The third play in the only extant Ancient Greek trilogy, Aeschylus’ The Eumenides brings the tragic story of Orestes and the house of Atreus to a conclusion. Orestes, the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, is called to exact revenge for his father’s murder by the god Apollo. He successfully kills Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, both fulfilling his duty and freeing the people of Argos from tyranny. However, before she died, Clytemnestra cursed Orestes, and just as he is preparing to be king, the Furies--hag-like creatures who pursue those who have committed blood crimes against family--appear and pursue him.
At the beginning of The Eumenides, Orestes collapses in the Temple of Apollo, wearied and near-mad from The Furies. His only hope for peace is to have a trial to lift the curse and cycle of blood vengeance. The god Apollo defends Orestes, as the goddess Athena presides over the defense and deliberations. A dramatization of the first courtroom trial, Athena’s wisdom upholds the political and civil significance of justice through law, rather than personal vengeance.
The Eumenides guide sections