La Orestía

ISBN: 8471627892
ISBN 13: 9788471627896
By: Aeschylus

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About this book

The most famous series of ancient Greek plays, and the only surviving trilogy, is the Oresteia of Aeschylus, consisting of Agamemnon, Choephoroe, and Eumenides. These three plays recount the murder of Agamemnon by his queen Clytemnestra on his return from Troy with the captive Trojan princess Cassandra; the murder in turn of Clytemnestra by their son Orestes; and Orestes' subsequent pursuit by the Avenging Furies (Eumenides) and eventual absolution.Hugh Lloyd-Jones's informative notes elucidate the text, and introductions to each play set the trilogy against the background of Greek religion as a whole and Greek tragedy in particular, providing a balanced assessment of Aeschylus's dramatic art.

Reader's Thoughts


On the grand scale of things, I now believe that if Aeschylus did not exist, Shakespeare would have died a poor actor in a tragic untimely death most likely caused by unfulfilled dreams.I'm saying this not because it is my intention to lessen the sheer poetic genius of Shakespeare, who still remains my all time favourite playwright (bar a play or two). It is because Aeschylus incorporated such a variety of themes/current affairs/implications/legal and dynastic issues and so on (for a hundred more pages) that whether one judges 'The Oresteia' trilogy from the basis of a dramatic text or from that of a literary text, it would not make any difference. It would still deserve all five stars from any critical perspective. 1) 'Agamemnon':A predominantly domestic tragedy, 'Agamemnon' explores the background of the events that led up to the Trojan war and its eventual capture ('the tragedy of war') and its motives and cause (we're looking at you Helen), Agamemnon's leadership (only his ship returned despite such a military victory, a political tragedy and Clytaemnestra's motive.As argued by more competent critics before me, this play is "not so much right against wrong as right against right". What this means is that Clytaemnestra had her own reasons too, Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigenia, his mistress Cassandra and her own lover Aegisthus (she claimed that no woman should be apart from her husband for ten years as well, poor her), though this is cause for such an atrocious murder is another thing. It is quite a lengthy play (though I was not bored), the material Aeschylus had to work on was limited so to make it dramatically entertaining is no small feat. There is also a similarity to Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth when Aeschylus admits his "desire to transcend the limitations of presentation". The play ends with Clytaemnestra expressing her desire that peace should bring good order into their cursed house...~4/52) 'The Libation Bearers':The bulk of the tragic legend, that both Euripides and Sophocles had named 'Electra' in their own interesting versions, which "takes place some years after the close of Agamemnon". I have already described the plot in detail in my reviews of both the 'Electra' plays. Aeschylus deliberately connected 'Agamemnon' with this one though, for "like Clytaemnestra at the close of Agamemnon, Orestes defends his position" as if he thinks that by his "innocent murder" he has brought peace to the accursed house. Well, he is also mistaken. Another interesting point is that from a character chart it can be clearly deduced that Aeschylus' 'The Libation Bearers' is a mother-son play, rather than focusing too much on the character of Electra. His chorus of grieving women does the job just as nicely.The famous revelation scene, where Electra understands that it is Orestes as she compare their footprints (as if they would be the same anyway, Euripides does a daring parody in his 'Electra') did seem to me to be a bit 'funny' (not to use the word 'false'). Still, this is a masterful play that set the standard for all the tragic plays to come.~4.5/53) 'The Eumenides'A very interesting take by Aeschylus on Orestes' fate, one which I had a confused idea about. Basically, Orestes finds himself "cleared by Apollo (who is a god who is able to assume responsibility for once) but still pursued by the furies".However, what is fundamentally significant in this play is the original way it debates the whole concept of the Hellenistic system of justice, through the character of the god 'Athene' (Athena). For example, when the furies argue that Orestes killed his mother deliberately, Athena acts as his advocate. She argues and advocates a lot of points that have since become the principles of the current modern legal system. 1) To hear both sides of the argument even if one side evidently wronged, 2) Wrong must not win by technicalities and so on. What is also relevant is that the goddess of wisdom (that sure comes in handy in a maths exam) leaves the case to none other than "the finest of her citizens". Of course, Aeschylus examines the furies' side of the argument as well. They argue that the "house of justice had collapsed" and that "every man will find a way to act his own caprice". They also say that "there are times when fear is good" (as if the divine order of things should be feared if it was respected and followed). The old system with the new system is also contrasted, one should remember that Zeus usurped his farther's (Kronos') throne, and ushered a new generation in his time as well. Maybe, Aeschylus is arguing that the time has come foe another, a better one...I could go on and bore you with many more line, for we are dealing with a master playwright here, one who has mastered not just the craft but developed a new standard and a new style. In Aeschylus, one has to think to gain any kind of satisfaction. ~4.5/5Overall 5/5, plays that deserve to be studied, read and enjoyed even though we are probably not the intended target audience.IMPORTANT: The quotes I used were from the brilliant introduction by Richmond Lattimore ('The Complete Greek Tragedies Volume 1', The University of Chicago Press)


Finally I understand the furies.


Incredible. The language and images are dense and often feel hidden behind this odd primeval sort of weightiness. I sometimes found myself having to re-read a line four or five times before I really got all of the little nuances at work. Agamemnon was the definite favorite, personally I found the end of the Eumenides to be just a bit too tritely well-resolved, but that's a paltry complaint overall. A short but extremely demanding read.


I'm giving this five stars for Agamemnon. I only give The Libation Bearers four. I wouldn't have objected to a few more explanatory notes in the text, but the Introduction was very good. I'm not normally a fan of murder, but Agamemnon is such a jerk that killing him hardly seemed like a crime. I'd have liked Clytaemnestra better, though, if she'd let Cassandra go.


This is more like it! I read Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers in the Grene translation, and Agamemnon was great, but The Libation Bearers was a bit "meh." So I got another copy, this one translated by Fagles, and What a Difference! Going by reviews, Grene seems to be regarded as more "literal," which sounds like a good thing, but I'll take "vigorous and engaging" over "literal and (a bit) dry" any day. Fagles' introductory essay was fascinating, if sometimes a little abstruse, and both The Libation Bearers and Eumenides were terrific this time. What a rat Apollo is, though!


** spoiler alert ** When I finished the first play in the trilogy of The Oresteia, titled "Agamemnon", where the king was slain by Clytemestra, his wife, I was bothered that no one seemed concerned that Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, (and Orestes and Electra's sister) Iphigenia. Orestes and Electra are hell bent on revenging their father's (Agamemnon) murder in the second play, The Libation Bearers, and do so. The last "The Eumenides" concerns the trial of Orestes.The play celebrated birth of tribunals in Athens - an achievement for the time. Aesclylus' was the earliest of the three ancient playwrights to survive to the 21st century and it helped me to know that he was the first to introduce a second character thereby creating dialogue. Some of his language (in translation) was impressive especially a few of Athena's speeches. My 21st century self is still horrified by 5th B.C.E. portrayal of women. I'm glad I read it.


Murder, betrayal, revenge, torment . . . you might wonder, “Why would I bother reading three Greek plays when I could see the same sort of lurid problems on an episode of Jerry Springer? And fold laundry at the same time??” Two possible answers: First, you’re not going to get patricide, matricide, human sacrifice and unintentional cannibalism on daytime TV because we still draw the line somewhere, and you have to admit those are pretty dramatic. More importantly, though, along with the dysfunction in the House of Atreus comes a searing examination of guilt, retribution, and justice. It’s a lot of philosophical bang for your buck.The first play in the trilogy, Agamemnon, sets up the conflict for the remaining two. Agamemnon returns home from the Trojan War to his wife, Clytemnestra, who has spent the last ten years plotting revenge because he sacrificed their daughter to appease a god at the outset of the journey. The verbal interplay at their reunion is the stuff of English majors’ dreams. Clytaemnestra’s subsequent murder of Agamemnon, with the help of a lover who has his own history with Agamemnon, is the stuff of Mafia dreams – though actually I’m only guessing on that one. However, Clytaemnestra’s revenge creates the conflict that drives the other two plays and generates the ethical conundrum Aeschylus ultimately wants to solve. For now Clytaemnestra’s son, Orestes, needs to avenge his father’s death . . . but what happens if you kill your own mother? And how is the cycle of revenge ever supposed to end??The Libation Bearers has Orestes debating what he should do, sort of like Hamlet, until the advice of his sister and the chorus women wins the day. . . and that’s when the excitement kicks up a notch. Clytaemnestra’s death at the hand of her son calls forth the avenging Furies — ancient goddesses of chthonic tradition who appear here as gorgon-like horrors, swathed in black, heads writhing with snakes. It’s so dramatic!! Also it’s fitting, for Clytaemnestra is like a Fury herself: in avenging her daughter’s death she acts within the old paradigm of blood ties that the Furies champion, wherein maternal claims are stronger than marital. So even though Orestes does his duty to avenge his father (in accordance with the current ethos), he’s pursed by snaky-haired horrors for killing his mother. Like his father, Orestes appears to be both an agent and a victim of fate, for in following the gods’ direction to avenge his father’s death, he both aligns himself with the Furies’ spirit of vengeance and becomes subject to it. Perhaps Orestes’ contradictory relationship with the Furies is Aeschylus’s commentary on a theology rife with snares and contradictions. In The Eumenides, Aeschylus resolves the problem, but his “solution” to the blood feud tradition is hardly unproblematic itself — read it and lose sleep! But you’ll know for sure why this is a masterpiece.

A.J. Howard

Just a few edition specific notes, because, really, who gives a shit what I have to say about Orestia. What am I going to say, "gee I don't really see what the greatest minds in Western Civilization over the past 2500 years see in this thing, it was boring." Nope, no one needs me to cape up for Aeschylus. Anyways, I was fretting over picking a translation before I had the problem solved for me by finding a nice used copy of the Richard Lattimore translation. I can't really speak to the comparative quality of this translation, but I didn't find any faults in it either. There is a pretty great introductory essay, that particularly serves the reader well for Agamemnon, but doesn't cover the next two plays (The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides) particularly well. (I would guess that the essay was originally written for an earlier volume that only included Agamemnon, and Lattimore quickly updated it for this volume.) However serviceable this essay was, explanatory notes were sorely missed. Unless you're either a expert's expert on Greek mythology or a transplant from pre-Alexandrine Hellas there is a lot of references that you're just not going to be able to get. There's only so much Wikipedia can do to help you. Hence, some of the long choral sections have a tendency to be either beautifully poetic or utterly incomprehensible. Hopscotching to reference notes can be a pain, but here it would be worth it.


This dramatic trilogy is amazing. Unless you are intensely familiar with Greek history and myth, get a good copy of Aeschylus' writing with notes and glossary in the back. I read a Penguin publisher edition, translated by Robert Fagles. It was beautiful. The language: stunning. My vocabulary, like most eary-twenty-somethings I know,is grossly bleak. My language skills suck. The third play, The Eumenidies is the first record of a trial in dramatic history. Drama is at its core, the art of a democratic civilization. But what good is democratic law, when our power of rhetoric, our knowledge of language, or ability to use our freedom of speech is weak beyond belief? ---Classics like this have disappeared from public education. Why?. . . Why? Because standards must sink in a passive socialist society. Well, that thought is just what sprung to mind. I'm not really sure why. The point is: people should be learning about the roots of their society, how democracy was born (i.e. in the theaters of ancient Greece), and how the knowledge of language is the greatest power a person can ever hope to weild. Introducing literature such as this early on in a person's life--like, before the age of ten--will expand their linguistic potential and also get them thinking for themselves. "Thinking for oneself" That phrase reminds me of another phenomena: independant thought, questioning authority--are other abilities that recede in a Socialist society along with the ability to put thoughts, impulse, and emotion into words, much less into flexible, persuasive, powerful rhetoric. You want world peace? Brain to banish the power of brawn? Then cultivate your mind, baby. Peace talks take persausive language by people with enough knowledge of speecha and words to creatively adapt their language to persuade another body of persons into doing what they want by their own volition. Basically, if you want world peace: make your four-year-old learn Greek and Latin. Let him/her read Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound and Orestia, and you will get a freethinking, genius of a kid.

Shannon (Giraffe Days)

Oresteia is the only surviving trilogy of Greek tragedy plays, performed in 458 BCE - two years before Aeschylus's death in 456 BCE. This review summarises all three plays as a trilogy, and because I think that it's easier to read them if you know what to expect, I do give away all the relevant plot points.The first play, "Agamemnon", is about betrayal: King Agamemnon returns home to Argos after the successful sacking of Troy (in modern-day Turkey), only to be killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover, Agamemnon's cousin, Aegisthus, who had taken over Agamemnon's rule in his absence. Clytemnestra is wrathful because her husband sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia, in order to placate the god Artemis and secure calm winds for the voyage to Troy, and kills Agamemnon in his bath. They also murder Cassandra, his spoils of war, the prophetess cursed to never be believed who sees her own death but is, of course, disbelieved. Such is the curse of Agamemnon's family continued.The second play, "Libation Bearers", is about just revenge, or deliverance. Clytemnestra and Agamemnon's son Orestes returns from another kingdom where he was sent to live, having learned from the oracle Loxias of his mother's murderous betrayal. Through Loxias he is given leave by the god Apollo to exact revenge by killing his mother and her lover. When he arrives at the palace he goes first to the tomb of his father to pay his respects; there he encounters his sister Electra, also in mourning. With the help of the palace servants, he disguises himself as a traveller bearing news of his own death so as to trick his way inside and see Aegisthus privately. He slews him and then his mother, who knows she is going to her death but does not fight it.The third play, "Eumenides", is about justice and change - it displays a new way of seeking justice, that in a new court-of-law, with the verdict decided by a group of citizen jurors in Athens. The Furies are hounding Orestes, demanding payment for the matricide. Orestes seeks out Apollo's temple and Apollo's protection, and then Athena (Pallas Athena), goddess of war, wisdom and justice (among many other things). Athena decides to hold a trial to hear the case, with the Furies the prosecution and Apollo defending Orestes. Athena casts her own vote in Orestes' favour, and the result is a tie: Orestes goes free. The Furies threaten to destroy the land but Athena placates them instead into protecting it, and decrees that henceforth a trial by jury shall always be used to decide such cases.That's the general overview of this trilogy of Greek tragedies, though there is a lot more going on in the details. I did struggle a bit, reading these short plays, because it's so hard for me to concentrate these days. I found my mind wandering continuously, thoughts intruding, and even when I made the effort to focus I often had to re-read passages several times and then admit defeat. The notes do help, but the fact remains that I had trouble with the structure of many lines, that like obscure poetry they alluded me. Full of metaphor and requiring a great deal of knowledge to get the mythic and historical references, a lot of "Agamemnon" in particular was hard to follow, in particular the Chorus' chants, like when they tell the story of the family curse (I only know that's what it's about from reading the intro and some notes. Other names are often used - like Ilion, for Troy, or Pallas, for Athena - and like an optical illusion the lines seem to double in on themselves so you don't know what the hell is really being said, or so it seems to me, like it's a language I don't know. It gives me a headache.Yet, on that note, it also made me wonder (an intruding thought among many), how these plays would have been heard by ordinary people, just as Shakespeare's plays were heard by the poor and uneducated as much as the rich - regardless, they all understood them, didn't they? I mean, the style of speech was understandable in all its convolutions and beseechings. We struggle to follow all the lines in Shakespeare today - it just makes me really recognise how much verbal language has changed, verbal English (I know Greek isn't English, but the translation honours the original). But I digress.I'm not entirely sure what to make of this story. We've all heard the story of Troy even if you haven't read The Illiad, and you've probably heard of Agamemnon and Cassandra too. Aeschylus wasn't the only playwright to create plays based on this myth of Agamemnon's murder - Euripides, for example, who came just after Aeschylus died, wrote one too. I've studied some ancient Greek plays, years ago, but I don't really have a background in it. To me, as a modern-day reader and an emancipated woman, I can't help but find them almost misogynistic in tone, even though scholars have apparently seen Clytemnestra as an early feminist figure for taking over the male role of ruler - the translator, Christopher Collard, Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Wales, says in his introduction that "it seems unnecessary to think of her as more than a playwright's imaginative construction for the sake of his drama." (p.xxvii) But there are far stronger anti-women sentiments voiced in these plays, especially the third one. (I want to bring it up not because I'm offended or anything, but because it's an interesting theme, to me at least, and because I vaguely remember when I studied Greek plays in university that strong, powerful, mad women are a common theme - but more than that, I can't remember!)In "Agamemnon", the king himself speaks of the gods' undivided and just support for the destruction of Tory, saying "it was for a woman that Troy was ground into dust..." (p.23)Apollo has the worst denouncement, though, when he says during the trial in "Eumenides":The so-called mother is no parent of a child, but nurturer of a newly seeded embryo; the parent is the one who mounts her, while she conserves the child like a stranger for a stranger, for those fathers not thwarted by god. [p.103] And Athena makes her judgement thus:It is my business in this case to give my judgement last; and I shall cast this vote of mine for Orestes. [...] I do so because there is no mother who gave me birth, and I approve the masculine in everything - except for union with it - with all my heart; and I am very much my father's: so I will set a higher value on the death of a woman who killed her husband, a house's guardian. [p.105](Athena, a rational goddess, is the daughter of Zeus, born of his head.)So combined with Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter, his other daughter Electra's idolatry of her father, Clytemnestra's usurping of a man's role and adultery, the gods' promotion of the masculine over the feminine is rather like having the last word. Bit hard to gainsay a god.I bring up the theme of women in these plays because I feel it is relevant in questioning, what is Clytemnestra's greatest crime here? Why does Orestes feel the need to kill her rather than bring her to justice? Certain lines jump out at me that make it apparent that her greatest crime was taking on a man's role, and therefore depriving Orestes of his inheritance. In "Libation Bearers", Orestes says of his decision to kill his mother, "Many desires are falling together into one; there are the gods' commands, and my great grief for my father; besides, it oppresses me to be deprived of my property, so that our citizens, who have the finest glory among men, and honour for their heart in sacking Troy, should not be subjects like this of a pair of women. [p.59](By "pair of women" he refers here to his mother's lover Aegisthus, who he calls "effeminate at heart".)I wonder whether she would have been so abominable in mens' eyes if she had not sought to rule, which she was doing in her husband's absence anyway. It is so easy in mythology to lay all blame and evil and everything that goes wrong, at the feet of women. What scapegoats we make! Though to be fair, if Athena had not cast her own vote, Orestes would have been found guilty, for her vote made it a tie in which case she decreed he would be pardoned. The majority of jurors voted against him. Which brings me to the big idea of the trilogy of plays, though: justice itself. Here we have the myth of how the first court of law, the first trial, began and was institutionalised in Athens, making it the most sophisticated and modern city-state in Greece. With the Furies trying to avenge Clytemnestra's murder and losing, they bemoan the change: "You younger gods! The ancient laws - you have ridden them down! You have taken them out of my hands for yourselves!" [p.106] The tied verdict, though, helps Athena, the patron of Athens, placate the Furies by saying they have not been dishonoured, and the goddess moves quickly to give the Furies a new role, that of protecting Athens rather than bringing destruction upon it for losing the trial. In doing so, she posits the city as the pinnacle of all things, blessed by the gods and made fortunate by the Furies who she gives the role of "keeping both land and cit on the straight way of justice." (p.111) In telling the story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra's downfall, this trilogy of plays gives us the mythologised story of how Athens became great - to an Athenian audience, so it's very much a self-aggrandising story.There's lots more going on here; I've barely scratched the surface. I don't feel I can give it a rating, so I've given it a 3 because it's so middle-of-the-road. In terms of the general plot, it brought to mind "Hamlet" and also "Macbeth" - it's true that everything borrows from everything else, and stripped down, I'm sure there are probably only about three real plots or something (or was it seven? I think there's a book on this already!). It's tricky to read because all the action happens off the page; or rather, it happens in speech, making it fairly bogged-down with details, but this was also an interesting aspect of the plays. It was hard to read Cassandra and Clytemnestra's dialogue when they are both aware they are walking to their deaths - there's real emotion in those lines. The chants of the chorus are the hardest to read, being like poetry rather than prose and requiring significant background knowledge to understand. A note on this edition: This is a new 2002 translation by Christopher Collard for Oxford World's Classics, and it's more of an academic translation than a popular, readable one. There is a long introduction and essay by Collard on the characters, the theatre production of the plays, dramatic form and so on, as well as extensive notes in the back. It comes with a summary of the three plays - which it's a great idea to read first or it's hard to follow what's going on - as well as a chronology of Agamemnon's family and a map that shows Greece and Turkey, which I really appreciated. All in all, it's a very thorough translation, noting when lines and words are missing from the original manuscripts, and probably your best choice if you're studying the plays.


It's paradoxically inspiring and frightening that the things the Greek playwrights were writing about still resonate today: inspiring that their insights and idiocies remain relevant to modern readers, and frightening that humanity has made so little progress that the insights and idiocies of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles still concern us.I picked up the Oresteia because I thought it was about time I put the plays to the tale I thought I knew. I found what I expected:The children were eaten: there was the firstaffliction, the curse of Thyestes.Next came the royal death [if we ignore the sacrifice of Iphigenia:], when a manand lord of Achaean armies went downkilled in the bath. Thirdis for the saviour. He came. Shall I callit that, or death? Whereis the end? Where shall the fury of fatebe stilled to sleep, be done with?The familiar bloody tale of cannibalism, infanticidal sacrifice, vengeance, more vengeance, and the Gods ordained entrenchment of patriarchy were all there. The three plays of the Oresteia -- Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides -- were brutal, lovely, frustrating, illogical, brilliant and exciting in turns. I spent some of my time trying to suss out a way to stage these entertainingly without wholesale change, and some of my time thinking about the insights and idiocies that the Oresteia offered.Amongst it all, I was shocked to discover something fresh -- at least to me. We often talk about the stultifying power of patriarchy, how that power has twisted up our cultures into the ugliness we know now, and the blame for that power is widely accepted to be the responsibility of those who made the power, hold the power and don't want to give it up.What struck me in the Oresteia is that most people, from that day to this, from Ancient Greece to our modern globalized world, are responsible for the power of patriarchy (at least partially) because they desire infantilization. Few, so very, very few, want to be adults (metaphorically speaking). They don't want to make choices, they don't want to accept responsibility, they don't want to face conflict, they don't want to think. They want protection, they want to be told, they want to justify, they want to conform, they want to remain permanent metaphysical children embracing illusory comfort.In the Oresteia the gods are credited with every act taken, so the players live or die believing that another is responsible for what they've done. They remain willing children of the gods.It's a human willingness that I see all around me 2,468 years after the Oresteia was written. Is it any wonder the concerns of Aeschylus still plague us today?

Anthony Nelson

I won't tell you what happens - read it for yourself. I will tell you that I read it every year - and have done since studying it at university decades ago. This is among the earliest surviving dramas - and also among the leanest, sparest and most elemental of all classical dramas. And it contains everything that defines tragedy - hubris, ignorance, fatal flaws, coincidence, discovery/anagnorisis, power, fall. If you've read Homer, then the Oresteia, while "set" in Homeric times, will demonstrate for you how society and art developed from the Bronze Age in Epic ("Age of Heroes") to the dawn of Classical Greece ("Age of the Polis") and the rise of Athens. Try to resist reading it as being "about" something, but instead as being both of its time and universal and timeless. It is many things, including an optimistic expression of the development of civilised society, and a mirror of the human condition.

Christopher H.

Personally, I believe that this is the best and most powerful translation of Aeschylus's brilliant triptych known as The Oresteia. While Peter Meineck's translation may be best suited for the stage, and Ted Hughes's rendition most poetic, it is my sincere opinion that Robert Fagles's translation is the most visceral and resonates most powerfully for me. The inclusion of William Bedell Stanford's introduction within this edition is simply a bonus as it is nothing short of brilliant!


Good stuff--Although somewhat confusing in parts (esp. the Chorus), it was still a pleasure to read one of the oldest surviving Greek tragedies. The only complete trilogy of Aeschylus surviving, Oresteia tells the story of Clytemnestra's murder of her husband, Agamemnon, then Agamemnon's son, Orestes's revenge on his own mother and her whipped wimp of a lover, Aegisthus, and finally Orestes's reconciliation with the crime of matricide in a bit surreal court scene of Apollo defending Orestes's murder against the accusation of the Furies (Eumenides) in front of a tribunal which Athena quickly composes of wise mortal men, saying that she the divinity/goddess of wisdom herself wasn't quite up to par to render judgment in such a hard case but those mortals put together can.Overall, I liked it.


I just finished reading The Oresteia, so perhaps it's premature to claim it as my favourite work in Greek and Roman literature; however, it is. The style is as elegant as The Parthenon, and the moral drama is a gripping as a Fury that is sucking the blood out of your body. I wouldn't go as a far as sacrificing my child or killing my mother to go back in time and watch the debut of this play, but I would pay a lot of money. Particularly interesting to me is the affect this had on Greek society. It reminds me of the biblical tale of the Jewish king Josiah (who happened to find a long-lost book of law that conveniently updated an already infallible, but out-of-date legal system for him). If someone decided to write a book to instantly propagate new ideas of governing and yet mesh the new system with the prevailing myths and prejudices of the times, that book would be The Oresteia. The formula is simple (framing the law as above man, and the changes as from the god/s, so no one can attack them as man-made or fallible), but the execution takes skill since it strikes most people as unnecessary for infallible things to change. The Oresteia is more compelling than the story of Josiah (or the Spartan king Lycurgus) because it gives voice to the old arguments subduing them in the process, and because the characters and plot have dimensions. You actually feel that Clytemnestra is making a good point every so often, and it isn't as if she and Aegistus are acting without meditation. I could ramble on about how much insight on Greek religion gets unpacked, how many memorable lines jump off the page, the complex themes of family and honor, the treatment of women as secondary, the politicing of Athena to ensure her judgment is honored, etc. Simply put, there were a lot of ideas The Oresteia clarified for me, and a lot of ideas it sparked in me. I'll read it again sooner than later.

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