Vol 9 (2019)

“Eumenides”: a word of justice

Marta Cartabia
Presidente della Corte costituzionale
Published October 1, 2020


It is widely acknowledged that Aeschylus’ Eumenides shape the end of the Orestes myth in order to highlight the pivotal role played by the establishment of law-courts in the overall development of Attic civilization. This paper aims at drawing attention to several aspects of this process, all revolving around the manifold powers of logos as displayed in Aeschylus’ tragedy. Most importantly, the new system relies upon the prudent and sensible use of discourse: no confrontation in a trial can be reduced to a test of strength, but must allow for both parts to support their own reasons on equal terms. Indeed, justice subsumes in part the violence it is meant to counteract: yet it is less a means of punishment than a tool for reconstruction, relying therefore on strictness as much as on leniency and forgiveness.