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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

Exile Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

(Orestes): "Zeus, Zeus! Observe our circumstances here! See the brood bereft of their eagle father, killed in the twisted coils of a dreadful viper! Starving hunger presses hard on the orphans, for they are not grown enough to bring a father's prey to the nest. This is the state in which you can see myself and her, I mean Electra, children deprived of their father, both of us in the same exile from our house." (246-254)

Here, Orestes takes up the theme of himself and Electra as exiles. Orestes connects the notion of exile with being orphaned; as a result, he turns to Zeus, often known as the "father of gods and men" for help. This is not the only time in the play when Orestes will turn to Zeus as a surrogate father. Given Zeus's close connection with ideals of justice, this suggests that, even though Orestes is an outcast among men, his only true allegiance is to his own just cause.

Quote #5

(Orestes): "Those below have a weapon from the dark, from men killed within their family and supplicating vengeance: it is madness and empty terror in the night; it attacks, it harasses and it drives a man from his city, with his body maimed under a yoke of beaten bronze. Such men, the oracle said, may share neither wine-bowl nor friendly libations, and they are kept away from altars by a father's unseen anger. No one either welcomes or shares his roof with such a man; lacking all honour and friends he dies in time, withered dry as a mummy in an evil death of total extinction." (286-296)

Here, Orestes portrays madness as the ultimate discriminator between people: if you are mad, you are utterly outcast and exiled. He implies that the dead have the power to inflict madness on the living, if the living don't carry out their wishes. The irony, of course, is that, by the time the play is over, Orestes has carried out what he thinks are the wishes of the dead and still ends up crazy and outcast.

Quote #6

(Electra): "O father, do hear our sorrow,
and our many tears in turn!
See, your two children are here at your tomb,
voices raised loud in their dirge!
Both of them exiles and suppliants, your grave is their welcome.
What here is good, and what without evil?
Is not the ruin beyond reversal with three throws?" (332-339)

Here, Electra expresses a powerful variation on the idea of her and her brother's exile. This time, she makes it sound like the only place they can call home is the tomb of their father Agamemnon. For the play's original Greek audience, this would have had an added resonance because of the cultural concept of "hero-cult." In the ancient Greek world, the spirits of prominent individuals were sometimes worshipped after they died. These dead famous dudes were known as "heroes," thus, the practice of worshipping them is known by modern scholars as "hero-worship" or "hero-cult." These heroes were almost always associated with a particular location. Thus, when Electra says that "your grave is [your children's'] welcome," the Greeks would probably have assumed that she was addressing the spirit of Agamemnon present in that location.

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