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Lecture 26

GRST 209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 26: Oresteia, Feud, Thyestes


Department
Greek and Roman Studies
Course Code
GRST 209
Professor
Bryan Natali
Lecture
26

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GRST 209 16 March Wed
The Cursed House of Atreus (Aeschylus’ Oresteia)
• Aeschylus Oresteia was produced
• Tragic reinterpretation of Homeric Myth
• 3 plays (only surviving trilogy):
Agamemnon,
The Libation Bearers (Choëphori)
Eumenides (The Kindly Ones)
• Family conflict and murder
• The Eumenides are spirits of blood vengeance personifying revenge (vendetta)
• Movement from violence and retribution to a more ‘civilized’ mode
• Issues of blood vengeance and filial duty at Argos become ones of civic law and
religious ethics in Athens
• Epic scope (as fas as tragedies go) starts in Argos end ends at Delphi ten years
later
• Aeschylus saw radical change at Athens in his lifetime (democratic reforms)
• Veteran of battles of Marathon and Salamis (Greeks vs. Persians)
• Aeschylus’ plays comment on Athens’ young democracy
• What is justice? Revenge (ancient unwritten law)?
• Unending cycles of violence: Tantalus & Pelops etc.; Thyestes slept with Atreus’
wife; Atreus fed Thyestes’ kids to him; Aegisthus killed Atreus and helped kill
Agamemnon; Orestes kills his mother to avenge Agamemnon’s death....
• The Athenian courts are the evolution from this vendetta justice (and associated
concepts blood guilt and magical purification)
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