Aeschylus’ Agamemnon: The Education of the Chorus

"Aechylus's Agamemnon: The Education of the Chorus." Manuscript, undated.  In The Archaeology of the Soul, 2012.


According to one interpretation of the Oresteia, the ground of Athenian democracy is the divine condonation of matricide; but a stricter interpretation would be that the Olympian gods allow the people to judge for themselves provided they acknowledge that the paradigm for all their future decisions is the human undecidability of Orestes’ case. The gods sanction human error. Men will never with one voice either condemn Clytaemestra or acquit Orestes; but since the gods who advocate one position or the other have no doubts as to the justice of their own cause, this is tantamount to the proposition that men can never wholeheartedly worship either the old or the new gods, and Athena, in persuading the Furies to become part of the new political order of Athens, thereby admits men’s incapacity to recognize fully the justice of Zeus. Athena’s wisdom would thus partly consist in the admission that men cannot know her wisdom as wisdom, and therefore fear and awe are indispensable ingredients in political life.