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Furies

Furies or Erinyes (ērĬn´ē-ēz), in Greek and Roman religion and mythology, three daughters of Mother Earth, conceived from the blood of Uranus, when Kronos castrated him. They were powerful divinities that personified conscience and punished crimes against kindred blood, especially matricide. They were usually represented as winged women with serpent hair. Their names were Megaera [jealous], Tisiphone [blood avenger], and Alecto [unceasing in pursuit]. When called upon to act, they hounded their victims until they died in a "furor" of madness or torment. In the myth of Orestes they appear as Clytemnestra's agents of revenge. After Athena absolved Orestes of guilt in the murder of his mother, she gave the Furies a grotto at Athens where they received sacrifices and libations, and became euphemistically known as the Eumenides [kindly ones].

See Aeschylus' play, The Eumenides.

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Furies

Furies

In Greek and Roman mythology, the Furies were female spirits of justice and vengeance. They were also called the Erinyes (angry ones). Known especially for pursuing people who had murdered family members, the Furies punished their victims by driving them mad. When not punishing wrongdoers on earth, they lived in the underworld and tortured the damned.

According to some stories, the Furies were sisters born from the blood of Uranus, the primeval god of the sky, when he was wounded by his son Cronus*. In other stories, they were the children of Nyx (night). In either case, their primeval origin set them apart from the other deities of the Greek and Roman pantheons.

Most tales mention three Furies: Allecto (endless), Tisiphone (punishment), and Megaera (jealous rage). Usually imagined as monstrous, foul-smelling hags, the sisters had bats' wings, coal-black skin, and hair entwined with serpents. They carried torches, whips, and cups of venom with which to torment wrongdoers. The Furies could also appear as storm clouds or swarms of insects.

underworld land of the dead

deity god or goddess

pantheon aft the gods of a particular culture

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

Although the Furies seemed terrifying and sought vengeance, they were not considered deliberately evil. On the contrary, they represented justice and were seen as defenders of moral and legal order. They punished the wicked and guilty without pity but the good and innocent had little to fear from them.

The Furies appear in many myths and ancient literary works. They have a prominent role in Eumenides, a play written by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus. This play tells of the Furies' pursuit of Orestes, who had killed his mother, Clytemnestra, in revenge for her part in murdering his father, King Agamemnon* of Mycenae.

In Eumenides, Orestes' act was depicted as just, and the god Apollo* protected him in his sacred shrine at Delphi*. But the Furies still demanded justice. Finally, the gods persuaded the Furies to allow Orestes to be tried by the Areopagus, an ancient court in the city of Athens. The goddess Athena*, the patron of Athens, cast the deciding ballot.

Athena then calmed the anger of the Furies, who became known afterward as the Eumenides (soothed ones) or Semnai Theai (honorable goddesses). Now welcomed in Athens and given a home there, they helped protect the city and its citizens from harm. The Furies also had shrines dedicated to them in other parts of Greece. In some places, the Furies were linked with the three Graces, goddess sisters who represented beauty, charm, and goodnessqualities quite different from those usually associated with the Furies.

See also Graces; Orestes; Uranus.

patron special guardian, protector, or supporter

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Furies

Furies (Erthyes and Eumenides) In Greek mythology, three hideous goddesses of vengeance whose main task was to torment those guilty of social crimes.

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Furies

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