4903: Hermann Wilhelm Bissen 1798-1868: Orestes flees from the Eumenides. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
Chain of events
Orestes 2 is best known for having murdered his own mother Clytaemnestra.
"Do you think
that Orestes, if he had had all his wits about him
and had known what was best for him to do, would
have brought himself to commit any act of the
sort? (Socrates. Plato, Alcibiades 143d).
Why did he commit this terrible deed? In order
to avenge his father Agamemnon, who was in
turn murdered by Clytaemnestra and
her lover Aegisthus.
But why did she murder her husband? Because Agamemnon let his and Clytaemnestra's
daughter Iphigenia be
sacrificed at Aulis. Why did Agamemnon such a
thing? Because, according to the seer Calchas, that was the
only way to tame the winds that bound the Achaean
fleet at Aulis. And what was that fleet doing
there? It had gathered in order to sail against Troy. But why was it
necessary for that fleet to sail to Troy? Because the Achaeans
purposed to claim back Helen, who had been stolen
by the Trojan Paris. And
why did Paris abduct Helen? Because Helen was given to Paris by Aphrodite. And why
would this goddess do that? In order to get the
Golden Apple that Eris had
thrown during the wedding party of Peleus and Thetis as a
prize to be awarded to the fairest. Why did Eris throw that apple?
Because she was not invited to the party. Why was
she not invited? Zeus knows, for:
themselves in many forms, bring many matters to
surprising ends: the things we thought would happen
do not happen, the unexpected God makes
possible." (Women of Phthia. Euripides, Andromache 1285).
But some have said that Clytaemnestra took a lover because Nauplius 1 induced her to do so. And why would he do that? Because Agamemnon did not give
him satisfaction for the death of his son Palamedes who was
stoned by the Achaean army as a traitor. But why
was Palamedes accused
of treason? Because he was conspired against by Odysseus, who hated
him. And why did Odysseus hate him?
Because Palamedes forced him to go to Troy,
showing that Odysseus was feigning madness to avoid joining the alliance.
But why should Odysseus go to Troy? Because he was
bound, as all the SUITORS OF HELEN,
by The Oath of Tyndareus. And why
were the suitors exacted that oath? To prevent
them, by swearing to defend Helen's husband, to fight
the man who had won her hand. The oath, which
seemed at first an advantageous device, became in
time a bane; for Odysseus, who received Penelope for having the
idea of exacting the oath, was later forced by the
same oath to be separated during twenty years from
the beloved wife he had won.
Fate of this family
As for Aegisthus,
he had his own dynastic reasons to murder Agamemnon. For both Atreus and Thyestes 1, fathers of Agamemnon and Aegisthus respectively, wishing to sit on the throne of Mycenae, performed
horrible deeds against each other, their heirs
inheriting the rivalry. And this family was fated
to bathe in its own blood because of the curse that
Myrtilus uttered against his baneman's house when
he was treacherously slain by Pelops 1, father of Atreus and Thyestes 1.
King Agamemnon of Mycenae led the great
alliance which sailed to Troy to obtain the
restoration of Helen and
the Spartan property that the seducer Paris had stolen, either
through negotiation or by force. As diplomacy
failed, in the tenth year of the war Troy was sacked, and Helen was given back to
her husband Menelaus, Agamemnon's brother.
Defeat at home
But Agamemnon himself never enjoyed his military triumph, for, as
it is said, his wife Clytaemnestra welcomed him not with crown or garland but with a
two-edged sword. And so, on his return to Mycenae, Agamemnon met sedition
and death in the shape of his wife and her lover. Aegisthus then reigned
in Mycenae for seven
years, and it is told that when he was drunk he
loved to jump on Agamemnon's grave,
shouting insults against the dead king and his
Zeus' comment on this
Even as now Aegisthus, beyond that which was ordained,
took to himself the wedded wife of Agamemnon, and slew him on his return,
though well he knew of sheer destruction, seeing
that we spoke to him before, sending Hermes, that he should neither slay the
man nor woo his wife; for from Orestes shall come
vengeance for Agamemnon when once he has come to manhood
and longs for his own land. So Hermes spoke, but for all his good intent
he prevailed not upon the heart of Aegisthus; and now he has paid the full
price of all." (Zeus. Homer, Odyssey 1.35).
The child Orestes 2 rescued
After becoming a murderer then, Aegisthus became king,
but fearing the descent of Agamemnon, he planned to kill the dead king's son Orestes 2, who was still a child. However, this little prince was smuggled out of the country either by his sister Electra 2, or by his nurse Arsinoe 4, or by an old slave who had previously been Agamemnon's tutor.
His new home
Orestes 2 was then taken to Phocis (which is the region bordering the Gulf of Corinth west of Boeotia) to the house of Strophius 1, son of Crisus, son of Phocus 3, son of Aeacus and the Nereid Psamathe 1. Strophius 1 was married to Anaxibia 4 (also called Astyoche 6), sister of Agamemnon, and had by her a son Pylades, who being brought up together with Orestes 2, became his most loyal friend, later wedding Orestes 2's sister Electra 2.
Electra 2's plight
Electra 2 stayed at
home, and although she had many suitors, she was at
first prevented by Aegisthus to marry a
prince, for fear that her son would revenge Agamemnon's death. But
later, as Aegisthus also feared that she might bear a son in secret to
a man of noble blood, he planned to put an end to
his apprehensions by killing her. However, he was
stopped by Clytaemnestra, who
feared the hatred that such a deed would arouse,
and that is why Aegisthus conceived
instead the idea of marrying Electra 2 to an
insignificant man. For, he reasoned, a nobody would
not go stirring up old blood asking that the debt
for Agamemnon's death
should be paid. Clytaemnestra agreed to this arrangement, for as it is said,
women's love is for their lovers, not their
The Mycenaean peasant
But (so they say) the Mycenaean peasant who
married Electra 2,
knowing the details of the case and his own
position, did not approach her bed, and instead
felt sorry for the fate of both Electra 2 and her brother Orestes 2, treating her with friendly affection.
Hopes and pains of the princess
In the meantime, she hoped for Orestes 2 to return and punish the murderers of Agamemnon, releasing
her from what she thought to be a miserable life.
For it is painful for a princess to be dressed in
simple clothes woven by her own hand, or to abstain
from feasts and holy days and dances, or to see her
royal palace replaced by a shabby cottage.
The Oracle of Apollo
When Orestes 2 was grown up, he went to Delphi and asked the
oracle whether he should avenge his father's death.
And as the oracle of Apollo told him that he
should, he departed secretly to Mycenae together with
Meeting of Orestes 2 with his sister
Having arrived to the place where Electra 2 lived with the peasant outside the city, Orestes 2 and Pylades, without being recognized, learned about her desolate life. As there was nothing in the house to offer the visitors, Electra 2 sent her
husband to bring the old slave, Agamemnon's tutor, that once had saved the life of Orestes 2 by smuggling him out of the country. And when this old man came, he recognized Orestes 2 by a scar on his brow, and told him that if he was to get his kingdom back he would have to kill his own mother and Aegisthus.
In order for them to perform such an exploit,
the old man provided tactical advice describing how Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra could be approached. Orestes 2 considered the deed they were planning as most glorious, and his sister Electra 2 claimed for
herself the right to kill her own mother. To such a
high pitch did their enthusiasm reach while
discussing the practical details of their
Death of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra (I)
Orestes 2 and Pylades carried out the plan, killing Aegisthus while he was sacrificing to the NYMPHS; and the royal
guard, which was there for Aegisthus' safety,
having recognized the son of Agamemnon, did not
intervene but instead applauded the usurper's
murderer. After that, Clytaemnestra, who
had been told by the old man that Electra 2 had given birth to a child, came to see her, and while meeting her children in the cottage she was killed by Orestes 2, who held his cloak over his eyes in order not to watch himself drive the blade into his mother's throat. For Clytaemnestra had opened her gown, thrusting forth her breast so that Orestes 2 could clearly see that he was about to stab the body that had given him birth.
The plight of Electra 2 and her sister Chrysothemis 1
However, others have not mentioned Electra 2's peasant husband, and they affirm that she and her sister Chrysothemis 1 continued to live in the house of their parents at Mycenae, now ruled by Aegisthus, during the time Orestes 2 was in exile in Phocis. Electra 2, they assert, never ceased to mourn her father, comparing herself to Niobe 2, who entombed in stone weeps eternally (see NIOBIDS), and hoped, having no child or husband of her own, for the return of her brother Orestes 2. But Chrysothemis 1, fearing Aegisthus and the
punishments he had in store for those unwilling to
stop complaining, thought it wiser, when strength
is lacking, to restrain her anger and obey the
master of the house.
Arrival of Orestes 2 and Pylades
Orestes 2 then, guided by the oracle of Delphi, which had
instructed him to punish his father's murderers,
and by stratagem, that is, without men and arms,
exact the penalty of death, came to Mycenae with Pylades and
the same tutor that had once taken him away from
the city, and bringing him up to manhood, saved his
life so that he could avenge Agamemnon's death.
This tutor was then sent by Orestes 2 to the palace to tell Clytaemnestra that her son Orestes 2, who once had promised to avenge his father's death, had fallen from a chariot in the course of a contest during a festival at Delphi, and that his
ashes would be soon brought by some men from
Death of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra (II)
Disguised then as Phocian messengers, Orestes 2 and Pylades came into the palace carrying the urn with the ashes, and having met Electra 2, they went to
where Clytaemnestra was, and Orestes 2 slew her. After that, Aegisthus came from
the town into the palace anxious to meet the
Phocian messengers, who standing beside the covered
body of Clytaemnestra,
invited Aegisthus to lift the veil supposedly covering the corpse of Orestes 2. It was first when Aegisthus saw his dead wife that he understood that he was trapped, and Orestes 2 led him to the place in the palace where Aegisthus had murdered Agamemnon, and killed
him on that same spot. For revenge seeks to imitate
the gestures of outrage and to return to the
location where the first affront occurred, turning
both gestures and location into the meaningful
symbol from which it derives its deepest pleasure.
Others who got killed
Orestes 2 pursued by the ERINYES. 3811: Carl Rahl 1812-1905: Orest von Furien verfolgt. Augusteum, Oldenburg.
They also say that in the tumult Pylades killed some sons of Nauplius 1, probably Oeax, who had come to bring Aegisthus assistance.
Meeting of Orestes 2 with his sister
According to another account, Orestes 2 and his sister did not meet in a cottage or in the palace but instead when they, by coincidence, came on the same day to pour libations at Agamemnon's tomb. Later Orestes 2, having first presented himself as a Phocian messenger announcing his own death, came into the palace and slew first Aegisthus and then Clytaemnestra. She
begged for her life:
"Wait son! Have pity, child, upon this breast, which you held, drowsing away the hours, sucking, with toothless gums, the milk that nourished you … I gave you life. Let me grow old with you." (Clytaemnestra to Orestes 2. Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 895).
and also warned him:
"You have no fear of a mother's curse, my son? … Watch out, the hounds of a mother's curse will hunt you down." (Clytaemnestra to Orestes 2. Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 923).
But even if for a second Orestes 2 hesitated,
Orestes 2: What will I do Pylades? I dread to
kill my mother!
Pylades: What of the future?
What of Apollo's oracles, declared at Delphi, the faith and oaths we swear?
Make all mankind your enemy, not the gods. (Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 898).
no words were able to restrain him, and he slew
In any case, when Orestes 2, assisted by his sister Electra 2 and
his faithful friend Pylades, had committed the
horrible crime of taking, besides Aegisthus', his own mother's life, he was prostrated by the weight of the deed he had performed. Orestes 2 spent most of the time in bed wasted with a fierce disease, having fits of madness, and being tortured by the ERINYES, who turn
painful remorse into the master of both heart and
One week after the matricide, Menelaus arrived from Troy at the harbor of Nauplia. His wife Helen he
sent on ahead to join their daughter Hermione, who, during
the war, had been brought up in the palace by her
aunt Clytaemnestra. And when he himself arrived, he met Orestes 2, who had not eaten or washed, destroyed by grief, and the victim of insane fits, during which he seemed to see the ERINYES,
persecuting and lashing him. And yet he could find
some consolation in the oracle:
revenge was Apollo's command.
Menelaus: A command showing some ignorance of
law and right.
Orestes: What are the gods?
We don't know, but we are their slaves.
(Euripides, Orestes 416).
Orestes 2 asks Menelaus for help
But besides grief and remorse there was another torment: the Argives were considering to punish the matricide, and after voting, to stone Orestes 2 and his sister to death. It was to avert this threat that Orestes 2 asked Menelaus for help,
reminding him of the assistance that he had
received from Agamemnon when Helen was abducted:
"Menelaus, all my hope rests upon you alone … You have come home successful. I am your brother's son. Give me a share of your well-being…And pay where it is due the debt you owe to my father. Friends who in times of trouble are no longer friends mock the true force of friendship with an empty name." (Orestes 2 to Menelaus. Euripides, Orestes 450).
But Menelaus was not
ready to give him assistance, and just promised to
beg the citizens and Tyndareus, father of
both Helen and Clytaemnestra, for
mercy. For he deemed resistance impossible, as the
whole city was a trap, and armed men were
everywhere. Besides, opposing Tyndareus, his wife's
father and the man from whom he expected to inherit
the Spartan throne, was not, as Menelaus deemed, his wisest choice. Orestes 2 did not appreciate his uncle's reluctance to assist him:
"You coward! Did you once command an army? Yes, to win a woman; not to help your friends…Traitor! Have you forgotten Agamemnon? (Orestes 2 to Menelaus. Euripides, Orestes 720).
The citizens condemn the murderers
During the deliberations of the assembled
citizens, Talthybius, the herald of Agamemnon at Troy, was heard making an
ambiguous speech, for as it is said, that is the
way of heralds, always trying to please the winning
side. Also Diomedes 2 spoke, urging the assembly not to sentence Orestes 2 and his sister to death, but satisfy piety by banishing them. Menelaus did not show his face, for as some believe, succession to the Spartan throne was his only thought. So the full court of the Argive people, after hearing several speeches, found Orestes 2 and his sister guilty of matricide, and voted to condemn them to die, leaving them the choice to hang themselves, or to use a sword, or to be killed by someone appointed by the citizens.
Pylades invents new plot
But for Pylades life was not worth if he lost his friend, and he had no intention of saving his own skin by leaving or betraying Orestes 2. He also thought that, having shared the killing with Orestes 2, his duty was now to perish with him and Electra 2. But since
death seemed unescapable, he wished to ensure a
share of suffering for Menelaus, and that is
why the three, led by resourceful Pylades,
conceived a new plot while they were on the verge
of death. And probably because great ideas are
deemed to be simple, Pylades just conceived the
following: to kill Helen,
who was in the house making a list of all the
valuables, and thereby send Menelaus raving mad.
Orestes 2 enthusiastic
Orestes 2 found this idea so brilliant that he said that he was ready to die twice if they could bring this deed off. So they started immediately to plan how they would attack the Trojan body-guard that protected her, a group of chaps, who, used to polish her mirrors and set out her scents, were not supposed to cause them any serious trouble; these they intended to shut up in various rooms.
Contribution of Electra 2 to the plot
This murder, they thought, would be a popular
one. For Helen was hated
in the whole of Hellas by all those who had lost a
relative or friend in the Trojan War. And by killing her, Pylades reasoned, Orestes 2's name of "matricide" would be forgotten, giving place to the title "Killer of the killer of thousands, Helen." In the midst of the enthusiasm that this plan aroused in them, they even started hoping to escape after the murder and avoid death. And Electra 2 came with her own contribution to the plan:
to take Hermione as a
hostage, and threat to kill her if Menelaus would dare to
make any move after Helen's death.
Plot accomplished only partially
All this was attempted. But during the confusion
that ensued when Hermione was to be
captured and the body-guard avoided, Helen escaped. So when Menelaus arrived, he
had already heard that Helen was not dead, but
instead he found his daughter Hermione with a sword's edge at her throat. Escape was no longer possible, so Orestes 2 threatened to kill Hermione and set fire
to the palace unless Menelaus went to the
assembly and persuaded the citizens to spare their
Apparently, no human being could solve this
situation, and that is why Apollo, coming down from
heaven, ordered everybody to calm down. Helen he took with him to
heaven, telling Menelaus to get a new
"For Helen's beauty was to the gods their
instrument for setting Achaeans and Trojans face to
face in war. And multiplying deaths, to purge the
bloated earth of its superfluous welter of
mortality." (Apollo to Menelaus. Euripides, Orestes 1640).
to reign in Sparta, and yield to Orestes 2 the throne of Argos and Mycenae. But others have
said that when, after the Trojan War, Odysseus' son Telemachus came to Sparta inquiring about
his father, he was there entertained by both King Menelaus and Helen. Apollo ordered Orestes 2 to live in Parrhasia in Arcadia for one year,
and afterwards come to Athens and there stand
his trial for Clytaemnestra's
Orestes 2 is said to have visited Delphi and Troezen, before coming
to Athens, where he was
brought to trial by the ERINYES, or by Tyndareus, father of Clytaemnestra, or by Erigone 1, daughter of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, or by Perileos, son of Icarius 1 and Clytaemnestra's cousin. The votes at his trial were equal, and that is why Orestes 2 was acquitted, being helped by Athena, who presided the
first court which tried a case of homicide.
Orestes 2 at Athena's temple.
4402: Pierre-Charles Simart 1806-1857: Oreste refugié à l'autel de Pallas. Musée des beaux arts, Rouen.
Purifications of little avail
However, Orestes 2 remained insane after the trial, having fits of madness as before, and some have said that once he had bitten off one of his fingers, the ERINYES ceased to torture him, and he recovered his senses. But Orestes 2 is also said to have sought purification by the waters of the Horse's Fount in Troezen, in the place where the earth sent up the water when the horse Pegasus struck the ground with his hoof. Centuries after there was still a building called the Booth of Orestes, where the descendants of those who cleansed Orestes 2 used to dine on appointed days. In that building, which was in front of a sanctuary of Apollo, the Troezenians lodged Orestes 2, for before he was purified no citizen would receive him into his home.
As his fits of madness continued, Orestes 2 inquired at Delphi how he
should be rid of his mental disorders. The oracle
then answered that he would be rid of them if he
should fetch from a temple in Tauris the statue of Artemis.
Customs in Tauris
Tauris, which today is called Crimea and is a
peninsula in the northern coast of the Black Sea,
was a part of the realm of Scythia. In this country
hospitality was dishonoured, and foreigners, or
whatever stranger who happened to come within the
Taurian borders, were systematically put to death
and thrown into the sacred fire in the temple of Artemis. Orestes 2 and Pylades, following the oracle, embarked and came to Tauris. But soon after their arrival they were seized by the Taurians, and brought to the temple of Artemis to be
Iphigenia's life in
Pylades defending Orestes 2 from the Taurians. 4615: Françoise Bouchot 1800-1842: Pylade défendant Oreste 1822. Musée des beaux arts, Chartres.
The priestess of this temple was Iphigenia, sister of Orestes 2, who had not lost her life at Aulis as some believed; for in the last moment, when Iphigenia was about to
be sacrificed, she vanished and was saved by Artemis, who substituted
for her a deer at the altar, and transported her to
Tauris. In this barbarian country she lived many
years, performing the rites and sending strangers
to the altar where they were butchered by other
attendants, without ever blaming the gods, for she
"… Men of this country, being murderers, impute their sordid practice to divine command. That any god is evil I do not believe." (Iphigenia. Euripides, Iphigenia
in Tauris 390).
And as before Electra 2, she also wept for what she believed was the lost life of her own brother Orestes 2, the destruction of her father's house, the extinction of her family, and her own fate.
Orestes 2 meets his sister Iphigenia
When the prisoners Orestes 2 and Pylades met the priestess Iphigenia,
by tokens and questions they all soon understood
who they were, and together made a plan to remove
the statue of Artemis.
When Iphigenia was
actually doing this, and the king came and asked
her why she was moving it from its inviolable
place, she answered that impure men, who had killed
their mother, had come into the temple. For that
reason, she said, she was taking, along with the
prisoners, the statue of Artemis out under the
pure heaven, to be purged of blood, and then to the
beach to be cleansed by the water of the sea, which
can wash clean all the foulness of mankind.
Having come to the beach, where Orestes 2's ship was anchored out of sight, they tricked the guards and the temple attendants, and escaped with the statue, which they brought to Athens, although some have said that the ship of Orestes 2 was driven in a storm to Rhodes, and that in accordance with an oracle, the statue was dedicated there. Still others say that by a favoring wind, the ship of Orestes 2 was borne to the island of Zminthe where the family of Chryses 3, priest of Apollo,
Orestes 2's half-brother
Chryses 3 is the same priest, who in the last year of the Trojan War asked the Achaeans to set free his daughter Chryseis 3, whom they held prisoner, having his request denied by the arrogance of Agamemnon. Afterwards,
however, the girl was released, in order to placate Apollo, who hearing the prayers of Chryses 3, had sent a plague that decimated the Achaean army. Some say that the priest's daughter was pregnant when she was set free, and that later she gave birth to a boy Chryses 4, who was the son of Agamemnon.
Punishing the Taurians
Now, when Orestes 2 arrived with Iphigenia and Pylades to Zminthe, they were seized by Chryses 4, who decided to return them to King Thoas 3 and the Taurians. But through his grandfather Chryses 3, he learned that he too was son of Agamemnon. So Chryses 4, joining his forces to those of his half-brother Orestes 2, attacked the Taurians and killed their king Thoas 3. After that, Orestes 2 came safe to Mycenae, carrying the
statue of Artemis.
In the meantime, a messenger came to Electra 2 in Mycenae falsely saying that Orestes 2 and Pylades had been sacrificed in Tauris. But when also Aletes 1, son of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra,
heard that the family of the Atrides was extinct,
he seized power in Mycenae, and Electra 2 became once
again the subject of an usurper, now her own
Meeting in Delphi
She then, in company with the messenger,
traveled to Delphi in
order to inquire about her brother's death. She
came there the same day that Iphigenia and Orestes 2 arrived, and when the sisters met, the false messenger said that Iphigenia was the
murderess of her brother. So Electra 2 seized a
burning firebrand from the altar, and would have
blinded her sister Iphigenia if Orestes 2 had not appeared and intervened.
Death of Aletes 1
After this incident they returned to Mycenae, and Orestes 2 killed Aletes 1. He also intended to slay Aletes 1's sister Erigone 1, but, as they say, Artemis rescued her and made her a priestess in Attica, although the girl is also reported to have given birth to a child Penthilus 1, son of Orestes 2.
Hermione given twice
Pylades, Orestes 2, and the statue of Artemis. 9730: «Grupo de San Ildefonso». Finales del siglo I d.C. Orestes y Pilades con la imagen de Artemisa de Táuride. Museo Nacional del Prado.
Now, some say that Menelaus promised his
daughter Hermione in marriage twice, first to Orestes 2, before the Trojan War, and then
to Neoptolemus, son
of Achilles, when they
were at Troy. So when the war was over, Neoptolemus came to Sparta and demanded Hermione from Menelaus although he had already begotten sons Amphialus 1 and Molossus by his captive concubine Andromache, former
wife of Hector 1. As Orestes 2 at the time was insane, Menelaus decided to
honour the promise he had made to Neoptolemus, and
gave Hermione to him. Orestes 2, weakened on account of his mental disorders, his exile, and his family troubles, did not wish at the time to blame Menelaus, and instead
begged Neoptolemus to renounce his claim to marry Hermione. When he was
insolently rebuked by Neoptolemus, who abused him as a matricide and as a victim of folly, Orestes 2, though robbed of his marriage, chose to take a humble tone and wait.
But others say that Hermione was promised in marriage to Orestes 2 by Tyndareus while the
Achaeans were fighting at Troy, and that Menelaus was ignorant
of this circumstance when he promised Hermione to Neoptolemus. Hermione, they affirm,
was not happy with this arrangement and had to be
dragged into Neoptolemus' palace,
which was in Epirus.
Conflict between Hermione and Andromache
This is how Neoptolemus made Hermione his wife and
queen, while still keeping Andromache as a
concubine. As time went by and Hermione remained
childless, she grew jealous of Andromache, saying
that by secret spells the concubine made the queen
barren. And seeing her own position threatened, Hermione plotted
life during Neoptolemus' absence. For while Neoptolemus was in Delphi for the second
time, wishing to make amends to Apollo for having
demanded reparation for his father's death, Menelaus came to Neoptolemus' palace
decided, on behalf of his daughter, to kill Andromache and put
the life of Andromache's child
Molossus in Hermione's
protection in the sanctuary of Thetis, but Menelaus captured
little Molossus and threatened to cut the child's
throat if she refused to abandon the sanctuary. Andromache found
inconceivable that famous Menelaus could act so
cowardly, and that is why she says:
"Oh Fame! How many thousands nobodies there
are whom Fame blows up to importance and authority … Did a coward like you lead the warriors of Hellas against Priam to conquer Troy?" (Andromache to Menelaus. Euripides, Andromache 325).
She chose her own death, but when she had left
the shrine, Neoptolemus'
grandfather Peleus arrived, and with the protection, as he said, of
both gods and troops, prevented Menelaus to kill Andromache, or do any
harm to her child.
Menelaus then left the palace declaring that as a stranger he did not intend to commit violence, but he promised to return, for he would not submit to it either. And when her father returned to Sparta, Hermione started
thinking that he would kill her at his return for
having plotted against Andromache and the child, or perhaps make her a concubine in the house where she was queen.
Orestes 2 takes Hermione and kills his rival
But while Neoptolemus was still away, Orestes 2 came to recover Hermione. For, as he saw it, Hermione was living with Neoptolemus only because of Menelaus' broken promise. And when they met, Hermione herself asked him to taker her away. This is how Hermione became the wife of Orestes 2. Later Orestes 2, having assembled troops, came to Delphi in order to end the life of the man who had insulted him and robbed his wife. He first stirred up the Delphians against the suppliant, saying that Neoptolemus had come in order to rob Apollo's temple, and not as he declared, on a pious pilgrimage to win the favor of the god. The Delphians then joined the troops of Orestes 2, and screened by the foliage of the laurel-trees, they all waited outside the temple with drawn swords. And when Neoptolemus came out, he was killed in the battle that took place, and many, they say, were those who came with their weapons and stones to strike and hack at him, destroying his body with countless wounds. This was the last of the crimes that Orestes 2 felt compelled to commit in order to recover his father's throne, his house, and his wife.
Extension of his kingdom
Orestes 2 and Electra 2: loving brother and sister. 8811: Orestes og Elektra, fundet i Pozzuoli. Graesk/Romersk 1. årh. f.Kr. (Romkopi). Napoli, Museo Archeologico (Royal Cast Collection, Copenhagen).
King Orestes 2 ruled over a vaster territory than his father's. For when Cylarabes died childless, leaving vacant the throne of Argos, Orestes 2 succeeded him, thus adding this kingdom to his own. Orestes 2 also succeeded to the throne of Sparta, for the Lacedaemonians considered his claim to the throne prior to that of Nicostratus and Megapenthes 1, these being sons of Menelaus by one or perhaps two slave women, whereas Orestes 2 was the son of one of the daughters of King Tyndareus. Besides Sparta and Argos, Orestes 2 also extended his rule over the greater part of Arcadia, and obeying the
oracle of Delphi, he
moved his capital from Mycenae to Arcadia. Messenia was held in
ancient times by the line of Neleus and Nestor until some time
after the Trojan War; then Orestes 2 annexed the region to his kingdom, and Messenia was ruled
by him and his descendants down to the return of
First attack of the HERACLIDES
Some have said that the expedition of Hyllus 1, son of Heracles 1, against the Peloponnesus, took place during the reign of Orestes 2, and not during the rule of his son Tisamenus 2, and that this was the first attempt of the HERACLIDES to return to the Peloponnesus. Hyllus 1 was defeated at the Isthmus of Corinth, and
killed by the Arcadian king Echemus.
Alliance with Phocis
Orestes 2 married his sister Electra 2 to his loyal friend Pylades, who remained an ally; for Orestes 2 also had, among his forces, a contingent of Phocians always ready to help him. And this alliance survived the two friends, for it is said that the Heraclid Aristodemus, son of Aristomachus 2, son of Cleodaeus 2, son of Hyllus 1, son of Heracles 1, was killed by Medon 7 and Strophius 3, sons of Pylades and Electra 2. Aristodemus is the father of the twins Eurysthenes 1 and Procles 2, who are at the origin of the two royal houses of Sparta.
The man who slew his mother, and risking his
life on several occasions, fought many enemies, was
killed by the bite of a snake at Oresteum in Arcadia. This city had been long ago founded by Orestheus 2, son of impious Lycaon 2, and was first called Oresthasium after him, and later Oresteum after Orestes 2.
As it appears, Orestes 2 was first buried in the city of Tegea in southeastern Arcadia. But later a
Spartan stole the bones and a new grave was erected
|The story of Agamemnon's family and Orestes 2 in the Greek plays, arranged according to the chronological order of events. The incidents and sequel of the revenge of Orestes 2 is told from step 3.
Others with identical name
Orestes 1 is the son of the river god Achelous and Perimede 1, daughter of Aeolus 1.
Orestes 3 was an Achaean soldier killed by Hector 1 and Ares at Troy.
Orestes 4 was a Trojan who attacked the Achaean wall together with Asius 1, leader of the Phrygians, during the Trojan War. He was killed by Leonteus 1, a Lapith leader son of Coronus 1, son of Caeneus 1, he who once was a woman called Caenis, but later was turned into an invulnerable man by Poseidon.
Orestes 5 was one of the leaders of the SATYRS who joined the
army of Dionysus 2 in
his campaign against India.