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The Eumenides Summary

Sandra Watson
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Eumenides Summary, Analysis and Themes
The scene of the play is at first in front of the temple of Apollo in Delphi, the home of the
Delphic oracle. The Pythia, the priestess of Apollo who delivers his oracles, prays before
entering the shrine. First she names the gods who have been worshiped at this temple,
and tells the story of a peaceful succession: Gaia (Earth) was the first prophet, then
Themis, then Phoebe, and Phoebe gave the seat as a birthday gift to her namesake,
Phoebus Apollo. When Apollo came to take his seat here, he was escorted by those sons
of Hephaestus who make roads that tame untamed lands. Zeus inspired him with
prophecy, and Apollo speaks for Zeus. Then she names the other gods revered at Delphi,
and finally Zeus himself, and so goes in to take her seat and prophesy as Apollo leads
She comes out again, terrified, scarcely able to stand. On her way to the innermost
sanctuary, she saw a man with blood on his hands and his drawn sword seated on the
navel stone as a suppliant, and in front of him, asleep, a troop of women more appalling
than Gorgons or Harpies, black and with blood dripping from their eyes, in unseemly
rags. Apollo must handle this himself.
She leaves, and Apollo and Orestes enter. Apollo promises Orestes that he will not
abandon him. Now these horrible creatures are asleep, but they will continue to hunt
Orestes, and he must fly from them, going to the city of Athena and asking her help.
There we will find judges and the words needed to charm them, he says; there release
will come, “for it was I who persuaded you to slay your mother” (line 84; all quotations
not otherwise attributed are from the literal translation of the Oresteiaby Hugh LloydJones, published by the University of California Press in 1979). Orestes tells Apollo to be
sure to take care of him, and Apollo asks Hermes to guide him and look after him.



The Eumenides Summary

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