A-Z: General definitions: Orestes

Definition

Orestes was the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon and brother of Electra, Iphigeneia and Chrysothemis. When Agamemnon returned home after ten years fighting in the Trojan War, Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus killed him in revenge for the sacrifice of Iphigeneia. Eight years afterwards, Orestes killed his mother and her lover to avenge the death of his father. There are several versions of what happened.

At first, Orestes' revenge was seen as an honourable thing to do. Later versions tell of the Furies mercilessly pursuing Orestes for his matricide. Differing accounts are also given of the role played in the death of Clytemnestra by Electra, ranging from non-involvement to holding the sword with her brother. In some accounts, Orestes then finds his sister Iphigeneia at Tauris and brings her home to Mycenae.

Orestes married Hermione, his fiancee from before the Trojan War. He became king of Mycenae; he also ruled Sparta after the death of Menelaus.

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