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ORESTES
The youngest child and only son of Agamemnon and Clyt'mnestra. In Homer [Od. iii 306] it is only stated that in the eighth year after the murder of his father, who was never able to see him again after his return home, he came back from Athens and took a bloody vengeance on 'gisthus and his mother. In later legend he is described as doomed to death, but saved from his father's murderers by his nurse Arsinoe or his sister Electra, and brought by a trusty slave to Phanote on Parnassus to king Strophius, husband of Anaxibia, the sister of Agamemnon. Here he lives in the most intimate friendship with Pylades, his protector's son, until his twentieth year, and then comes with his friend, by Apollo's direction, to Mycen', and in concert with Electra effects the deed of vengeance. This deed is represented in Homer as one indisputably glorious and everywhere commended; but in later legend Orestes is, after his mother's murder, attacked by delusions and harassed by the Erinyes. According to 'schylus, in his Eumenides, the Furies do not suffer him to escape even after he is purified in the Delphian temple. Acting on the advice of Apollo, he presents himself at Athens before the court of the Areopagus, which on this occasion is instituted by Athene for the trial of homicide. The goddesses of vengeance appear as prosecutors, Apollo as his witness and advocate, and on the trial resulting in an equality of votes, Athene with her voting pebble decides in his favour. According to Euripides, in his Iphigenia among the Tauri, Orestes goes with Pylades (as in 'schylus) by Apollo's advice, to the Tauric Chersonese, in order to fetch thence the image of Artemis which had fallen from heaven in former times. The friends are captured upon landing, and according to the custom of the country, are to be sacrificed to Artemis, when the priestess, Iphigenia (q.v.), and Orestes recognise one another as sister and brother, and escape to Greece with the image of the goddess. According to the Peloponnesian myth, Orestes spent the time of his delusion in Arcadia [Pausanias, viii 5 § 4], and after he had on one occasion in a fit of frenzy bitten off a finger, the Eumenides appeared to him in a dream, in white robes, as a token of reconciliation. After he is cured, he places himself, by the murder of Aletes, 'gisthus' son, in possession of his father's dominion, Mycen', and marries his sister Electra to Pylades. Hermione, daughter of Menelaus, had been betrothed to himself, but during his wanderings she was carried off by Achilles' son Neoptolemus. After Orestes had slain the latter at Delphi, he married Hermione, and through her came into possession of Sparta. His son by this marriage was Tisamenus. He died of a serpent's bite in Arcadia, and was buried at Tegea: his reputed remains were afterwards, by the direction of the oracle, brought to Sparta [Herod. i 67].
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