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Quotes

Quote #10

(Orestes): "Stretch it out and stand round it in a circle: show the thing which covered a man, so that a father may see – not my own father, but the one who watches over all this – so that I may have a witness in justice one day that I pursued this death justly – my own mother's!" (980-989)

Depending on what edition of the play you're using, your text might be a little different here. In some versions of the play, there's an extra line (numbered 986 is most Greek editions) that makes it clear that the "one who watches over all this" is actually Helios, the Sun-God. Christopher Collard, the translator we're following, thinks that this line wasn't part of Aeschylus's original play, but got stuck in by somebody else at a later date. (Collard didn't come up with this idea on his own; for backup, he cites M.L. West, a very famous classicist who also thinks that this line wasn't part of the original.) Collard's reason for thinking this is that, throughout the Oresteia, justice is very closely associated with Zeus, who is also known as the "father of gods and men." Thus, he thinks that Orestes is referring to Zeus when he says "not my own father, but the one who watches over all this."

What do you think of this interpretation? What if Collard and West are wrong, and Aeschylus really did mean to have Orestes call upon the Sun-God here? Would that change anything in the way the idea of Justice comes into play? In thinking about this question, you might want to compare a passage in Agamemnon, Part 1 of the Oresteia, which actually does refer to Helios; this passage comes in the Herald's speech at lines 674-679.

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