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[25] The god gave him leave, so he departed secretly to Mycenae in company with Pylades, and killed both his mother and Aegisthus.1 And not long afterwards, being afflicted with madness and pursued by the Furies, he repaired to Athens and was tried in the Areopagus. He is variously said to have been brought to trial by the Furies, or by Tyndareus, or by Erigone, daughter of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra; and the votes at his trial being equal he was acquitted.2


1 This vengeance for the murder of Agamemnon is the theme of three extant Greek tragedies, the Choephori of Aeschylus, the Electra of Sophocles, and the Electra of Euripides. It was related by Hagias in his epic, the Returns, as we learn from the brief summary of Proclus (Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. G. Kinkel, p. 53). Compare Pind. P. 11.36ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 119. Homer briefly mentions the murder of Aegisthus by Orestes (Hom. Od. 1.29ff.; Hom. Od. 1.298-300; Hom. Od. 3.306ff.); he does not expressly mention, but darkly hints at, the murder of Clytaemnestra by her son (Hom. Od. 3.309ff.).

2 The trial and acquittal of Orestes in the court of the Areopagus at Athens is the subject of Aeschylus's tragedy, the Eumenides, where the poet similarly represents the matricide as acquitted because the votes were equal (Aesch. Eum. 752ff.). The Parian Chronicle also records the acquittal on the same ground, and dates it in the reign of Demophon, king of Athens. See Marmor Parium 40ff. (Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. C. Müller, i.546). Compare Eur. IT 940-967; Eur. IT 1469-1472; Eur. Or. 1648-1652; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 1374; Paus. 1.28.5; Paus. 8.34.4; Dictys Cretensis vi.4. In the Eumenides the accusers of Orestes are the Furies. According to the Parian Chronicler, it was Erigone, the daughter of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, who instituted the prosecution for the murder of her father; the chronicler does not mention the murder of Clytaemnestra as an article in the indictment of Orestes. According to the author of the Etymologicum Magnum, s.v. Αἰώρα, p. 42, the prosecution was conducted at Athens jointly by Erigone and her grandfather Tyndareus, and when it failed, Erigone hanged herself. Peloponnesian antiquaries, reported by Paus. 8.34.4, alleged that the accuser was not Tyndareus, who was dead, but Perilaus, a cousin of Clytaemnestra. According to Hyginus, Fab. 119, Orestes was accused by Tyndareus before the people of Mycenae, but was suffered to retire into banishment for the sake of his father. As to the madness of Orestes, caused by the Furies of his murdered mother, see Eur. Or. 931ff.; Paus. 3.22.1; Paus. 8.34.1-4. The incipient symptoms of madness, showing themselves immediately after the commission of the crime, are finely described by Aesch. Lib. 1021ff.

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