Orestes’ Revenge (page 679, with art)

Chapter 17, The Return from Troy

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Paestum, Museo Nazionale Archeologico: metope from the Heraion alla Foce del Sele, with Orestes trying to defend himself from serpentine Erinys?


Digital LIMC (under scene 17; no photo)

Paestum, Museo Nazionale Archeologico: metope from the Heraion alla Foce del Sele, with two fleeing females, right one holding a phiale, who can be interpreted as the Pythia (Apollo’s priestess at Delphi) and an attendant; if correctly conjoined with the previous metope (see reconstruction below), they could signify the setting for both metopes as Orestes’ arrival, pursued by an Erinys, at Delphi


Digital LIMC (under scene 19; no photo)

Reconstruction of two-metope sequence by Stephen Deck, from F. Van Keuren, The Frieze from the Hera I Temple at Foce del Sele (1989), detail of pl. 4

♦ Berlin, Antikensammlung 4841: Attic black-figure Tyrrhenian amphora with murder of Eriphyle, who slumps over grave mound while serpent rises from behind it and threatens Alkmaion; he flees to right, stepping onto his chariot 

Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 8 (1893) pl. 1

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Athens, National Museum 12821: Attic black-figure lekythos by Cactus Painter with two snakes threatening a youth

C.H.E. Haspels, Attic Black-figured Lekythoi (1936) pl. 18.5

Beazley Archive Poettery Database

Athens, private collection: Attic black-figure lektyhos by Cactus Painter with two snakes threatening a youth at a tomb

A. Bruckner, “Zur lekythos Tafel 4,”  Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 6 (1891) pl. 4

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Berlin, Antikensammlung F2380: Attic red-figure hydria with Orestes at Delphi in center, kneeling on stone altar; on the left, seated Artemis and standing Apollo; n the right, two Erinyes in human form, who threaten Orestes with snakes

Archäologische Zeitung 42 (1884) pl. 13



Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Digital LIMC

Pindar Pythian 11.15-16

as a victor in the rich fields of Pylades, the friend of Laconian Orestes  Greek Text

Pindar Pythian 11.34-37

And his young son went to the friend of the family, the old man [35] Strophius, who dwelled at the foot of Parnassus. But at last, with the help of Ares, he killed his mother and laid Aegisthus low in blood.  Greek Text

♠ Aischylos, Choephoroi (Libation Bearers)

The tomb of Agamemnon. Enter Orestes and Pylades

Hermes of the nether world, you who guard the powers that are your father’s, prove yourself my savior and ally, I entreat you, now that I have come to this land and returned from exile. On this mounded grave I cry out to my father to hearken, to hear me [5]

[Look, I bring] a lock to Inachus in requital for his care, and here, a second, in token of my grief.

For I was not present, father, to lament your death, nor did I stretch forth my hand to bear your corpse.

What is this I see? [10] What is this throng of women that moves in state, marked by their sable cloaks? To what calamity should I set this down? Is it some new sorrow that befalls our house? Or am I right to suppose that for my father’s sake they bear these libations to appease the powers below? [15] It can only be for this cause: for indeed I think my own sister Electra is approaching, distinguished by her bitter grief. Oh grant me, Zeus, to avenge my father’s death, and may you be my willing ally!

Pylades, let us stand apart, [20] that I may

know clearly what this band of suppliant women intends. Exit Orestes and Pylades. Enter Electra with women carrying libations.  Continue Reading  Greek Text

♠  Sophokles, Elektra

Son of him who once commanded our forces at Troy, son of Agamemnon!—now you may survey all that your heart has desired for so long. There is the ancient Argos of your yearning, [5] that consecrated land from which the gad-fly drove the daughter of Inachus; there, Orestes, is the Lycean market place, named from the wolf-slaying god; there on the left is Hera’s famous temple; and in this place to which we have come, know that you see Mycenae, the rich in gold, [10] and here the house of Pelops’ heirs, so often stained with bloodshed. Long ago from here, away from the murder of your father, I carried you for her whose blood is yours, your sister, and saved you and reared you up to manhood to be the avenger of your murdered father.

[15] Now, therefore, Orestes, and you, best of allies, Pylades, our plan of action must be quickly laid; for look, already the sun’s bright ray is stirring the birds’ songs into clarity, and the kindly darkness of the stars is spent. [20] Before, then, anyone comes out from the house, we must make our plans, since we are at the point where it is no longer opportune to hesitate, but it is the moment for action.  Continue Reading  Greek Text

Euripides, Elektra

Before the hut of the Peasant, in the country on the borders of Argolis. It is just before sunrise. The Peasant is discovered alone.

O ancient plain of land, the streams of Inachus, from which king Agamemnon once mounted war on a thousand ships and sailed to the land of Troy. After he had slain Priam, the ruler of Ilium, [5] and captured the famous city of Dardanus, he came here to Argos and set up on the high temples many spoils of the barbarians. And in Troy he was successful; but at home he died by the guile of his wife Clytemnestra [10] and the hand of Aegisthus, son of Thyestes. And he left behind the ancient scepter of Tantalus, and is dead; but Aegisthus rules the land, possessing Agamemnon’s wife, the daughter of Tyndareus. Now as for those whom he left in his house when he sailed to Troy, [15] his son Orestes and his young daughter Electra: when Orestes was about to die at the hand of Aegisthus, his father’s old servant stole him away and gave him to Strophius to bring up in the land of the Phocians. Electra stayed in her father’s house, [20] and when she came to the blooming season of youth, the foremost suitors of the land of Hellas asked for her in marriage. But Aegisthus feared she might bear to some chieftain a son who would avenge Agamemnon, and so he kept her at home and did not betroth her to any bridegroom.

[25] When even this filled him with great fear, that she might secretly bear children to some noble lord, Aegisthus planned to kill her, but her mother, although cruel at heart, rescued her from his hand. For she had a pretext for having slain her husband, [30] but she feared that she would be despised for the murder of her children. So then, for these reasons, Aegisthus devised such a scheme: he promised gold to anyone who should kill Agamemnon’s son, who had left the country as an exile, while Electra he gave [35] in marriage to me. My ancestors were Mycenaeans; in that respect at least I am not to blame. My family was noble in race but poor in money—which is the ruin of good birth. He gave her to a powerless man so that his fear might lose its power. [40] For if some man of high position got her, he would have roused the sleeping blood of Agamemnon and judgment would have come at some time to Aegisthus. But I have never (Cypris knows this too) dishonored her in bed; she is still a virgin indeed. [45] I am ashamed to have the daughter of a wealthy man and violate her, when I was not born of equal rank. And I groan for the wretched Orestes, called my kinsman, if he shall ever return to Argos and see the unfortunate marriage of his sister.  Continue Reading  Greek Text

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Artistic sources edited by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, August 2022

Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, March 2023

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