The fate of Orestes lies with the powerful goddess Athena. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, law, and justice, is the judge for the trial of Orestes. Orestes is being tried for the murder of his mother, Clytemnestra. Orestes never states that he did not kill his mother, but instead he claims it was justifiable homicide. Clytemnestra killed Orestes’ father Agamemnon, so Orestes got revenge on her. Apollo, the son of Zeus, sides with Orestes and acts as a spokesperson and attorney for him. The Furies, ancient goddesses who are brutal creatures of revenge, represent the ghost of Clytemnestra in the play. Apollo and the Furies clash many times throughout the trial, and it makes for an exciting showdown. At the conclusion of the trial, the case is so close that not even Athena feels fit to decide Orestes’ destiny. She calls upon a group of men to decide the case, and this sets the foundation of a jury that will judge all future murder cases. Athena casts her vote in favor of Orestes, and that will be the deciding vote if the jurors are tied. There’s a moment of suspense as the ballots are tallied, then Athena announces that the ballots are tied: Orestes is set free. The factors that led to this verdict in favor of Orestes are: males are superior to females; Zeus approved the murder of Clytemnestra; Clytemnestra broke the sacred marriage bond by murdering her husband; and the acquittal will lead to a pact between Athens and the Furies. Athena’s decision to free Orestes not only changes Orestes’ life, but the life of Athens for years to come.
One of the dynamics that led to the judgment in favor of Orestes is the superiority of paternity over maternity. Orestes’ defense is that the murder of a woman is less significant than the murder of a man, so the killing of Clytemnestra should be seen in light of the slaying of Agamemnon. Apollo states that a person can have a father and no mother, and points to Athena as a perfect example of this. Athena was born from Zeus’ skull...
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