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The House of Atreus


  • tricked gods somehow
    • served the gods his son Pelops in a stew, to see if they were omniscient
    • stole nectar and ambrosia, OR told the gods' secrets
    • demanded immortality
  • famous sinner in Hades
    • stands in water, but he cannot drink; grapes hang over head, but he cannot eat


  • Oenomaus tries to prevent his daughter Hippodameia from marrying (folktale again)
  • Pelops wins her by treachery: bribes Oenomaus' charioteer, to beat O. in chariot race

Atreus and Thyestes

  • brothers, rivals for kingdom of Mycenae
    • Thyestes first wins by trick; then Atreus feeds him a stew made of his children
      • compare Tantalus myth


  • sacrifice of Iphigenia earns Clytemestra's hatred
  • Agamemnon murdered by Clytemestra and her lover Aegisthus on return from Troy
    • Aegisthus is Thyestes' son, Agamemnon's cousin


  • avenges Agamemnon's death by killing Clytemestra, Aegisthus; helped by sister Electra
  • Orestes must be purified at Delphi for shedding kindred blood
    • pursued by Furies (Greek name Erinyes, plur. of Erinys)

Aeschylus' Oresteia

  • only extant trilogy in Greek tragedy--three plays presented at the same time
    • Agamemnon--murder of Agamemnon
    • Choephoroe or Libation Bearers--murder of Clytemestra, Aegisthus
    • Eumenides--purification of Orestes, transformation of Furies into Eumenides (means 'the kindly ones')

Last updated: 11/3/07

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