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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2200
Kendall Sharp

Aeschylus, Eumenides ­ Very good source for how a myth teller (Aeschylus) makes an old myth culturally relevant ­ Play is about the establishment of the courtroom Aeschylus Oresteia: Libation Bearers ­ Now Oedipus is like Tiresias: he sees better with no eyes. He is also connected toApollo, though impure. Outcast status emphasizes his individuality & singularity. ­ “Call no man happy until he has died.” ­ Chorus was the slaves of the royal household ­ Basic action of story of Libation Bearers: o Begins with Orestes returning secretly and in disguise o Use Electra’s slaves to trickAegisthus o Kills Aegisthus, and then Clytemnestra to overthrow the government toArgos o Apollo told Orestes that he had to go avenge his mother because she killed his father but once Orestes killed her, the Furies were not happy about that o Orestes runs off and driven mad by Furies (Erinyes) Aeschylus Oresteia: Eumenides ­ Basic action of story of Eumenides: o Begins with Orestes, who pursued by Furies (Erinyes), is at Delphi for advice and purification fromApollo o Orestes has come back toApollo for advice o Apollo sends the party to Athens and says to haveAthena solve the problem o Athena sets up jury trial onAreopagus o Citizens ofAthens deadlock: accused goes free o Citizens ofAthens tie as to whether Orestes is guilty or innocent- Furies are angry at this result and as a compromise, they get their own shrine and the name the Kindly Ones (“Eumenides”) Points fromActual History (not Myth!) - Before Peloponnesian War,Athens v. Sparta tension - Peloponnesian war went on for about 30 years - Just before 460, atAthens, there was an internal political development (democratic reaction) against aristocrats who have been running the government - Democratic reaction againstAristocrats • Treaty with Argos* (an enemy of Sparta) • Democratic changes to court system 462-461 • Ephialtes: theAreopagus court • cp. 458 when Oresteia performed - Areopagus court is the seat of theAristocrat - Big change is that he limited the court to homicide - Sparta was slipping and as a result theAthenians formed a treated with the city ofArgos which was an enemy of Sparta - First point of cultural relevance because one of the difference that we’ve seen betweenAeschylus and Homer’s version of Orestes is that he makesAgamemnon King ofArgos not Mycenae so by sending it in Argos, it brings on a democratic cast - Makes changes to democratic court system and the leader is Ephialtes so he forms theAreopagus court (up to this point it has been the seat of the aristocrat families who had the most influence in the government up until just before this period)- he limited the courts powers - What we are told by the sources that the big change Ephialtes made is that he limited the courts powers for Pomoside (most important function) - Aeschylus makes the people ofAthens rather than theAristocrats, be the first jury to sit at the Areopagus court - Awhole trilogy is building towards what you in the audience would recognize as this resounding/highlighting of our own democracy and it’s basis in the populous (regular people who participated in the government) - These changes were made and every year there was a religious festival (Great Dionesia) where these tragic play writers would put on a trilogy of plays Structure of Eumenides - Has 4 different prologues - PrologueA: Starts at Delphi; Delphic prophetess sees Furies - “If there are any here from among the Greeks, let them come as the lot assigns them, in the normal way; for I give my prophecies as the god may lead me.” o Historically real o Not real: is that she can see Furies (other humans can’t) o Furies are visible to her and Orestes - “Terrifying! Terrifying to describe, and to see with one’s eyes--things to send me back out of Loxias’ house, so that I have no strength and cannot stand upright. I am running on my hands, without the quickness of feet and legs.An old woman in terror is nothing--no more than a child! (pulling herself together) I go to the inner temple with its many garlands, and I see at the navel stone polluted before god, sitting there in supplication, his hands dripping with blood and holding a new-drawn sword, with a tall-grown branch of olive duly wreathed with much wool, from a white fleece--with these details my account will be clear. In front of this man an amazing band is asleep, of women, sitting on the chairs--no, I do not mean women, but Gorgons; but on the other hand I can’t compare them to Gorgon-figures. .I did see those in a painting once before, carrying off Phineus’ banquet; these however have no wings to be seen; and they are black, utterly revolting in their manner, snoring out a breath which is unapproachable, while their eyes run with a loathsome fluid. Clothing of this form is not right to be brought near gods’ images or into men’s houses. I have not seen the race this company is from, nor the land which can boast of nurturing this progeny without harm or sorrow afterwards for its labour. Let what happens from now on be might Loxias’ own concern, who is the master of this temple! He is doctor and diviner together, and interpreter of portents and cleanser of others’ houses- p.86-87 o She sees Orestes sitting here and then describes what the furies look like because all they can be is actors wearing masks o Orestes: polluted, sits in supplication o Gorgons were hideous female figures (one of them was Medusa), suppose to be creatures who belong down in the soil but they are up and moving around o Every feature about them is revolting and they don’t belong in human society where religion is taking place o Furies are goddesses yes but they are out of their proper place o Orestes is covered in miasma (ritual pollution) - Prologue B: Orestes andApollo: Apollo’s big speech p.87 o These characters make a lot of arguments trying to justify themselves and soApollo lays out the basic issues o Apollo closes his speech saying “I did persuade you to kill your own mother” andApollo now contrast the older the form of justice that the Furies stand for and enforce compared to the justice of Zeus (justice of Zeus (viaApollo) vs. older justice) o Apollo has put the Furies to sleep and every though the Furies are divinities, they’re loathsome to other gods o Apollo says “Don’t let fear overcome your mind” o Orestes starts to leave andApollo tells Hermes to watch over him o Orestes is now an outcast o Orestes was subject to the family curse:Apollo is god of purification and Delphi is advice-center for ritual o Hermes is serving as god of travelers to protect Orestes andApollo says you can get to Delphi toAthens without having Furies get you but if you go further then you’re in trouble o We can settle this matter without any more killing - Prologue C: Clytemnestra and Furies: Clytemnestra’s long speech pp. 87-88 o Apollo sets up the themes of the play and Orestes predicament o This onversation is from the other side- Clytemnestra and Furies have a conversation o Clytemnestra is coming from Hades, the underground because she is dead andApollo says this is where he furies should live o On what grounds does she appeal to the Furies? • “I am dishonored bcs of you” • “no divine power is angry on my account” • “you have no pity for my suffering” (line 125) • I made night-sacrifices for you, shared by no other god o Clytemnestra is angry because Orestes isn’t dead and Zeus isn’t supporting her case o Clytemnestra is saying you Furies have no pity for my suffering o Clytemnestra cut offAgamemnon’s hands and genitals to make sure that he couldn’t avenge her in the underground but that didn’t work so she took other steps to make night sacrifices in case she ever got killed o Clytemnestra is telling the furies to stay asleep- here I am dishonored like this among the other dead because you of- this is because she is in Hades and feels unpopular o She is walking around with her stab wounds because you go to Hades looking like you did at the end of your life (stab wounds) o Orestes just left because he has already gone toAthens - Parados: Furies awake, singing: First chorus so the Furies who have been asleep now wake up and in this play the chorus consists of the Furies o “Son of Zeus there! You are turning to theft! Young god against old, you have ridden me down; and the suppliant has your respect, a man godless and harsh to his parents; you stole the matricide away--you, a god! Which of these things will be said to be just?” p. 89 • They are accusingApollo of injustice • The justice they stand for will be portrayed as “natural justice” because it’s based on blood ties (ties of kinship and being related to people) and respect based on fear of retaliation • One’s honour is based on the fact that if you harm me, I have a network of people who honour me enough and they will avenge you if you harm me • Pre-legal societies- justice isn’t administered by the government, society hinges on the fear of retaliation preventing crime • In the Iron age, one of the things that is wrong is that children disrespect their parents (Iron Age in Hesiod regarding parents) • What it means to disrespect your parents, it means that you are not valuing their tie to them that you would retaliate them if someone injured them- so furies wake up and are singing this song - Episode 1A: Apollo argues with Furies, Apollo is going to stand for non-natural justice, justice of the city, legalized justice; page 90-91 o InApollo’s words he says that the Furies are disgustingly old-fashioned (violence) o Apollo is in the play addressing theAthenians o The legal case will turn on a rule, rule of law,Aeschylus is the guy who is writing all of these speeches (both sides of the debate)- he is handling a political theory theme and the word that he uses is prerogative o Prerogative- what Hermes wanted (seat at the table) and this is why he did all the tricks he did because he wanted to be honoured & treated as an equal with other children of Zeus o In the Theogony, we see Zeus settles down the universe and makes it safe for everyone to live by assigning honour to the gods and goddesses o Since gods are immortal, you can’t punish by killing them, you can either dishonour them or fight them; in this play, when the gods say I’m feeling dishonoured it’s like a human saying I’m afraid of being killed o Contrast is the difference between the father child relation and the mother child relation o Aphrodite’s who’s name is Crypis, her divine prerogative is used to pervert natural explanation (natural explanation- children should honour their mother more than fathers because they are actually born out of the mother) o Apollo has an argument around this but by the end of this, the gods ultimately get along and are on the same side as each other o Furies are revolting, corpse like creatures o There is a double standard about violence-Apollo is saying you guys are gross with your use for violence o Saying the mother there is a blood relation but the father isn’t blood related o When you get married, you make a pledge to Hera and Zeus- you are disrespecting Hera and Zeus they are saying o Chorus says “don’t you try to curtail my prerogative” - Episode IB: At Athens, Orestes supplicates, Furies call him prey; the location changes and it is now inAthens and the Furies say they’re going to attack Orestes; p. 92-93 o Orestes says that he is pure becauseApollo has purified him from murder o Apollo has another name- **know it, another one is Thebus o Orestes says he has been taught that he was instructed to speak by a wise teacher (Apollo) o Orestes is saying as a result of what I’m about to have done, I’m makingArgos, Athens forever long ally o Orestes is emotionally insistent because it’s not as black & white as he’s making it sound o Miasma (pollution)- Greeks think of it as the cooties, they’re nasty, if you’re polluted, people won’t associate themselves with you, if you are ritually polluted, you can participate in much for what makes it worth living and you may go into exile; this impurity keeps you from celebrating rituals - Chorus I: Furies are singing saying they don’t accept the purification, fear for prerogative; p. 94-5 o “We think we are straight in our justice: no anger from us comes against those who hold out pure hands, and each walks through his life without harm; but to any who sins like this man here and conceals bloody hands, we appear as true witnesses in support of the dead, exacting payment for bloodshed with authority” • Furies think they’re straight in justice which is good justice (bad justice=crocked) • Another part of justice involves paying back o O mother who bore me--O Night my mother--as retribution for the blind and the seeing, listen! Leto’s child does dishonor to my rights, taking from me this cowering wretch, a victim sanctified by right to expiate his own mother’s blood.” • Apollo’s mother’s name is Leto • From the mythical perspective, it’s important thatAeschylus is using the prerogative because it’s the Furies motivation • What motivates them is the threat against their prerogative so it’s purely a thing of myth • Athens appears and shows respect to the furies and returning respect, they take a different tone withAthena then they did withApollo • Worse thing that could be done to a god/goddess is dishonor o This role was allotted, spun off by Fate in a piercing blow, for us to possess securely: mortal men whose own wanton acts cleave fast to them, these are ours to accompany until each comes down below the earth; and after death he is not too free. ... When we were born we had these roles decreed, with our hands to be kept from immortals; there is no god who shares a common table with us; all-white clothing I was given no part in....I have taken for myself the overturning of houses; whenever Warfare reared tamely at home kills family or friend, we go in pursuit of the man...and enfeeble him, draining youth’s blood. Eager to free every god from that care, and establish immunity from my prayers and from conducting first interrogations, Zeus deemed our tribe, rightly hateful for its dripping blood, unworthy of his converse.” • This role is their prerogative • We stick by these men until they die • Part of who we are as Furies is we are separate from the other divinities • No god shares a common table with the Furies • Furies have all black/messy clothes it’s not purified which makes them disgusting • Furies take care of this messy business so other gods don’t have to • Because they were given this job and it’s a liminal job because it’s being place outside the mainstream of divine activity so Zeus deems them unworthy of conversation so can’t sit at the table with the gods, they can’t even talk to Zeus • Interpersonal relationship - Episode 2: Athena respectful of Furies, they hear justice;Aeschylus is motivating them by their threat against their prerogative; establishes homicide court; p. 96-98 o This is interesting becauseAeschylus is bringing in this mythical material to talk about a real world situation with the law courts atAthens o But he is giving it a mythological basis o Athena now comes out and expresses respect for the Furies o Furies respond to this attitude in a good way, Furies say “if you show us respect, then we’ll give you respect and if you get justice, we’ll listen to what you say” o Furies say if you give back the respect then we will hear what you have to say o p. 97:Athena: Would you actually entrust me with the issue of your accusation? Clytemnestra: Why not, if you return our deserved respect with deserved respect? • Athena is saying “will you trust me with the settlement” • After the exchange where Furies say we’ll go along as long as you respect us,Athena says she’s worried what might happen if they don’t get outcome they want • Athena says she’s putting the cityAthens on the line because the Furies are powerful enough that if they don’t like the outcome they will poison the city ofAthens for ever • Furies are associated with the underground so she means that the Furies will have crops stop growing • Key turning point in the play is that she is setting up the court with respect for the oaths and what is going to make the jury just, is their oath • Fear is a key component for a just and orderly society - Chorus 2: Furies sing a song where they praise traditional justice based on fear o p. 98-99: “Catastrophe now is coming from new ordinances, if a justice which is harm to justice shall prevail for this man here, the matricide. This day’s work will at once accustom all men to license; and much veritable suffering, which their own children will inflict, lies waiting for parents in time hereafter.” • The world is coming to an end, if a justice which isn’t justice (justice is only a name) then this is going to overturn the basis of human society o p. 99: “There is a place where terror is good, and a watch on minds by fear seated above. It is well to learn wisdom through grief. Would any that nurses no terror in his heart’s clear light--both man and city the same--revere Justice still?” • They are talking about generalized catastrophe for all human kind • “Well to learn wisdom through grief” – InAgamemnon- they’re saying that it’s foolish to learn wisdom by suffering (wisdom is learning ahead of time from other people’s experience of what to do and what not to do) but Furies are saying most effective way to train people to do right is for them to suffer from what is wrong • Wisdom is learning a head of time what to do and not what to do but the furies think otherwise - Episode 3A:Athena establishes homicide court o “To judge this matter is greater than any mortal thinks--and I certainly have no right to decide between pleas about shed blood where angers are sharp, especially since you, Orestes, have been submissive to custom and come in supplication to my temple purified and harmless; and I respect you as giving the city likewise no cause for blame--but these persons have an allotted role not easy to dismiss, and if they do not get an outcome which brings them victory, poison from their proud spirit will later fall to the ground and be the land’s intolerable, everlasting sickness. This is how the matter stands: both courses, for you to stay, Orestes, and for me to send you away, bring harsh pain if there is to be no wrath against me. But since this matter has descended suddenly upon us here, [I shall appoint] judges for murder-cases with respect for oaths under an ordinance which I shall lay down for all time, [a line missing] with no transgression of their oath through unjust minds. o “You are to summon your witnesses and evidence, the sworn support for your cases; after choosing the best of my citizens I shall come back to resolve this matter in the truth.” o Apollo & Orestes argue with Furies, but not about facts of the case, but about what principle to apply.Apollo says Zeus values a father’s life more highly than a mother’s. • Point of indicatingAthena is that she has no mother and was born from a father only (monogenesis- being born from one parent) so she’s living proof that a father is the true figure o Apollo, p. 103: “...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. I will show you proof of this argument” and indicatesAthena • Trial starts andApollo shows up and the characters begin talking like lawyers • Orestes says thatAgamemnon sends his support from the grave (Agamemnon is a hero at this point from underground) • Double pollution (killed Orestes dad and killed her husband) • Orestes doesn’t deny he does it because it’s a fact • They turn the issue back to prerogative and Apollo says that Zeus didn’t kill his father Cronos but Furies saying he did • Athena after she hears this argument tells the people of Athens (jury) to make a decision and this is the first trial so this decision will impact the future • Agreeing that they should keep fear in the game - Episode 3B: Orestes is acquitted, as jurors deadlock (number of votes are equal) o p. 106: “Now I will go home, after I have sworn on oath to your land and people here, for the whole greatness of future time, that no helmsman of my country will come to bring war against it, well-armed and equipped. Though we shall ourselves be in our tomb by then, we shall bar the road with impossible disasters for those who transgress my oaths sworn now; we shall bring despair and ill omens to their passage, so that they repent of their effort; but if oaths are fully kept and if they always honour this city of Pallas with their army in alliance, we are to be more kind towards them.”  Orestes says thanks and I’ll now go back home  Argos- in real life,Athens to alienate Sparta made alliance withArgos so now Orestes is saying thank you, I’m going to go back toArgos after I’ve had an oath to the people ofAthens so now no leader of my country will come to war withAthens  No one will go to war withAthens and when I die I will be a hero like my dad and if anyone tries to attackAthens I will attack them from underground and avenge you  Second big piece of cultural relevance  Predicting politics for the future - Chorus 3: Furies become Eumenides (the kindly ones) o Right now they are anything but friendly o Orestes gets to go home butAthena now has a problem that furies are furious about the verdict o read pp. 107-108Athena tries to persuade Furies to go with the program but the
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