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Athens  in the 5th century BC

The period of Athenian Democracy during the 5th century was the most important period in ancient times, and what is recognized today as the oldest democracy in the world. It is the most studied subject of classical Greek history. Intra-temporal and universal values were established which attracted the attention of Europe during the Renaissance (14th-16th century). It all happened without a corresponding model,  without a prior theoretical background, and reached its peak within a few decades.

-Persian Wars: Marathon battle (490 BC) and Salamis sea fight (480); Aeschylus took part in both. Athens is glorified, dominates and does great things until the beginning of the disastrous Peloponnesian War of 431-404 BC

-Pericles (492-429) dominated in the political scene from 461 BC onwards, leading the Athenian Hegemony.

Aeschylus- Sophocles- Euripides: Collective / human / individual

  • Having experienced threat and war, Aeschylus focused on cohesion, reconciliation and the 'commons'. He lived at a time of wars and their horror, and promoted peace, post-war healing and institutional reconstruction. TRAGEDY OF DIVINE JUSTICE

  • Sophocles (496-406 BC) lived during a time of greatness and glory, focused on humans, their internal processes. He believed in the glory of man and his characters do not bend, even if they have been rejected by people and the gods. He focused on morality and ideals (eg. Antigone, Ajax, Philoctetes). TRAGEDY OF THE LONELY HERO

  • Euripides (485/480- 406 BC), who lived the run-up to the civil war (Peloponnesian), talked about the individual and his inner world, his emotions, conflicts, passions, grief, and lament (Hecuba, Medea, The Bacchae, Iphigenia in Aulis, Heracles). TRAGEDY OF PASSIONS

"Hubris" and its "treatment"

Aeschylus creates, through the history of the Atreides, a theatrical play that will remain in history as a monument to the greatness of the human spirit through the multiple meanings and levels it processes.

To what extent man is the source of his actions? Does he takes the initiative and assume  responsibility for his actions in the context of the general order of the world, which is certainly defined by the Gods?

The tragic question of responsibility arises when human actions leave a space open to the inner dialogue of the individual, to intention and premeditation, without having attained enough coherence, autonomy and maturity so as to be self-sufficient and self-nominated.

"But when he, the man goes to his loss, god helps him too" (Aeschylus,  Persians )

The western civilization has tried over the centuries to set limits, to control but also to suppress through reason man’s wild nature and his "guilt", which tends towards crime, to destroy what he has already built.

In  Eumenides , the Supreme Court acquits Orestes. Here Aeschylus (who believes that there should be severe penalties for anyone who harms the city) appears optimistic, and an advocate of human flexibility and the synthetic / consensus process.

The place of the tragedy is at the 'borderline' area where human actions meet the divine powers and acquire meaning, but often in a context that goes beyond man’s understanding.

"Oresteia" (458 BC) examines:

  • Arrogance, hubris, infringement of values ​​(sacrilege)

  • Violence and its continuation as vendetta, with its broader implications

  • Situations that man controls, but also matters outside his range

  • The Role of the old values ​​(Furies) and their evolution, to help justice and to be vigilant to prevent crimes

  • The Role of the new rules and principles and their safekeeping. Athena and the Supreme Court, Areopagus

  • The Divine justice (perhaps aristocracy) and the assumption of responsibility by the municipality, by the citizens (democracy). Combination of hope and fear (not knowing when the gods will get angry)

  • The Responsibility of people towards the gods and towards fellow human beings for whom they are responsible, i.e. the leaders. The suffering of the un-named makes the responsibility bigger for their leaders.

  • Respect for life and for the people, for the collective face of the city. Avoid anarchy and despotism

  • The bloodline. Does the child get his blood from the father or the mother? Patriarchy?

The Supreme Court: Areopagus

In 462 BC the Supreme Court, already composed of life members from the aristocracy with major political powers, changed form and became more democratic. A large part of administrative and judicial powers devolved to "Heliaia" (which consisted of 6,000 elected judges), the Council and the Assembly. After that, it remained as a  'religious' court, for cases of sacrilege and homicide with intent.

The establishment of the court (and the inclusion of Furies in the new civic order, now as Eumenides) does not eliminate completely the contradictions between old and new gods, between the heroic past of the aristocracy and the present democratic Athens. There were tensions, and its founder, Ephialtes, was murdered in 461 BC.

Athens 29/09/2016


1.    Η αφήγηση της Ορέστειας (JACQUELINE de ROMILLY, Εκδ. ΩΚΕΑΝΙΔΑ,2008)

2.    Η Ελληνική τραγωδία στο πέρασμα του χρόνου. (JACQUELINE de ROMILLY, Εκδ. ΤΟΑΣΤΥ2000)

3.    Η αρχαία Ελλάδα εναντίον της βίας (JACQUELINE de ROMILLY, Εκδ. ΤΟ ΑΣΤΥ 2001 )

4.    Βάστα καρδιά μου (JACQUELINE de ROMILLY  Εκδ. ΤΟ ΑΣΤΥ)

5.    Hτραγική ποίηση των αρχαίων Ελλήνων(Albin Lesky, ΜΙΕΤ, 2010)

6.    Αρχαία Ελληνική τραγωδία (JACQUELINE de ROMILLY, Εκδ. Καρδαμίτσας, 1997)

7.    Η τραγωδία τότε και τώρα. Πρακτικά διεθνούς συνεδρίου για την τραγωδία και τον Αριστοτέλη (Εκδ. Καστανιώτη, 2002, Επιμ. Ανδρέας Γιαννακούλας, Μιχάλης Χρυσανθόπουλος)

8.    Οι τραγωδίες του Αισχύλου (μετάφραση Ι. Γρυπάρη, βιβλιοπωλείο της Εστίας, 2010)

9.    The Greek Chorus and Other Techniques of Paradoxical Therapy PEGGY PAPP, A.C.S.W. Family Process Vol. 19., March 1980

10.Πρόγραμμα από παράσταση Θεάτρου ΟΡΕΣΤΕΙΑ του Γ.Χουβαρδά Ηράκλειο 2016

11.Πρόγραμμα από παράσταση ΕΥΜΕΝΙΔΕΣ Τσακιλέρης ,Θέατρο ΦΟΥΡΝΙ Κ.Αρχανών 2016

Read the next article:

ARTICLE 6/ ISSUE 9, October 2016

“Oresteia” as a Therapeutic Process

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