The Furies of Aeschylus

"The Furies of Aeschylus," ms. 1982. In The Argument of the Action, 2000.

Excerpt: “The Greek word for “right” is dike. Dike can mean “punishment,” but it never means “acquittal.” Dikastike – the science of right – is the art of punishment. “To condemn” is katadikazo and very common, “to acquit” apodikazo – “to abstain from dike” – and rare. Athena connects the founding of the Athenian sstem of right with the acquittal or Orestes. She thus goes against the gran of right. The last occurrence of the word “right” in the Eumenides is a preposition (diken) and its meaning is “in the manner of.” The exaction of right has given way to the inexactness of simile. Athena arranged for the Furies to be deprived of their right to punish Orestes. In the trilogy the Erinys is first mentioned as the divine agent of right; but it is in a simile of the Chorus, who make her stand in reality for the Atreidae. Athena seems to have ensured that the Furies, who finally are before us in reality, never leave the level of simile. Now that antidikos – an advocate of right in a lawsuit – will gain its true meaning in the Athenian system of right, there will be no need, it seems, for the Furies to be the agents of right. Athena does say, however, that the Erinys has great power, and that this means for some men a dim life of tears while for others songs. Indeed, the Furies are often connected with song. They seem to be the tragic Muses whom Athena persuades to settle in Athens.