libation bearers

AESCHYLUS, THE ORESTEIA (Greek Tragedy Module).


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  • After lamenting the state that the Royal house has been left in, the Watchman sees a signal from a beacon signalling the fall of Troy. He goes to tell the Queen, Clytemnestra
  • Twelve Elder of Argos approach Clytemnestra and ask her for the news. They are likened to vultures.
  • Clytemnestra announces the fall of Troy. The Chorus seem to not believe that this could be true. Clytemnestra explains the way that Agamemnon has set up a system of beacons so that the news might spread easily if they did sack Troy. She thinks about the destruction that Troy must be facing now.
  • The Chorus thank Zeus for repaying the folly of Paris. They do, however, question Clytemnestra and whether she, like most women, has believed rumour all too quickly.
  • A Herald announces Agamemnon’s return. There is discussion about the horrors faced by the soldiers during the war. He also reports of Menelaus’ misfortune and how he was caught in a storm on the journey home.
  • Clytemnestra declares joy at the thought of her husband’s return. 
  • The Chorus discuss Helen and the part she had to play in the trouble.
  • Agamemnon arrives with Cassandra, a priestess of Apollo that he has enslaved as his concubine.
  • The central action of the play is the agon between Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. During this interaction, Clytemnestra plays the loyal and loving wife.
  • She persuades her husband to enter his palace by walking over a purple/red tapestry. Even though he feels guilty about committing hubris, Agamemnon is persuaded by Clytemnestra and walks all over the tapestry.
  • Cassandra is suddenly possessed by Apollo. She has been silent up until this point.
  • She seems to ramble un-understandable words. After a time she starts to make sense. She engages in a discussion with the Chorus about whether she should enter the palace too, even though she knows that she will be killed. [Apollo had previously cursed Cassandra by giving her the power to see exactly the path of the future but being believed by absolutely nobody.]
  • Cassandra gives a speech in which she talks about the many gruesome things that will happen to the House of Atreus. She is so clear about these things that it is almost like she has witnessed them herself.
  • She eventually enters the palace knowing what her fate will be.
  • The Chorus of Elders are confused and scared. They hear the screams of Agamemnon inside the palace and frantically try to decide on what they should do.
  • The dead bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra are revealed along with Clytemnestra holding the murder weapon. She is defiant in her actions.
  • She explains that she killed Agamemnon in a similar way to how an animal would be killed for sacrifice - with three blows, the last given while reciting a prayer to the gods.
  • Aegisthus arrives on the scene and gives a speech full of arrogance; he is now the King. The Chorus are incredibly angry with his attitude.
  • Clytemnestra stops the dispute by saying there should be no more blood spilled on such a day.
  • The play ends with the Chorus reminding Aegisthus and Clytemnestra that Orestes is still alive and that he was sure to return and avenge his father.


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  • Orestes and Pylades arrive at the grave of Agamemnon.
  • Orestes places a lock of hair on the tomb.
  • The two men hide as Electra arrives at the grave, along with a group of women. Clytemnestra has sent them to the grave in an attempt to appease the gods and comply with burial rites, and to avoid being avenged by Orestes.
  • Electra sees the locks of hair and notices how similar they are to her own. She also sees two sets of footprints and considers that one set are similar to her own size.
  • Orestes and Pylades reveal themselves. Orestes persuades his sister of his true identity.
  • The Chorus, Orestes and Electra conjure the spirit of Agamemnon to help them in their revenge.
  • Orestes questions why Clytemnestra had cared enough to send offerings to Agamemnon’s tomb and the Chorus explain that she had dreamed that she had given birth to a snake. That snake fed from her breast and drew not only milk, but blood. She considered that this might be a warning from the gods and so sent funeral offerings to the tomb with her daughter.
  • Orestes and Pylades, disguised as travellers, ask for hospitality in the palace. They go so far as to tell Clytemnestra that her son is dead.
  • Clytemnestra is delighted and calls for Aegisthus. When he arrives, Orestes reveals his true identity and kills Aegisthus.
  • Orestes’ next decision is very difficult; in order to avenge his father he must kill his mother. He struggles with his decision.
  • Clytemnestra bears her breast and pleads with her son that he take pity on the woman who gave birth to him. Orestes asks Pylades whether he should be feeling so much shame about killing his mother. Pylades assures him that murder is the correct thing to happen and that his friend must not forget his duty.
  • Orestes almost immediately carries out the act of killing his mother.
  • He leaves the palace and is haunted by the Furies. Orestes is hugely panicked and flees. 
  • The Chorus conclude that the cycle of vengeance has not stopped with the death of Clytemnestra and that one murder must be punished by another.


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  • The Furies continue to torment Orestes. He finds refuge in a Temple to Apollo in Delphi. The god is unable to protect him but sends him to Athens under the protection of Hermes.
  • The Furies are approached by the ghost of Clytemnestra and she encourages them to continue their search for Orestes.
  • The Chorus of Furies arrives on stage. They seek the scent of Orestes’ blood.
  • Orestes supplicates a statue of Athena once he arrives in Athens but the Furies find him all the same. They are able to see drops of blood on the ground where Orestes has walked.
  • Athena intervenes and brings in a Jury to judge her supplicant.
  • Apollo acts as a kind of barrister for Orestes while the Furies act on behalf of the dead Clytemnestra.
  • During the debate Apollo manages to convince Athena that the man is the more important person in a marriage, and does this by pointing out that Athena was born to Zeus without any involvement of a female.
  • The Jury is split equally in opinion. She announces that the Orestes will be acquitted of the accusations brought against him because this is what she had earlier said would happen if the votes were equal.  
  • Athena tries to persuade the Furies that the decision is correct. They are angry but eventually accept the decision when Athena promises to have them honoured in Athens. She also gives them a home in the heart of the city. In return they will look favourably on Athens.
  • Athena leads the Furies to their new home after declaring that any future tied juries would lead to acquittal because it is best to err on the side of forgiveness than harshness.

anonymous asked:

Would you care to share a sort of "hobbyist classics reading list" for those of us who would like to learn more without pursuing a formal academic education in the field?

Sure! These are my favourites/most entertaining/least academic-y (but I guess a general background in Roman history is necessary for any of them)

Completely random order: 

  • Sallust, The War with Catiline 
  • Cicero, Orations Against Catiline 
  • Quintus Cicero, Handbook on Electioneering (very fun and oddly useful, written (supposedly) by Cicero’s brother for Cicero). The title of my main/other blog comes from this book haha
  • Livy, Ab Urbe Condita (The History of Rome) – not all of it! I like to just pick out sections that are interesting to me. Want to read about the early kings? Just read that section. Want to read about the foundation of the Republic? Just read that section. Livy is nice to read and the narrative is interesting (of course, it is Rome!) 
  • Plutarch, Parallel Lives – this is one of my favourite histories. It follows major Greco-Roman figures and he matches one Greek to one Roman and sort of compares them. Again, like Livy, just pick out some which are interesting for you. They also sell little selections of Plutarch’s Lives which pertain just to one area (like you can buy one on the “Rise and Fall of Athens” which has Theseus, Solon, Alcibiades, etc.)
  • Plato, Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, Crito, Phaedo – these are fairly “easy” Platonic dialogues (the Phaedo might be a bit difficult to go through though, but I definitely recommend it, even just for someone who wants to read classics as a hobby). They aren’t as simple as the early dialogues but they are more “historical” because they tell of Socrates’ last days. He speaks with Euthyphro before he goes into the court, he gives his Apology, Crito tries to get him to escape after he has been sentenced to death (he refuses), Phaedo tells the story of his death (Plato wasn’t there because he was sick). Highly recommend all of these (but you could get away with just the Apology). You can’t be a human being and not read (and love!) Plato. 
  • Vergil, Aeneid (Eclogues and Georgics, too if you like farming and bees which I do!)
  • Homer, Illiad and Odyssey 
  • Hesiod, Theogony, Works and Days
  • Ovid, Art of Love
  • Sappho, Fragments
  • Catullus, any of his poems (either very sexual/explicit or very nice or very bitchy but always entertaining)
  • Aeschylus, The Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides) – Aeschylus is my favourite playwright (fun fact: he fought at Marathon and that is the only thing mentioned on his grave), but I’ll also give you the other two incase you like either better.
  • Sophocles, Oedipus the King
  • Euripides, Elektra (least favourite of the three; he is more funny than the other two. They sort of descend from most serious to most funny. Aristotle thinks Sophocles is the best, like the high point of drama. I like Sophocles but not as much as Aeschylus, sorry Aristotle!)
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 
  • Augustine, Confessions

I’ve probably left out a lot of good books, but these should get you started. Then I’m sure you will find your own way and get into reading really random things (like Plutarch writing about Jewish people, because why not?) – that is always what happens with classicists…always (and people say a degree in this won’t make any money! ha!)

Enjoy! :)

sleeper-sloth  asked:

What advice would you give someone who wants to start studying the Classics/Greek mythology etc. ? (Im a highschool student and I've recently become interested in it, though I have been obsessed with Greek mythology before)

since we tend to be introduced to mythology in a really haphazard way in school, if at all, here is a vaguely organized list of famous classical literature based on mythology to help you get a sense of what’s out there (note that there are multiple versions of the myths!)

(another note: greek/roman mythology can be extremely violent. general tw: rape, abduction, murder, infanticide, gore, torture, ableism, human sacrifice, cannibalism, execution, incest, war, slavery)

*traditionally, by “homer,” but he was probably not a real person

there’s a lot more mythology i haven’t covered here, obviously, but i think that’s enough to begin with!

A messy breakfast, with a side of Athenian Tragedy.

Essay planning today for my Week 2 Essay - it is *supposed* to be mainly on the three Theban Plays (Antigone, Oedipus the King & Oedipus at Colonus), but I can’t resist talking about Electra because it’s my favourite. I’ve chosen to explore the idea of ‘recognition’, so I think I’m also going to bring in Aeschylus’ The Libation Bearers too.

Have a great weekend!

Sarah xoxo

anonymous asked:

Hi! Do you have any lit recs?

hello c: of course! i’m assuming you mean classic lit, but if there’s something more specific you’re looking for, feel free to message me again.

this is just a list of my personal favourites narrowed down significantly- I wanted to keep this relatively short- but I hope you find them useful~

greek tragedies:

• euripides’ medea 

• euripides’ bacchae [woodruff’s translation is rad btw]

• euripides’ orestes

• sophocles’ ajax, electra and antigone

aeschylus’ oresteia (agamemnon, the libation bearers & the eumenides) 


• homer’s iliad and odyssey [I mean of course these two are gonna be on this list]

• hesiod’s theogony 

hesiod’s works and days

• virgil’s aeneid


• aristophanes’ the birds, and the frogs


herodotus’ histories - not without flaws, but generally good in most areas

general myth!books:

edith hamilton’s mythology - real talk this book is incredible, and so good for people new to classics and mythology in general

• donna tart’s the secret history - wouldn’t be a book rec without including this; this book will always be in my heart~

• madeline miller’s the song of achilles - there will be tears

as usual, this ended up longer than I meant it to, but hopefully there’s something of use to you here! 

also, if anyone would like any more lit recs (specific or general), please do message me- I love doing them ♥

Oh, the torment bred in the race,
the grinding scream of death
and the stroke that hits the vein,
the hemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house,
and not outside it, no,
not from others but from them,
their bloody strife. We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground –
answer the call, send help,
Bless the children, give them triumph now.

—  Aeschylus, ‘The Libation Bearers’ from The Oresteia
the libation bearers

Oh, the torment bred in the race,
the grinding scream of death
and the stroke that hits the vein,
the hemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house,
and not outside it, no,
not from others but from them,
their bloody strife. We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground –
answer the call, send help,
Bless the children, give them triumph now.


Chorus Leader: A prayer for some god or man to come against them–
Electra: Someone to judge them, or do justice to them?
Chorus Leader: Say it straight: someone who’ll take a life for a life
Electra: Can it be right for me to ask this of the gods?
Chorus Leader: Can it be wrong to pay back hurt with hurt?
—  Sophocles, Libation Bearers