing Athena as "siding with her own" against the older gods (which I agree with), I think it's important to consider the ramifications for the gods if Orestes is found guilty. He killed Clytemnestra because Apollo told him to. Apollo not only admits to this, but actively defends Orestes at the trial. If Orestes is found guilty, anyway, it considerably undercuts the gods' authority. "

Something a little strange about the trial is that Apollo seems to know the results of the vote before it is returned. He says "I will win" at l.722, after which the Furies accuse him of cheating, citing an old story about how he made the Fates drunk so that they would let his mortal friend Admetus live beyond his appointed hour, and then right before Athena announces the verdict he says "the casting of a single ballot raised up a house." (l. 751) And then he just disappears?

I suppose both of those statements could be taken as rhetorical, but I find them curious anyway.

(The Greek word for "raised" is difficult here -- it's an indicative aorist, which isn't exactly past tense, but that's how it gets translated in English because it indicates a completed act.)


message 29: by Silver (new)

Silver Thomas wrote: "Audrey wrote: "In addition to seeing Athena as "siding with her own" against the older gods (which I agree with), I think it's important to consider the ramifications for the gods if Orestes is fou..."

That is an interesting point. I had initially just presumed that it was Apollo's confidence/arrogance, and believing that he had the better case, and perhaps taunting the Furies because he clearly disrespects them.

But it is possible that he and Athena conferred about this prior to it happening and already decided the outcome before the actual trail.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

What does the introduction of this trial do to the Greek understanding of Fate? Once we bring the idea that there is a court of appeal to which we can argue don't we diminish the power of fate?


message 31: by Silver (new)

Silver Zeke wrote: "What does the introduction of this trial do to the Greek understanding of Fate? Once we bring the idea that there is a court of appeal to which we can argue don't we diminish the power of fate?"

I do not see it as really diminishing Fate, because the outcome of the events were not changed, Orestes still had no real choice but to either risk forever being tormented by the Furies or kill his mother to avenge his father.

The outcome of the trail was only to determine if Orestes should fall to the wrath of the Furies for the murder of his mother, or if because he was working under the orders of a god he should be exempt.

But it does not really hold any baring on that which has already happened. It was Orestes fate to kill his mother, but it was not necessarily dictated by fate that he should suffer the punishment of the Furies, that was just the aftereffect of his killing his mother.


message 32: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4614 comments Even the gods were subject to Fate, so I would expect that a trial court would be seen that way as well. The decision of the jury must be in accordance with the fates, otherwise it could not be. It's a circular argument, but there it is.


message 33: by Adelle (last edited Oct 15, 2010 10:39AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Zeke wrote: "What does the introduction of this trial do to the Greek understanding of Fate? Once we bring the idea that there is a court of appeal to which we can argue don't we diminish the power of fate?"

I've been thinking along the same lines: the outcome of the trial diminished the power of Fate/the Furies.

Because prior to the trial the Erinyes (Furies/Fate) were the defenders of the natural order. And the Erinyes viewed the world in such absolute terms. (Did you do it? Then you are guilty and you SHALL punished. No negotiations. By the book. And only blood can counter blood.)

[Aside. I found that an interesting aspect...How long that concept held. Blood sacrifices were required for so long to "pay" for blood offenses. And in the Christian religion, Christians are said to be washed in the blood of the Lamb.)

But the outcome of the trial, I think, radically changed that concept. Because Orestes and Apollo received a favorable ruling, the whole mind-set of the people would have been changed. No longer would the Erinyes be delivering an absolute, non-negotiable punishment on blood crimes. The trial successfully introduced the concept mitigating circumstances.

And I think it was a seriously important step in diminishing the power of the Erinyes going forward. For Athene set up the law court at Athens. So significant, don't you think?

With the establishment of the law court, the gods are no longer the sole arbitraters of guilt or punishment. The citizens of Athens, men, not gods, have been empowered to make such decisions on their own.

It would stand to reason, I think, that as men become accustomed (spelling?) to making such life or death decisions that their sense of their own power would increase and their sense that the gods rule their lives or that the gods SHOULD rule their lives would decrease.


message 34: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments An intriguing question that I think The Eumenides raises is, "Without the fear/horror/dread of the Furies to motivate man, what will keep man civilized?"

Athene, Line 695, poses this concern:
"For who among mortals that fears nothing is just?"


message 35: by Adelle (last edited Oct 15, 2010 11:42AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Does the fact that Athene announces--- before the trial begins---that she will cast the deciding vote in favor of acquital if the vote is tied...Does this influence the outcome of the trial?


And doesn't our own justice system mirror this in that if there are not more "guilty" votes than "not guilty" votes, the verdict is rendered "not guilty"? All else being equal, we give the benefit to the defendant.

A further thought in this area:

Athene made an additional, equally important, alteration in the concept of justice...or at least the consideration of justice...in that she did not compel the verdict to come out in accordance with her preference. Had Athene so chosen, she COULD have used force to deal with the Erinyes. Athene had access to the lightening bolts of Zeus. She alludes to this, granted. A veiled threat? Probably. But her main thrust is to convince by persuasion.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Adelle wrote: "The citizens of Athens, men, not gods, have been empowered to make such decisions on their own. "

That's why I find it so odd that we don't get the opportunity to hear from even one of these men. Such a momentous occasion, yet Aeschuylus doesn't give us one peep from the jury members. Oh, well, he wanted to focus on the dialogue between Athena and the Furies so we could watch the process of that other momentous change. For Aeschuylus, compared to that, the sudden empowerment of mere citizens must not have had the same dramatic value.


message 37: by Adelle (last edited Oct 16, 2010 09:46AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments I did so love the opening lines of Pythia! It shows us the way to act and centers our thinking when considering matters of great import.

"First among the gods in this prayer I honor the first prophet" Line 1.

First (and I love the logic implied there: Do things rationally; have priorities.)

First pay respect (Marvelous! Paying respect---even if it's only ceremonial respect---honors others. Simply acknowledging others is important, but paying respect goes further. And in doing so, one is almost involuntarily reminded that because there are others that there are multiple points of view.

Also, having to go through the procedure of paying respect (first), it restrains the passions. One cannot properly pay one's respects in an angry tone of voice. One must calm oneself down first....and that alone will go far towards helping one view the issues at hand more rationally.

Moreover, it is the gods that Pythia offers praise and prayers to. In mentioning the gods, the listeners are reminded of their humanhood. Our all encompassing humanhood. The human hearers against their will almost have to remember that they, too, have made mistakes. And in a trial situation, that just might lean the jurors a little towards sympathy, towards trying to see the events in question from the defendant's point of view...towards considering mitigating circumstances.

Pythia, line 4, "in succession, with the consent of Themis, and with no violence done to any" Mmmm. Reminds the hearers that even among the gods violence is not always necessary.


message 38: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments M wrote: "Adelle wrote: "The citizens of Athens, men, not gods, have been empowered to make such decisions on their own. "

That's why I find it so odd that we don't get the opportunity to hear from even one..."


I agree with you on the dramatic issue absolutely. A juror with whom we've no established history suddenly entering the dialogue would have disrupted the flow. So having the results of the vote revealed as simple information let the play move directly on to Athene. And after all, we the audience are wondering how she's going to handle it.

(But also, of course, modern trials, too, follow suit.
The jurors don't get to explain why they voted as they did. Just that simple line the one juror delivers: "Guilty." or "Not guilty.")


message 39: by Silver (new)

Silver Adelle wrote: "Zeke wrote: "What does the introduction of this trial do to the Greek understanding of Fate? Once we bring the idea that there is a court of appeal to which we can argue don't we diminish the power..."

As the political side of the trail has been mentioned before and the idea of the old vs the new, I think this trail was as much a power play as it was anything else.

It was significant step for the new gods to establish there dominion and a slight to the older gods. I do think that Apollo and Athena worked in cahoots together upon this. Athena was able to undercut the power of the Furies by ruling in favor of Apollo, becasue of course if the Furies were allowed to win the case it would have diminished Apollo's position.

If people saw that even when doing the bidding of the gods, they could still be punished for it, than they may be less than willing in the future, as well people might start to see the new gods as not being as powerful or as influential.

But the Furies still posed a potential threat, what would people think if becasue of a decision that Apollo and Athena made the Furies unleashed thier wrath upon the people, and while she may have had access to the power of the lightning bolt to use against them, I think being the cause of a war with the old gods would have reflects badly upon them. So Athena has to find a way to placate the Furies to establish the power of the new over the old.


message 40: by Adelle (last edited Oct 15, 2010 12:51PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments .


message 41: by Adelle (last edited Oct 15, 2010 01:41PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Oh, yes! A power play, indeed. Were Dylan a wandering poet/bard circa 5th century Athens he could have written "Only a Pawn in Their Game" about Orestes. As shown in these plays, the gods didn't seem to have much empathy for humans.

But The Great Game? You know it. And Athene was playing point guard for Athens. Also, as you pointed out, she's playing for Apollo, and I think, Zeus, "from whom the authority of Apollo's oracles is derived" (Lloyd-Jones 202).

As Silver observed, "if the Furies were allowed to win the case it would have diminished Apollo's position."

Athene keeps her objectives always in mind. (Being so cerebral, she can stay well focused, yes?)

(1) Athene must ensure that Apollo's authority is not undermined. (As mentioned by others above: he's family, he's the new generation.)

(2) Athene would want to do almost everything in her power to ensure that the Erinyes do not destroy Athens in a fit of rage. (Athens is, after all, her city.)

"But how to do it? That's the question. These things must be done delicately" (WoO).

Athene's a master. You read the play. You know. She early on tells the Erinyes that for her to understand where the Erinyes are coming from, they [the Erinyes] are going to have to tone down the emotions and concentrate on rational explanations.

Line 420: "I shall learn them, if a clear account is given."


She tells them that she's going to have to hear both sides of the story. Line 427: "Two parties are present, and we have heard half the case."

Then she flatters them, cajoles them, patiently listens to them as they repeat make their complaint:

Line 836 "That I should suffer this, alack, ... making me count for nothing."

Ah-ha! It's not only a question of--- why, it's not even primary a question of --- Orestes' guilt. What's at issue, at bottom, is ego. *(Got a whole post to write on that.)

And Athene is here brilliant. She knows the power of passions, and the Erinyes are almost pure passion. AND, the Erinyes apparently possessed "the power to bestow ferility, and hence prosperity and happiness" (Lloyd-Jones 200). And too, my notes say that there was a cult of worshipers of the Erinyes at Athens. All the more reason not to enrage the Erinyes, but to co-opt them, make them team players for Athens.


message 42: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments M wrote: "Adelle wrote: "The citizens of Athens, men, not gods, have been empowered to make such decisions on their own. "

That's why I find it so odd that we don't get the opportunity to hear from even one..."


It occurs to me that that would have been an entirely different play. Much like Twelve Angry Men in which the defendant/lawyers/judge have relatively small roles; the movie pretty much concentrating on the jury room...the jurors arguing and arguing. And it was a fascinating look into the minds of the men deciding guilt or non-guilt.


message 43: by Adelle (last edited Oct 16, 2010 06:45PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments This might be a tad iffy, but I found myself thinking along these lines.

It seems to me that The Eumenides can be viewed as a psychological allegory.

The Erinyes/Furies struck me as representing The Unconscious of the mind---the unfiltered emotions, the non-rational. "Dread to tell of and dread for the eyes to see" (line 34).

Similarly, because unconscious emotions are raw, primitive, untouched by any civilizing influences, they're often "ugly" emotions.

Athene would represent The Conscious, the rational.

Freud wrote that "every earlier stage of development persists alongside the later stage which has developed from it," and I could see that in The Eumenides, too, in that 1) Athene sprung from Zeus, so she is effect a "later stage" and 2) in setting up the law court at Athens, her city, she didn't dismiss or reject the Erinyes...she incorporated them, retaining their strengths, but restraining their passions through reason and rational persuasions.

I was thinking, too, how if we have deeply supressed feelings [and Erinyes=unconscious feelings] such that our emotions are practically eating us up alive/tormenting us/driving us insane...we can't fix ourselves. At this point in our lives, we are like Orestes in The Libation Bearers, in that our emotional/psychological problems are invisible to others.


We have to visit a psychoanalyst who can help us bring our unconscious emotional problems to light so that others can "see" them, too; who can help us understand why we acted as we acted; who can help us live...(help us live with ourselves) [to make the trip to the Delphi/Apollo to rid ourselves of the "pollution"...and help us live].

And lastly, I couldn't help but notice that in The Libation Bearers that the Erinyes were called the Erinyes (literally "the angry ones"). However, the title of the third play is "The Eumenides" (literally "the kindly ones"). After therapy, a positive role in life can be undertaken.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

@Adelle: Fascinating speculation.


message 45: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Zeke wrote: "@Adelle: Fascinating speculation."

Yeah, a bit out there on the edge, but, lol, it shows I've been engaged with the play!


message 46: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I’ve been sitting back watching this great discussion develop with enormous pleasure. What a great set of insights! I’m going to make an omnibus response.

Great series of posts between Adelle and Silver, both making excellent points. I loved Adelle’s great summaries, and particularly her discussion of the ways in which Athena tried to persuade and placate the Furies.

Interesting point from Silver [5]: The trial was a sort of battle of the sexes. To what extent do you see this as confirming, and to what extent challenging, the status quo of gender relationships in 5th century Athens?

I also agree with Thomas’s point that it was also a battle between the old gods and the new gods. It helps to understand this if you know a bit of the early history of the gods; they didn’t just spring into existence as we see them in Aeschylus’s day, or even in Homer’s, but there was a great contest between the earliest gods, including Gaea, Nemesis, Uranus, and the Titans, particularly the youngest Titan, Cronus, who (and this is passing over a lot of mythology! not to mention that I am giving one version of the myths; there are others) gave birth to Zeus. Eventually there was a war between Cronus and the old gods against Zeus and the young gods, mostly the children (by various means) of the older gods. It was only after this victory that Zeus became the chief god on Olympus. But before the birth of Zeus, Cronus had castrated his father, Uranus, and thrown his genitalia into the sea; the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood. So they were “old” gods. Whereas Athena was “born” out of the head of Zeus, so represents the newer gods. Again, things are a lot more complex than this, but this is why there is a sense in the play of the conflict between the old and new gods, which is also a conflict between the old justice of retribution represented by the Erinyes and the new justice of trial represented by Athena.

Audrey [17] mentioned the split vote; I see this perhaps as representing the split in Athens between those who would retain the old form of government and those who were in favor of the new democracy. Aeschylus tells us which side he comes down on!

When Thomas [28] notes Something a little strange about the trial is that Apollo seems to know the results of the vote before it is returned. He says "I will win" at l.722, after which the Furies accuse him of cheating, citing an old story about how he made the Fates drunk so that they would let his mortal friend Admetus live beyond his appointed hour,, I’m not sure it’s so much that he knows the outcome in advance as that he is saying he will do what it will take to win, and he thinks he’s powerful enough to pull it off. But I could be wrong here and Thomas right.

Zeke asked [30] What does the introduction of this trial do to the Greek understanding of Fate? Once we bring the idea that there is a court of appeal to which we can argue don't we diminish the power of fate? As I understand the concept of fate, it was basically concerned with the span of a man’s life – when he would die – and not with all the aspects of life. Otherwise, for example, the plays of Sophocles, such as Oedipus and Antigone, would be meaningless because what they did would have been predestined and so where would the drama or tragedy be? In the Iliad, for example, it seems that it was more a matter of “if today is my fated day to die, I will die as well as I can.”

Adelle [34] asks, presciently, An intriguing question that I think The Eumenides raises is, "Without the fear/horror/dread of the Furies to motivate man, what will keep man civilized?” This is a question that was asked as the influence of Christianity in the West waned; without the fear of hell, what is to keep mankind civilized? One possible answer, presumably, is that the fear of the Furies will be replaced by the fear of the jury and its ability to determine guilt and subject people to punishment. But I’m not sure this is very satisfactory. Indeed, isn’t this an ongoing classic question which we ask can ask today as we watch the events unfold in the Mexican drug war, in the Sudan, in Rwanda, and in many other areas where civilization seems to have virtually disappeared? Indeed, wasn’t it a question that could have been asked of the trench warriors of WWI and of the terrible events in Germany in WWII, where a presumably civilized people acted with such barbarity? Another instance where the questions asked 2,500 years ago remain unanswered questions today!


message 47: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: To what extent do you see this as confirming, and to what extent challenging, the status quo of gender relationships in 5th century Athens?

That is an interesting question. I would say that the gender roles which existed in Greece at that time are confirmed through the outcome of the trail in which it was ultimately ruled that the death of the husband/father was of greater significance and a greater wrong than the death of the mother. And Apollo makes his arguments about the fact that a mother is not a true parent as a father is.

The enforcing of gender roles can also be seen within the differing natures of Apollo and the Furies, though I still think it is debatable who truly made the better case, Apollo is presented as being more logical, and rational in how he presents his case, as such traits were associated with men.

The Furies on the other hand are operating from what can be seen as a more emotional base, as pointed out before they begin by simply chanting that Orestes must die because he killed his mother, and that was that. They do not really take into account the other circumstances. The fact that Cly killed her husband, and the fact the Orestes had a duty to avenge his father and was ordered by Apollo to do so, not to mention that Apollo threatened Orestes with the Furies themselves is not taken into account by the Furies. Simply stating that Cly and Agamemnon is not a blood relation, is not really a rational argument. Than there is how they react to hearing the verdict, they threaten vengeance and are prepared to scourge the city and the rile against the court. Acting more so upon irrational emotion.

Yet I think the fact that there was a trial at all, and the fact that Athena was willing to allow the Furies to state their case (even if she had already predetermined the outcome) in addition with the fact that the vote among the jurors was even, is an acknowledgement of the way in which there is still recognition of the fact that the role of the mother is still sacred and important, and that to kill ones mother is a heinous act which should not go unanswered.

There is also the interesting fact that Athena sits in judgement of the trail. Having both a female figure judging over the case, as well as having the Furies, acting as prosecutors speaking out in the court, and debating against Apollo, and they do indeed make some clever arguments, as when they point out how Zeus behaved to his own father, is a challenge to the more traditional gender roles.


message 48: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4614 comments Everyman wrote: "without the fear of hell, what is to keep mankind civilized? One possible answer, presumably, is that the fear of the Furies will be replaced by the fear of the jury and its ability to determine guilt and subject people to punishment. But I’m not sure this is very satisfactory"

I think it's a key point that the Furies are not banished, and that their anger is dispelled by Athena's persuasion. The furies are not a party to this new system, and they threaten plague upon the land despite the verdict, but Athena persuades them that their power will not be diminished. At that point they change, and instead of threatening destruction they bless the city. They will still have a home, and they will still have power, but I think there is a suggestion that they will exert their power elsewhere, not in Athens.

Athena warns the Furies that she will not abide civil war -- there will be no "birds battling within the home," (l. 865, Smyth). Instead, she says, let "warring be with foreign foes." The discourse after the verdict is all about the city and the citizens, that they may be united. The last thing the Eumenides say before they bid farewell is "Rather may they return joy for joy in a spirit of common love, and may they hate with one accord; for therein lieth the cure of many an evil in the world." (Smyth, l. 984).

In order to survive and succeed as a united city, they must put aside the law of vengeance and the power of family curses. (Pericles was under such a curse, and it is probably not a coincidence that he was also the producer of Aeschylus' The Persians and led the chorus in his Seven Against Thebes.)


message 49: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Everyman wrote: "without the fear of hell, what is to keep mankind civilized? One possible answer, presumably, is that the fear of the Furies will be replaced by the fear of the jury and its ability to determine guilt and subject people to punishment. But I’m not sure this is very satisfactory"

Ah, Everyman, THAT is why I love the great books. Because great books are, in effect, the literary equivalent of 3D/Magic Eye pictures. When one has focused for a sufficient length of time and with intense concentration, Bam! One's perceptions are altered. One's focus is suddenly sharpened, and filled with wonder the reader realizes that it's not really about Orestes, or Hamlet, or a boy named Huck traveling down a river on a raft.

It's about questions such as the one you posed: "Without the fear of hell [and the Furies could make one's life a living hell], what is to keep mankind civilized?"

And no, unfortunately replacing tortures of the Furies with punishments determined by a jury and meted out by some bureaucratic branch of the government is not satisfactory either. Nor is it terribly effective.

What a conundrum.

Voltaire supposedly said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." Those who loved God would try to abide by God's admonitions and heed his advice out of love. Those that didn't love him would at least fear Him, and even if the motives of their lives weren't admirable, well, at least their actions would be and civilized society held that would be enough as citizens could sleep securely and securities in banks would be safe, etc.

{Family member is asking for computer. Will continue this line of thought in the morning.]


message 50: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: " Everyman wrote: "Ah, Everyman, THAT is why I love the great books. Because great books are, in effect, the literary equivalent of 3D/Magic Eye pictures. When one has focused for a sufficient length of time and with intense concentration, Bam! One's perceptions are altered. One's focus is suddenly sharpened, and filled with wonder the reader realizes that it's not really about Orestes, or Hamlet, or a boy named Huck traveling down a river on a raft. "

Precisely! And to go one step further, the other magic is that one realizes that these are questions humans have been wrestling with for thousands of years, and for all those years have felt, and continue to feel, that they are questions worth asking and trying to answer!


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