Orestes: An Innocent Hero
Throughout time there has been a universal question that does not yet yield a universal answer. All people have a different view on whether or not it is right to avenge the killing of another, through the death of the killers. In America during this day and age, it is the obligation of the court system to decide whether or not a murderer should be put to death. Most of the time, the criminal is sentenced to a prison term, but when a judge decides to issue the death penalty there is usually an uproar among the people. Does the court now become a murderer along with the convicted felon or is the court an innocent body. Is it a hero who is looked upon as the hand of justice or just another bad guy? In the trilogy of “The Oresteia,'; we come across a similar situation. When his jealous wife Clytaemnestra and his cousin Aegisthus kill Agamemnon, the king of Argos, it is up to his long lost son Orestes, to avenge his death. To the people of Argos and the house of Atreus, Orestes was an innocent hero in yet another chess game played by the gods.
Deep into the first story of “The Oresteia,'; better known as “Agamemnon,'; Cassandra, who has been cursed by Apollo to be a seer who will never be believed, envisions the death of Agamemnon and herself. It is in this vision that she sees an avenger who will come about and bring justice to the murdered victims, “ We will die, but not without some honor from the gods. There will come another to avenge us, born to kill his mother, born his father’s champion. The gods have sworn a monumental oath: as his father lies upon the ground he draws him home with power like a prayer.'; ( Aeschylus. The Oresteia U.S.A.: Penguin, 1975.) This vision proves to be very important when speaking about the innocence of Orestes and his heroism as well. Before the incident even takes place, we know that the gods have destined Orestes to avenge his father’s death. During this period of time, when the gods were on your side, you were doing the right thing! Another way to prove Orestes innocence is through the god of sun, song, and prophecy, better known as Apollo.
Early on in “The Libation Bearers'; Orestes puts his faith in Apollo. He declares:
“Apollo will never fail me, no, his...
... middle of paper ...
...it brings Orestes home.'; (Aeschylus, 172)
As we move on in “The Libation Bearers';, Electra, like the leader and his chorus, also looks to Orestes as a savior or hero. As she sits at the grave of her father Agamemnon, Electra prays to Hermes, god of the dead. She prays for “the one, who murders in return!'; (Aeschylus, 182) Later on in her prayers she says, “ Rekindle the light that saves our house!'; (Aeschylus, 183) and “Raise up your avenger, into the light, my father – kill the killers in return with justice.'; (Aeschylus, 183) All of these prayerful statements refer to one; Orestes. As the trilogy comes to a climax, Orestes finally acts out his revenge and it is not until the end of his trial that his destiny is fulfilled.
At the end of the trilogy, the jury was split fifty fifty, and in another proof of innocence the tie breaking lot thrown by Athena was in favor of Orestes. He was officially proven innocent. Once more in Greek mythology, human beings were used as pawns in a godly game of chess; but at least this is one of those times when an innocent hero emerged.
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