Composers and their stage works 

The Eumenides (Eumenides)

Aeschylus - 458 B.C.

Third and last play in the Oresteia, dealing with the absolving of Orestes' guilt and the placating of the Furies (Erinyes).




As the play opens in Delphi, the Pythian priestess is terrified by the sight of the bloodstained Orestes seated on the altar of Apollo's temple with the Furies sleeping around him. Apollo purifies him and sends him forth on his wanderings, which he predicts will end in Athens. But Clytemnestra's ghost awakens the Furies, who burst from the temple in a frenzy at the escape of their victim. The scene now changes to Athens, where Orestes seeks the protection of Athena. Entering in pursuit, the Furies chant their fearful binding song. When Athena rules that the suit shall be tried by a court of her own citizens (Athenians), a court of justice is assembled on the Areopagus, presided over by the goddess.

The trial begins with a cross-examination of Orestes by the Furies. Apollo then gives the justification for the matricide: it was the command of Zeus, Agamemnon was a great king, and the real blood parent of the child is the father. He ends by promising that Orestes, if acquitted, will be a firm and useful ally to Athens. Before the votes are counted, Athena gives her ruling that if an equal number are cast on both sides Orestes shall be acquitted, for she will vote in his favour. The votes are counted and found equal, and Orestes departs. Athena proclaims the establishment of the Court of Areopagus, which shall forever try all cases involving the shedding of blood. The goddess is then faced with the irate Furies, who feel dishonoured by the younger gods and threaten to blight Athens. She eventually persuades them to take up residence in the city, where they will be worshiped as the Eumenides (Kindly Ones) for their power to promote fertility and ward off plagues. The play ends as the Athenians escort the Eumenides to their new home in a cave beneath the Acropolis.