Libation Bearers

Ate and Justice in the Oresteia College

In the Oresteia, Aeschylus presents his three books (“Agamemnon”, “The Libation Bearers”, and “The Furies”) so that the narrative progresses from madness and lack of justice in “Agamemnon”, where Clytemnestra receives no penalty for her homicide, to Athena's establishment of a justice system so that Orestes' can be properly tried for matricide in “The Furies”. The anarchy in the first book that leads to Agamemnon’s death represents an outdated way of exacting revenge, while the final book in the series breaks a potentially never-ending cycle of blameless murders when Orestes requests a trial to determine whether or not his deadly actions were justified. In essence, Orestes' trial ends the domino effect that starts when Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia. The overall themes that drive this three-book play are até (defined as mental derangement or temporary madness), and justice, the confluence of which affects the actions of Clytemenstra and Orestes and leads to the eventual development of a proper justice system.

Although Agamemnon starts the cycle of killing through his deadly sacrifice of Iphigenia, his wife Clytemnestra continues the trend through the calculated murder of her husband and his concubine,...

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