Here is one of the darker Greek myths, with murder and vengeance a-plenty. Now I think of it, there is murder and vengeance in quite a lot of the myths, but this is nasty!
Electra is the daughter of King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek troops in the Trojan War, and his Queen, Clytemnestra, sister of Helen of Troy. She is one of three children born to the couple. One of them, Iphigenia, was sacrificed to get the winds going for the expedition. The only son was Orestes.
I won’t go too far into the background story, which is really too sad, though, like many other myths, it’s the subject of Greek tragedies.
Agamemnon and his family were not happy or loving, and no wonder. Agamemnon was not Clytemnestra’s first husband. He had killed her first husband, along with her baby. And then, as if that was not bad enough, he sent her a letter from where the troops were waiting for a favourable wind to get them to Troy, saying, “Good news, young Achilles wants to marry our Iphigenia, send her immediately!”
Instead, the girl found herself being hauled up to the altar of Artemis, who was angry because Agamemnon had killed one of her deer, and murdered to get that wind going.
As you can imagine, Clytemnestra was not happy. She started plotting with her lover, one Aegisthus, who was also not pleased with Agamemnon’s family, the Atreus clan. Atreus, father of Agamemnon, had killed off Aegisthus’s siblings and done a bit of cooking... Really, not a nice man, but neither was Aegisthus.
When Agamemnon returned from the war, these two lovers killed him and took over the throne of Mycenae.
That left Electra and her brother Orestes to avenge their Dad, which they did, with Orestes killing Aesgisthus and Clytemnestra, with his sister’s enthusiastic encouragement.
In those days, vengeance was generally okay and fair enough, as long as you understood the vendetta started would just keep going, but you did not, repeat, not, kill your mother under any circumstances! If you did, you were likely to be chased by these three scary snake-haired women called the Erinyes, or Furies(Roman version) though you had to refer to them as the Kindly Ones. So, although Electra had been involved, it was only Orestes who suffered from their punishment, going mad. Don’t you love this painting? There is the murdered Clytemnestra, knife through her, with the three goddesses of vengeance yelling something like, “Look what you’ve done, you little sh-t!”
|Orestes and the Furies - Public Domain|
Eventually, there is a trial by the gods of Olympus, and Orestes is pardoned.
I recommend a novel by Kerry Greenwood, Electra, part of the Delphic Women trilogy. In this version, Electra’s hatred for her mother and Aegisthus is explained by his having raped her, and her mother doing nothing about it. Orestes is, in fact, her child, not her brother. She is helped to escape by Trojan Princess Cassandra who, in this novel, didn’t get killed by Clytemnestra. It’s a lovely book, available with the other two novels in the trilogy, Medea and Cassandra, on the Clan Destine Press web site. Here is the link.
It’s available much cheaper in ebook on the Apple Books site. If you want it in Kindle you may be out of luck, but buy it in print if you can.
You can probably read it without having read either of the other two books, but they, too, are worth a read.
Tomorrow - Fantasy and Greek Myths!