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Orestes

Orestes, in Greek mythology, the only son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon and brother of Electra and Iphigenia. After the slaying of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, Orestes, still a boy, was sent to live in exile. Since it was the duty of the senior male in the house to punish the murderers, Orestes was commanded by Apollo to avenge the crime. With the assistance of Electra and his friend Pylades, who accompanied him in all his adventures, he killed his mother and her lover. After this matricide he was haunted by the Furies (Erinyes) until he reached Athens. He was tried and acquitted by the Areopagus, the tribunal of Athenian judges. Not all the Furies, however, accepted the verdict; and, to win full expiation from his crime, he was told to steal the sacred image of Artemis from Tauris. At Tauris he was reunited with Iphigenia and with her assistance stole the image and safely returned to Greece. It is said that he later married Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen. In the Oresteia, Aeschylus dramatized his vengeance and expiation. The story was also used by Sophocles and Euripides.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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