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A trilogy of plays by the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus. The three plays are entitled "Agamemnon", "The Libation Bearers", and "The Eumenides".

They deal with many ideas, such as sin, guilt, justification, family, gender, and, (of course), the gods.

The Oresteia concerns all of the above as well as individual conscience, a sort of prototype democracy (e.g., trial by jury), and the manual end of a cycle of violence - to name a few. It is a trilogy about the exceedingly dysfunctional family of Atreus, of the house of Argos.

Agamemnon is set in Argos after the Trojan War, and shows the curse, which was laid by Atreus' brother Thyestes, working on the next generation. Agamemnon had sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia and had offended the gods with destruction of their temples. On his return to Argos, he is murdered by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus (Thyestes' only surviving son - so he has his own reasons for murdering him). Agamemnon ends with Clytemnestra and Aegisthus tyrannizing the city while the chorus wistfully anticipates Orestes' return as the city's salvation.

At the start of The Libation Bearers, Orestes has secrectly returned to Argos to avenge his father.

Modern playwrights' versions:

Most students of classics are focussed on either the history or the literature of ancient societies, but not both. It is for this reason, in my opinion, that much less is commonly known of the political reading of the Oresteia. While the first two works are masterfuly written, the ending of the "Eumenides" ("well-doers" in Greek) is absurd. Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the whole work is when Athena agrees that it was acceptable for Orestes to slay his mother because the woman is only the "carrier of the seed" in the sexual union. This is an example of shameless pro-Periclean propoganda written into the trilogy by Aesychlus. As an ambitious young politician, Pericles had bankrolled one of Aesychlus' early plays, and the two maintained a good relationship for the rest of Pericles' life. While not a malevolent or excessively violent ruler, Pericles had ascended to the position of Tyrant (not always a bad thing) of the city of Athens at the time the Oresteia was firt performed. Aesychlus used his plays as a mouthpiece for propoganda in Pericles' favor during this period to try to win over the city. While Pericles was a very powerful politician, he carried the stigma of having blood from the eminent but cursed Alkemeonid family on his mother's side of the family. After the Alkemeonids killed suppliants to the altar of Zeus, a curse had been put on their entire line for causing "blood pollution", an ancient Greek concept that any blood shed in violence was a pollution of the world and needed to be purged. By including the absurd proposition listed above, Aesychlus was trying to put the Athenian populace at rest about having a leader who carried a curse. The Oresteia, while being an exceptional work of art, contains this and many other examples of shameless political propoganda that lower its otherwise exceptional artistic merit.

Play written by the great Athenian playwright Aeschylus in 458 BC. Considered by many to be the greatest of Greek plays, it was FAR ahead of its time with respect to theater. The main subject is the events that befall the house of Atreus after the Trojan War. The play is written in 3 acts, titled Agamemnon, The Choephori, and The Eumenides.

The main plot behind the play is that Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra and her lover kill Agamemnon and his slave girl, the prophetic Cassandra, on his return to Argos. In the first act of the play she murders him because he sacrificed their daughter, Ipheginia, in order to gain favorable winds for his battle fleet sailing to Troy. Agamemnon's son, Orestes with support from his sister Electra, then murders Clytemnestra and her lover in the second act. In the 3rd act, Orestes is pursued by the Eumenides (furies)m, who demand retribution for the murder of his mother. This cycle was typical in bronze age Greek literature, and is, in fact, a continuation of the original sins of the house of Atreus. The Oresteia, however, departs from the old pattern by having Orestes, with help from Athena (the patron deity of Athens), purify himself and live happily ever after in Athens. The propaganda message of the ending is unmistakable. Athens is a new place, not tied to to the old world. It is a fresh start where anyone can prosper.

Perhaps someday the whole thing can be noded here, but it is far too large an undertaking for me.

One should not be alarmed that the plot is "spoiled" above; the Greek spectators usually knew the plot beforehand. This can explain, for instance, why characters like Clymenestra are not "built up" or give no indication of their plans before execution.

The lover of Clymenestra, mentioned above, was Aegisthus. His desire to kill Agememnon was to avenge the death of his siblings. Aegisthus' father was Thyestes, brother to Atreus and son of Pelops. After Thyestes seduced Atreus' wife, Atreus served his {Thyestes'} children to him at a "reconciliation banquet".

Myself, I interpreted the message as this; that Athens has made the transition from eye-for-an-eye justice to a more "enlightened" system. I believe the court Athena establishes is supposed to be the first in the city.

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