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The Furies, Goddesses of Vengance
The Furies, Goddesses of Vengence
The Furies are three terrible ancient Greek goddesses with wings and serpentine hair who pursue and punish people who have done evil and not been punished. In Greek they are called ‘Ερινυς, Ερινυες’. The Eumenides is a euphemism for them. The word ‘Eumenides’ means ‘kindly, well disposed and is from Indo European ‘eu-2′, ‘lacking’ and ‘men-1′, ‘To think’. The word ‘Erinys’ does not seem to have an Indo-European derivation. Eumenides may be a Mycenaean name for Minoan goddesses.
The Furies were just the opposite of rebellious women. They fought
for law and order and punished criminals. They hounded many criminals to their
death. Sometimes they are referred to as the Nameless goddesses.
The Erinyes, or Furies, were horrible according to Orestes. He said
they were all black with long hair like snakes and eyes dripping of blood.
Since the Furies are women the religious ceremonies for them must be performed
by women. Pausanius (1.28.1) says that the Athenians had a temple to the
goddesses which they called August or Venerable but Hesiod calls the Erinyes
or Furies. He says it was Aeschylus who first represented them with snakes in
their hair. He also refers to them as underworld deities.
Pausanias says (8.34.1) “XXXIV. As you go from Megalopolis to Messene,
after advancing about seven stades, there stands on the left of the highway a
sanctuary of goddesses. They call the goddesses themselves, as well as the
district around the sanctuary, Maniae (Madnesses). In my view this is a
surname of the Eumenides; in fact they say that it was here that madness
overtook Orestes as punishment for shedding his mother’s blood.  Not far
from the sanctuary is a mound of earth, of no great size, surmounted by a
finger made of stone; the name, indeed, of the mound is the Tomb of the Finger.
Here, it is said, Orestes on losing his wits bit off one finger of one of his
hands. Adjoining this place is another, called Ace (Remedies) because in it
Orestes was cured of his malady. Here too there is a sanctuary for the
Eumenides.  The story is that, when these goddesses were about to put
Orestes out of his mind, they appeared to him black; but when he had bitten
off his finger they seemed to him again to be white and he recovered his
senses at the sight. So he offered a sin-offering to the black goddesses to
avert their wrath, while to the white deities he sacrificed a thank-offering.
It is customary to sacrifice to the Graces also along with the Eumenides.”
Hesiod says: “(ll. 802-804) Avoid fifth days: they are unkindly and terrible.
On a fifth day, they say, the Erinyes assisted at the birth of
Horcus (Oath) whom Eris (Strife) bare to trouble the forsworn.”
Hesiod says: “(ll. 176-206) And Heaven came, bringing on night and longing
for love, and he lay about Earth spreading himself full upon her (7).
Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in
his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and
swiftly lopped off his own father’s members and cast them away to
fall behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for
all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the
seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes and the great
Giants with gleaming armor, holding long spears in their hands
and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae (8) all over the boundless
Homer says: (Odyssey, Book XX) “It should be even as when the
storm winds bare away the daughters of Pandareus. Their
father and their mother the gods had slain, and the maidens
were left orphans in the halls, and fair Aphrodite
cherished them with curds and sweet honey and delicious
wine. And Here gave them beauty and wisdom beyond the lot
of women, and holy Artemis dowered them with stature, and
Athene taught them skill in all famous handiwork. Now while
fair Aphrodite was wending to high Olympus, to pray that a
glad marriage might be accomplished for the maidens,–and
to Zeus she went whose joy is in the thunder, for he knows
all things well, what the fates give and deny to mortal
men–in the meanwhile the spirits of the storm snatched
away these maidens, and gave them to be handmaids to the
Homer says: (Iliad, Book IX) “But my father soon came to know, and
cursed me bitterly, calling the dread Erinyes to witness.”
Homer says: (Iliad, Book XV) “Sensible people are open to argument, and you
know that the Erinyes always range themselves on the side of the older
Homer says: (Iliad, Book XIX) “I call also Earth and Sun and the Erinyes who
dwell below and take vengeance on him who shall swear falsely,…”
Homer says (Iliad Book XIX) “that Achilles’ horse responds to his taunt
“When he had thus said the Erinyes stayed his speech,…”
In Aeschylus, Eumenides Orestes is tried for murder and Athena states: (line 752) “This man is acquitted on the charge of murder, for the numbers of the casts are equal.” to which the furies reply: (line 778) “Younger gods, you have ridden down the ancient laws and have taken them from my hands!1 And I—dishonored, unhappy, deeply angry” Athena replies to this (799) “Do not be angry, do not hurl your heavy rage on this land, or cause barrenness, letting loose drops whose savage spirit will devour the seed. For I promise you most sacredly that you will have a cavernous sanctuary in a righteous land, where you will sit on shining thrones at your hearths, worshipped with honor by my citizens here.” Then she changes their goals when she says: (line 866) “It is possible for you to choose such things from me: bestowing good, receiving good, well honored in this land that is most beloved to the gods.” and so Athena has changed the Furies to the Eumenides.
Pictures of Furies:
- Adolphe William Bouguereau (French 1825-1905)
- Franz von Stuck
- Orestes and furies
- Boris Vallejo
- Orestes judged by Athena
- Furies and Orestes
- The Furies
- Apollo purifies Orestes with blood of a pig at Omphalos of Delphi while Clytemnestra seeks to awaken sleeping furies
- The Oresteia Two of the Furies. Costumes by Ricola Wille
- Gustave Klimt
- Aeschylus, Eumenides, trans. Herbert Weir Smyth, Ph. D., Ed.
- Furies, in the Perseus Encyclopedia.
To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Furies) and
Questions and Answers
Question: names of furies?
Answer: Tisiphone, Megaera, Alecto
Question: mother of the furies ?
Answer: The myths have assigned several possible mothers to the Furies
including Gaea, Euonyme, Nyx, and Persephone.
Question: what is the story all about
Answer: The ancient Greeks went beyond divine retribution in Hell and included punishment of souls while they were still alive.
Question: Is the death of Agamennon an act of the Furies?
Answer: No. Agamemnon was not pursued by the guilt and torture that
the Furies used. The deaths that the Furies caused were self-inflicted.
Question: how many
Question: Who is the Pholosifer of the Greek play, The Furies?
Answer: The Furies (“Eumenidae”) by Aeschylus.
Question: What did the furies wear?
Answer: Any of the goddesses can wear anything or nothing depending
upon their task and mood. There is no stigma against a goddess going
nude even in a situation that a human would be humiliated. In the case of a
goddess nudity symbolizes purity. For this reason goddesses are often
portrayed nude. But the ancient Greeks usually portrayed them in the garments
of their civilization, the peplos or chiton. But most of
the myths portray them during Mycenaean times. During that time there are
more likely to have appeared in Minoan garb. This would have included a
fancy flounced skirt, girdle, and vest that revealed the breasts.
Question: were the furies good?
Answer: The furies were just. It is an oversimplification to call them
good, but justice is thought to be good for society.
Question: What story do the Furies come from and where can I buy it?
Answer: The Orestia contains a lot about the Furies.
Question: what is justice in the trilogy
Answer: You should specify which Trilogy but the Greek concept of justice
is so general that it will apply to all the trilogies.
Within Divine law there is Natural law and Moral law. Natural laws involve
natural events with natural consequences. Examples include heavy things fall
toward the center of the earth; fire will burn you; and water will put out a
fire. There is nothing to enforce here because the consequence always follows
the event. There are other laws that are less certain: grease your wheels or
they will fail; do not beat your wife; to avoid sickness dress warmly. Perhaps
the gods decide whether to punish if you break on of these laws. Then there
are other laws with uncertain consequences: bury the dead; be kind to
strangers; Say a prayer to Demeter before you plant your grain. If the gods
don’t enforce these laws, who will? Natural laws have natural consequences
while Moral laws are enforced by divine judgment. The Greeks felt that
once a divine moral law is identified its enforcement is pleasing to the
divinities to enforce it. Human law involves the identification of laws
pleasing to the divinities as well as a system of enforcement.
Justice for a divinity is fairly easy. A divinity is all-knowing and
infallible. It is simply a matter of comparing acts with laws and logically
Justice for humans is much more difficult. Deities cannot communicate
with humans directly or the humans would become all-knowing like the gods.
Rather deities must speak in an encrypted way that must be decoded, often by
special priests. This rule applies not only to laws, but also to prophesy.
Humans must struggle to know the law, know the facts of an event, and to
know what consequences to enable to redress a wrong.
Question: who is the Furies father
Answer: Possibly Uranus, Cronus, or Hades depending on which myth was
Question: What are The Furies’ symbols?
Answer: Blood and snakes (blood-shot eyes and snakes in the hair)
Question: What is the erynies or furies (tisiphone, Megaera, Alecto) family
background….physical description of the family….symbol or representation
and summary of related myth…my other questions are the strengths ang
weaknesses of the furies or erynies, human characteristics, interesting facts.
is tisiphone (Furies) a guy or not?
Answer: As with other monsters the Furies are female although their nature is not clear. They are described as disgusting, loathsome creatures, dripping with blood and crawling around on all fours to scent their prey. They also drink blood. Their purpose seems to be to punish those who swear falsely or to punish those who violate family rights. This punishment takes the form of a pursuit rather than any act. They are said to be the daughters of Nyx.
The furies are goddesses and so they should not be said to have strengths
and weaknesses. Each has a realm. About this see: http://www.fjkluth.com/power.html
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