How is The Oresteia by Aeschylus not only the tragedy of the fall of the house of Atreus but also a study of the socio-political evolution of 5th century Athens?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The final play of "The Oresteia" trilogy by Aeschylus, the "Eumenides", finishes with a promise by the Furies, now transformed into the Eumenides, or Kindly Ones, to benefit Athens:

Farewell, once more farewell,                                      
all those who live in Athens,
gods and men, inhabitants
of Pallas' city. Pay us respect,
while we live here among you—
you'll have cause to celebrate
the fortunes of your lives.     

The main benefits they give are a transformation of the older style of retributive justice to a rule of law and persuasion. While, in Homer and the epic cycles, injustice is handled by curses and blood feuds that were passed down across generations, in "The Eumenides" we find a new model of justice that occurs in the law courts, and a substitution of peitho (persuasion) for bia (force, violence). Thus the play functions as a foundation story concerning the establishment of the Court of the Areopagus and a fifth century Athenian commitment to legal process for dispute resolution.  

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The Oresteia

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