from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Orestes and the Erinyes (goddesses of revenge)

Orestes ( ancient Greek Ὀρέστης ; German also Orestes ) is the son of Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra in Greek mythology . His sisters are Iphigenie (Iphimede), Chrysothemis and Elektra ( Laodike ).


Escape from Aigisthus

Agamemnon went to the Trojan War and was absent for 10 years. Clytaimnestra married Aigisthus without expecting her husband to return. When Agamemnon returned home, they murdered him in retaliation for sacrificing Iphigenia.

Aigisthus wanted to kill Orestes too. His nurse Geilissa or Arsinoe or Laodameia saved him by handing over her own son to Aigisthus when he demanded the surrender of Orestes and he thus killed the wrong one. Elektra now sent Orestes to Strophios , the king of Phocis , whose wife Anaxibia was a sister of Agamemnon. Strophios raised him together with his son Pylades and so the two became very good friends.

Revenge for the murder of Agamemnon

Elektra asked Orestes to avenge her father's murder. Orestes asked the oracle of Delphi eight years after the bloody act , who advised him to take revenge. He moved to Mycenae and pretended to be the herald of Strophios, who is to announce the death of Orestes and bring his ashes home. After laying a lock of hair on his father's grave, he revealed himself to his sister Elektra and killed Aigisthus and his mother Clytaimnestra. The sons of Nauplios came to Aegisthus' aid and were killed by Pylades.

Atonement for matricide

The Furies (Furies) beat his mother Orestes with madness and pursued him. Nobody wanted to take him in for the murder of his own mother. In Troizen, for example, he had to live in a tent in front of the temple of Apollo because the inhabitants were forbidden to take him in before he was cleansed of his deed.

Finally he came to Athens , where his deed was negotiated on the Areopagus . Two legal interests faced each other: the protection of the mother from harm and the demand for loyalty to the husband and the punishment for murder. So far the decision had been made in favor of the mother. Orestes act changed the law. In order to avenge the murder of his father by Clytaimnestra, he had killed his mother on behalf of Apollo. In the process, the city's goddess, Athena , pleaded in his favor. Her vote was decisive - Orestes was acquitted.

But even now the Erinyes did not leave him completely alone. An oracle prophesied that he could only be completely released from the curse if he went to the land of the tauren . There he should rob the statue of the gods from the temple of Artemis Orthia and bring it to the god Apollo (the brother of Artemis) to Greece . Orestes and his friend Pylades went to Tauris. There his sister Iphigenie worked in the temple as a priestess of Artemis, about which they knew nothing. It was custom and Iphigenie's task to sacrifice strangers to the goddess Artemis.

When Orestes and Pylades arrived in Tauris, they too were to be sacrificed. However, Iphigenia recognized them as Greeks. She made the strangers an offer. She would only sacrifice one of the strangers if the other brought a letter to her brother Orestes in Greece. The siblings recognized each other through this request. Now Iphigenia wanted to save both her brother and his friend Pylades. They came up with the following plan: Iphigenia told the Taur king Thoas that the statue of Artemis had been desecrated by Orestes, who was guilty of matricide . Therefore she must cleanse them and the victims in the sea, whereby no taurer is allowed to look. But when the Taurians turned their eyes at the sea, Iphigenia, Orestes and Pylades fled by ship to Greece. They took the statue of Artemis with them and placed it in the temple of Artemis in Brauron (in Attica ). According to another tradition, they brought her to Sparta . Orestes was finally healed.

Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson , Orestes and Hermione , around 1800


Now he returned to his native Mycenae and took over the government, which in the meantime was held either by Aletes , the son of Aigisthus, or by his uncle Menelaus . He married Hermione , the daughter of Helena and Menelaus, who had first been married to Neoptolemus (Pyrrhus), son of Achilles . With her he became the father of Tisamenus . Neoptolemus stole Hermione. Orestes chased him to Delphi and killed him. Orestes should also Erigone , daughter of Aegisthus, married and with it the Penthilus have witnessed.

When Kylarabes , the king of Argos , died childless, he still took over this reign. When Menelaus also died, his children with a concubine, Nikostratus and Megapenthes , were considered unworthy to become king of Sparta , and the government was also transferred to Orestes.


Orestes later moved to Arcadia and settled there. At the old age of 90 he died from a snake bite. He was buried in Tegea . Liches, a Spartan, found Orestes tomb in a forge and brought his bones to Sparta.

Orestes in literature, on reliefs and in music

Ancient literature

Sculpture work - reliefs and sculptures

  • City Roman Orestes sarcophagi from the 2nd century AD show reliefs with scenes from the Oresty of Aeschylus and the tragedy Iphigenia among the Taurians of Euripides.
  • The Rietschel gable is a gable relief created in 1840 by the sculptor Ernst Rietschel for the first Royal Court Theater of the City of Dresden . The relief with the title “Allegory of Tragedy” vividly depicts motifs from the Oresty . The focus of the relief is a symbolic figure that has no direct reference to the course of the scene: Melpomene , the muse of tragedy. It divides the gable into an allegory that stands for the bloody past determined by the gods and one that is to be understood as an indication of a present and future determined by humans. Today Rietschel's relief is placed at the Burgtheater on the Bautzener Ortenburg .

Modern literature


Arrangements by modern bands

  • The British independent band Cranes released the experimental concept album La tragédie d'Oreste et Électre in 1996 , an adaptation of Sartre's Les Mouches .
  • The American heavy metal band Virgin Steele processed the material for their metal opera The House of Atreus (premiered in 1999 under the title Klytaimnestra or Der Fluch der Atriden at the Schwaben Landestheater under Walter Weyers in Memmingen).
  • A Perfect Circle released the title Orestes on their debut album Mer de Noms (2000) , which describes a pensive Orestes before revenge on his mother.

Names after Orestes


  • Library of Apollodorus 1, 52; 2, 171; 2, 176; 5, 16; 9, 14; 9, 24; 9, 27; 9, 29.
  • Herodotus , Histories 1, 67; 9, 11.
  • Hesiod , Ehoien 23a, 27-30.
  • Pausanias , Travels in Greece
    Book 1: 22, 6; 28, 5; 33, 8; 41, 2
    Book 2: 16, 7; 17, 3; 18, 5-6; 29, 9; 31, 4; 31, 8-9.
    Book 3: 1, 5-6; 2, 1; 3, 6-7; 11, 10, 16, 7; 19, 9; 22, 1st
    Book 5: 4, 3rd
    Book 7: 1, 7; 6, 2; 25, 7.
    Book 8: 3, 2; 5, 1; 5, 4; 34, 1-4; 54, 4.
  • Strabon , Geographica 326; 377; 383; 401; 535; 537; 582.
  • Thucydides , The Peloponnesian War 1, 111.
  • Velleius Paterculus , Historia Romana 1, 1, 3
  • Virgil , Aeneis 3, 331; 4, 471.


Web links

Commons : Orestes  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Velleius Paterculus . Historia Romana 1.1.3
  2. ^ Velleius Paterculus . Historia Romana 1.1.3
  3. Cicero, Laelius de amicitia 24 .
  4. The Rietschel gable figures. In: Online presence of the city of Bautzen . City of Bautzen - Office for Public Relations and City Marketing, accessed on April 3, 2020 .
predecessor Office successor
Aletes King of Mycenae
12th century BC Chr.
(Fictional chronology)
Kylarabes King of Argos
12th century BC Chr.
(Fictional chronology)
Menelaus King of Sparta
12th century BC Chr.
(Fictional chronology)