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by Aeschylus

Agamemnon Justice and Judgment Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Christopher Collard's translation.

Quote #1

(Chorus): "[Menelaus and Agamemnon's] loud and ringing cry was of war, from anger,
like vultures which in extreme anguish for their young
wheel and spiral high above their nests […].
On high, someone – either Apollo or Pan or Zeus –
hears the birds' wailed lament, the sharp cry of these settlers in their home,
and for the transgressors' later punishment sends a Fury.
In just this way the mighty Zeus who guards hospitality
sends Atreus' sons against Alexandros,
because of a woman with many husbands" (48-52, 55-62)

This is how the Chorus first describes the Trojan War, by comparing Menelaus and Agamemnon to vultures that are enraged because their chicks have been killed. Obviously, this isn't a very exact parallel, because what happened to Menelaus was that his wife, Helen, was kidnapped by (or maybe ran off with) Alexandros, a.k.a. Paris; nobody hurt Menelaus's children. As for Agamemnon, he's simply along for the ride, and, ironically enough, he is going to end up killing his own child, Iphigenia. Do you think the Chorus is acting with justice and exercising good judgment in making this comparison, then? How about this: the Chorus says that Zeus sent the sons of Atreus against the Trojans because he wanted to punish them for their violation of hospitality; does this mean they think the war is just? What kind of justice can be dealt out by a Fury, anyway? (Think of our modern legal system; does frenzied rage typically play a major role in this process?) Because it raises all these questions, the first Choral Ode really gets the ball rolling on play's theme of "Justice and Judgment."

Quote #2

(Chorus): "I reverence great Zeus of Hospitality who has carried this through,
bending his bow long since against Alexandros
so he might not launch its shaft without effect
either short of the mark or beyond the stars." (362-366)

What does Chorus take Zeus for, some kind of idiot? We mean, we've heard of missing something by a long shot, but aiming your bow at somebody and shooting "beyond the stars"? That's pretty extreme. That said, it's important to remember that the Chorus is speaking metaphorically here. Once again, they're talking about the Trojan War; the arrow stands in for the Greek army, led by Agamemnon and Menelaus, that Zeus is shooting at the Trojans because Alexandros (a.k.a. Paris) stole Helen. How might the idea that Zeus aimed his bow correctly relate to the issue of whether the war was just?

Quote #3

(Chorus): "Zeus' blow: they can speak of that;
it is possible to track down this at any rate:
he fulfilled as he willed. Some person denied
that the gods deign to have concern about men
who trample grace
in untouchable things; but he was not pious.
Destruction is shown
exacting its price for their audacity,
aspirations greater than just,
houses teeming with excess
far beyond what is best." (367-372)

Once again, the Chorus cites the punishment of the Trojans as an example of Zeus's justice. Here, they also argue that this is proof against people who claim that the gods don't care about punishing humans who violate justice. This theme will come up again in the speech of Aegisthus in lines 1577-1582.

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