Lines 734-1047 Notes from The Eumenides

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The Eumenides Lines 734-1047

However, a surprising event has occurred! The jury of twelve men has cast an even number of votes. Six jurors have voted for Orestes to be guilty, but six jurors have voted for Orestes to be not guilty. The final, deciding vote is left up to Athena, who is the overseer of this trial. Because she understands Apollo's argument, and because she herself is living proof that a mother is not really necessary to have a child, Athena has cast a vote of "not guilty." Athena was born herself from the head of Zeus without any woman's assistance, thus she would naturally tend to favor the men rather than the side of these avenging women. She dresses like a man, and she behaves aggressively as a man would. She defends her reasons for this by saying, "There is no mother anywhere who gave me birth,/and, but for marriage, I am always for the male/with all my heart, and strongly on my father's side./So, in a case where the wife has killed her husband, lord/of the house, her death shall not mean most to me" Lines 736-740. Athena sympathizes with Orestes because she feels far greater loyalty towards her father than she does for any wife of his. After all of the votes have been counted and the final decision is announced, Orestes is filled with joy. This burden is suddenly lifted from his shoulders, and he is free to go, unmolested by the insidious Furies.

Orestes thanks Athena, Apollo, and Zeus alike for aiding him against the Furies, stating that he wishes to return to his home city of Argos immediately, where he will rule as his father's successor. He promises that Argos shall forever be an ally of Athens in protecting it against any enemy that may wish to attack it, adding that even after he is dead, any ruler or person who does aide Athens in times of need will be cursed until they fulfill this promise. The man wishes Athena and the citizens of Athens the best of luck in preserving themselves against all enemies. Orestes leaves the Acropolis and Athens, not to be heard from again. He returns to Argos and reestablishes order after Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra's many years of tyrannical rule over the city. With nothing else said, Apollo also leaves the temple of Athena and goes off to an unknown destination, his job finished there with the acquittal of Orestes.

The Chorus of Furies, however remains behind and is very, very upset to observe what has just happened. Lamenting, they cry aloud, "Gods of the younger generation, you have ridden down/the laws of the elder time, torn them out of my hands./I, disinherited, suffering, heavy with anger/shall let loose on the land/the vindictive poison/dripping deadly out of my heart upon the ground;/this from itself shall breed/cancer.../What shall I do? Afflicted/I am mocked by these people" Lines 778-789. The Furies are filled with rage that their authority has been questioned by Athena and the citizens of Athens, promising to destroy the city and fill it with death. They feel that the younger gods should have some respect for them because they are so ancient, although they refuse to accept that the world has changed from the way it was when they were young. Now there is a court to punish people, and their avenging powers are no longer effective.

Topic Tracking: Forgiveness 10
Topic Tracking: Humility 10

Athena attempts to comfort the Furies, urging them not to become angry or to bring sickness to Athens. She states that the Furies are not mocked at all, but instead Zeus himself made the decision to spare Orestes from punishment. Athena offers a compromise, stating "In complete honesty I promise you a place/of your own, deep hidden underground that is yours by right/where you shall sit on shining chairs beneath the hearth/to accept devotions offered by your citizens" Lines 804-807. Rather than being separate from the younger gods, relics from an ancient time, Athena asks the Furies to work together with the younger gods. If the Furies will put aside their anger, they can be worshipped just like any younger god, instead of being considered primitive and uncivilized, because of their thirst for blood. Now they can even have golden thrones under the earth where they will rule, if they accept Athena's generous offer. She promises that people will respect them, which is something that the Furies have wanted all along. However, the avenging Furies merely chant those exact same words again, "Afflicted/I am mocked by these people." They appear not to hear what Athena has said because they are so consumed with anger after losing the court case.

The goddess of wisdom assures them again, stating that these Furies are not dishonored and that they are truly goddesses. She adds that Zeus supports her actions as well, adding "I am the only god/who knows the keys to where his thunderbolts are locked." She encourages the Furies to "be reasonable" instead of acting out of pure impulse. She asks the Furies to share her throne, her "pride of worship," assuring them that many people will respect them if they accept her offer. Athena tries to get the Furies to look ahead at a greater future that extends far beyond Orestes and Clytaemnestra. The Furies fail to understand what exactly she is offering to them. These avenging goddesses scream aloud that "The wind I breathe is fury and utter hate./Earth, ah, earth/what is this agony that crawls under my ribs?/Night, hear me, o Night,/mother. They have wiped me out/and the hard hands of the gods/and their treacheries have taken my old rights away" Lines 840-847. They call upon the powers of darkness to aide them now, jealous of these younger gods such as Athena and Zeus and insisting that they have stolen away their authority to punish murderers. The Furies refuse to accept Athena's offer to become a part of this new order of gods, remaining angry and vengeful.

Topic Tracking: Humility 11
Topic Tracking: Motherhood 9

Athena is calm and rational. She doesn't get angry after observing their reaction, warning the Furies that if they leave Athens and go to some other land, they inevitably will regret that they rejected her offer, for Athens is destined to become a great city in the future. Again, she describes her offer for the Furies to join her in becoming protectors of Athens, striking fear into the hearts of enemies and giving strength to the Athenian citizens. She patiently repeats, "No, let our wars rage outward hard against the man/who has fallen horribly in love with high renown./No true fighter I call the bird that fights at home./Such life I offer you, and it is yours to take./Do good, receive good, and be honored as the good/are honored. Share our country, the beloved of god" Lines 864-869. Rather than bringing death, Athena urges the Furies to become creatures of goodness, protectors of the greatest city of Athens. The goddess asks them to do good to others and in return people will treat them well. If they bring evil to others, then people will not respect the Furies. Thus, the key to earning the respect that they have sought is to forgive, rather than wreaking an endless wave of destruction across the land as they threaten to do now. They insist that Athena and Zeus are "younger gods" and that the Furies are naturally superior to them in power simply because they are older.

Topic Tracking: Forgiveness 11

Yet again the Furies chant the same lines again that they uttered earlier, "The wind I breathe is fury and utter hate..." They do not listen to Athena, because they are so consumed by rage. These chant erratically, calling upon the powers of darkness yet again to aide them in destroying the land. Athena is still patient, even though it appears that she is making little progress in appeasing these avenging goddesses. She insists that she has been very kind to them, and if they continue to say that the younger gods have no respect then they will be wrong. Indeed, it is quite obvious that she has tried to talk to the Furies as equals even as they continue to ignore her. True to her name, the goddess of wisdom makes her offer again to share the power to rule Athens with her, saying again "Yours [is] the baron's portion in this land/if you will, in all justice, with full privilege."

In spite of the Furies' rudeness, she remains polite and still leaves her offer open that will give the Furies the respect they have sought, rather than being despised and feared as they are now because they are so primitive and ancient. Finally, the Furies look up and ask what exactly Athena means. They ask what powers they will have if they accept Athena's offer, to which she replies "A place free of all grief and pain. Take it for yours.../No household shall be prosperous without your will.../So we shall straighten the lives of all who worship us.../Stay here, then. You will win the hearts of others, too" Lines 893-901. The Furies are stunned that Athena would give them this much power, that any household that wishes to be prosperous in Athens must have their permission. They like the idea of this new responsibility and look upon Athena more favorably, for they would be ruling over Athens together with her.

Topic Tracking: Humility 12

Athena assures them that together, they will assure loyalty from all of the citizens in Athens, and in return Athens will become the greatest city. At long last, the Furies excitedly accept this offer, casting away their dark powers in favor of this new responsibility. Athena urges them to cast a positive spell over the city, filled with goodness instead of death, "Let it come out of the ground, out of the sea's water,/and from the high air make the waft of gentle gales/wash over the country in full sunlight, and the seed/and stream of the soil's yield and of the grazing beasts/be strong and never fail our people as time goes,/and make the human seed be kept alive" Lines 904-909. No longer creatures of darkness, now the Furies shall bring light and love into the hearts of men. They finally learn the hard lesson that they have avoided all along because of the internal resentment that they had for this younger generation of gods.

No longer outcasts, now the Furies are filled with an inner peace. They shall serve the common good now, basking in the light of wisdom and rationality that Athena carries with her. With these combined powers, Athens will become the greatest city because its citizens will be filled with great wisdom, furthered by the fact that Athena has shown the citizens how to conduct a courtroom trial in order to judge accused criminals. No longer will men randomly pursue one another and take the law into their own hands as the Furies had once wanted to do. The establishment of a court on the Acropolis augments the greatness that the city of Athens shall bring into the world. The Furies become creatures of rational thought rather than being creatures of pure emotion. They vow allegiance to the city of Athens.

Topic Tracking: Humility 13

After the Furies accept this offer, Athena announces that the Furies will be creatures of darkness no more. Instead, they will be creatures of goodness, called the "Eumenides." The Chorus announces kind words yet again, no chanting erratically, "Let there blow no wind that wrecks the trees./I pronounce words of grace./Nor blaze of heat blind the blossoms of grown plants.../Let no barren deadly sickness creep and kill./Flocks fatten. Earth be kind/to them, with double fold of fruit/in time appointed for its yielding. Secret child/of earth, her hidden wealth, bestow/blessing and surprise of gods" Lines 938-948. It is difficult to believe that these are indeed the same creatures that had only moments before cursed all men for their disrespect. Now the Eumenides demand prosperity all citizens in Athens. Athena urges the Athenians to hear these spoken words. The Eumenides declare that they forbid any murder between men, stating that the high laws of the land shall punish any criminals by using the court system that Athena has established. The goddess of wisdom is impressed and thanks Zeus for giving her the power to convince the Furies to rule Athens with her, rather than destroying it.

Now called the Eumenides, "The Benevolent Ones," the Furies promise to protect the goodness of mankind. Athens shall never have civil wars because they shall not allow it, urging all citizens of Athens to unify under their rule. If the Athenians squabble amongst themselves, then that will cause the destruction of the entire city. Athena urges these Eumenides to stand by these promises, proud that they have become so much more improved than before. The Chorus of Eumenides prepares to leave and sit on their golden chairs underground that Athena has established for them. Athena responds that she shall lead them to where this holy place shall be, saying "Go then. Sped by majestic sacrifice/from these, plunge beneath the ground. There hold/off what might hurt the land; pour in/the city's advantage, success in the end.../For good things given,/your hearts' desire be for good to return" Lines 1006-1013.

The goddess urges them to always protect the city of Athens, and in return the Chorus of Eumenides states that they will bring prosperity for the city, "Life will give you no regrets." Athena begins to line all citizens together in a long parade of people that will lead the Eumenides to their new holy throne beneath the city of Athens, carrying with them the "light of flaring torches" to guide the way underground. The Eumenides are destined to bring light into the darkness and to create good from evil. The old world of the Furies and this new world of the younger gods Athena and Zeus are joined together at long last, through this remarkable transformation of the Furies.

As the procession of people and gods is assembled with Athena leading the crowd, all of the Athenian women who walk with the Eumenides praise them aloud, "Gracious be, wish what the land wishes,/follow, grave goddesses, flushed in the flame sprung/torchlight gay on your journey./Singing all follow our footsteps./There shall be peace forever between these people/of [Athena] and their guests. Zeus the all seeing/met with Destiny to confirm it./Singing all follow our footsteps" Lines 1040-1047. All people follow Athena as she leads the Eumenides away from the Acropolis down into this secret place beneath the ground. The citizens of Athens show respect now, wishing for them to bring everlasting peace for Athens and to let the city defeat its enemies.

No longer goddesses of darkness and revenge, the Eumenides have become protectors of Athens, inspired and given a new purpose by wise Athena. They seek to defend the innocent and promote justice throughout the city. The Furies are respected by all Athenian citizens and even by Athena herself. All along, these monstrous women were merely seeking acceptance from the younger generation. They clung tightly to their visions of an older, more merciless world of which they were a product and imposed these same ancient values upon the modern world. Finally, the Furies learn to embrace change and become a part of this new world rather than living as outcasts.

Topic Tracking: Forgiveness 12

With these words spoken, the future of Athens appears to be very bright, indeed. Athena and the Eumenides shall insure its future prosperity, as long as the Athenian people remain dutiful to them. Also, the House of Argos has found peace after the judgment of Athena, and the kind Orestes has regained that city's throne which had been stolen from him by Clyatemnestra and Aegisthus. Agammenon's death has been avenged, and Clytaemnestra's suffering is rightfully ignored now that there shall be no one to avenge her death. Orestes has promised an everlasting brotherhood between Athens and Argos, vowing that the two cities shall forever protect one another in times of need.

Athena has also established a court of justice in Athens to deal with accused criminals, rather than having one man judging them to be guilty or innocent. Now there are to be public trials decided by a large jury of men. In spite of the sadness that began when Agamemnon came home from Troy, the tale of Orestes ends with promises of a bright future for Athens and all of Hellas. It reasserts faith in the gods and carries a new hope to the Athenian populace. Goodness shown to others brings back goodness in return. The gods urge humans to take responsibility for their actions, holding them accountable for things that they do, vowing not to blindly punish for no reason. If a man lives justly, he shall have prosperity. If a man lives wickedly, he shall suffer. That is the justice that Athena has taught, and that is the lesson of forgiveness that the Furies have learned.

Topic Tracking: Forgiveness 13
Topic Tracking: Humility 14
Topic Tracking: Motherhood 10

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