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Who Was Orestes in Greek Mythology?

Samarpita Choudhury
The much talked-about mythological character, Orestes is a topic of extensive discussion. Read ahead his saga in detail.

The Women of Doom

The Erinyes, alternatively known as the Furies, were Goddesses, who were the epitome of vengeance. They were three sisters named Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone.

Orestes was the son of Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae, and his QueenClytemnestra.
Clytemnestra was an unhappy wife of King Agamemnon. She was unhappy to be wedded to him. There was pent-up anger within her against her husband, which superseded her patience when her husband conspired to sacrifice their daughter, Iphigenia. This took Clytarmnestra by rage and she decided to put the tyranny of her husband to a stop by murdering him.
Aegisthus was the son of Thyestes and Pelopia, Thyestes' own daughter. He was not raised by his mother, who had abandoned him, and was instead raised by Atreus, the brother of Thyestes.
However, on one occasion when Atreus had sent Aegisthus to murder Thyestes, the father and son recognized each other by means of a sword that Aegisthus carried, which actually belonged to Thyestes. The duo then murdered Atreus and reigned over Mycenae. He had not taken any part in the Trojan War.

A Bloody Deal

Agememnon had forcefully wedded Clytemnestra after having killed her husband, Tantulus.

What Followed Next

After Agamemnon was slain, the notorious Aegisthus resolved to kill little Orestes, who was still a child at that time. Here comes the witty little Electra, who presumed that her brother, Orestes, would also be killed by Aegisthus.
In an attempt to avert this ill fate, she smuggled the little one out of the kingdom, with a hope that he would be raised to manhood, and perhaps would come back to avenge their father's death. A name that demands a mention here is Paedagogus, the person who helped in driving Orestes to safety.
Electra was passing her days in the kingdom in fear and resentment against her mother (Clytemnestra) and her love interest Aegisthus. The only amount of solace that she could receive was in her belief that Orestes would come back to the cursed kingdom, and set the wrongs into right.
In the meanwhile, Orestes had already come back to Mycenae with the solitary aim of punishing the murderers of his father. As his allies, he was accompanied by Pylades and Paedagogus. The trio hatched a plan to fake themselves as messengers, and give the false news of Orestes' death.
This was the first step of the plan. As resolved, one fine day, Clytemnestra gets the news of her son's death, and breathes a sigh of relief, for she and her lover were free of all fears. Agamemnon's death would be avenged by none.
However, this bliss was short-lived, and the eagerly awaited deed of avenging was at last brought to pass. Orestes killed his own mother and her lover, Aegisthus.

An Ode to Friendship

Pylades and Orestes are known for their intense friendship. Their friendship is legendary, and has been interpreted in several ways. While Orestes was driven to safety by the endeavors of Electra, he was taken in by Strophius, King of Phocis. Pylades was the son of Strophius, and the two were raised by the king. Thus, an eternal friendship blossomed.

The Fate of Orestes

Orestes had committed matricide. Though he had ample reasons to murder his mother, the reasons didn't suffice for this act of brutality against one's own mother. Thus, Orestes had to bear the brunt for his deed.
Orestes brought to pass the heinous act of murdering his mother, after he was advised by the Oracle of Delphi. But, his advocacy to support his act of murder wasn't seen in good light, and he was thus, sought after by the Furies, who drove him to madness.
He then sought refuge at the temple at Delphi. There Athena decides to protect him, and following the verdict of judges, he was acquitted.
There is another version of the legend, which states that weary of the incessant hauntings by the Furies, he approached Apollo, consulting him about ways to get rid of the Furies. Apollo told him to go to Tauris, and fetch the idol of Artemis. Artemis is a highly revered Greek Goddess.
It was believed that the idol had fallen from Heaven, and Orestes was to restore it and take it back to Athens. He was accompanied by his mate, Pylades, and upon reaching there, they were made captives.
They were to be offered as sacrifices to the deity. But, there was present Iphigenia, who was the priestess there. On recognizing each other, the trio fled, along with the statue of the Goddess.
After coming back to his own kingdom, he sat on the throne of Mycenae. He got married to his own cousin, Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus. To them was born a son named Tisamenus. He later met his end, owing to a fatal snakebite.
Whether his act of murdering his mother was right or wrong, or whether he was a victim of misfortune is above the point of debate. The fact is that he was successful in avenging his father's death, and in reuniting his broken family. He was now in the presence of his sisters. However, his death was again a sorry instance.