Vol 9 (2019)

“Orestes”: justice of men, justice of gods

Luciano Violante
Presidente emerito della Camera dei Deputati
Published October 1, 2020


This paper analyses Euripides’ Orestes, with particular attention to what kind of justice the tragedy portrays. The core of Euripides’ Orestes is not a conflict between values (like in Antigone), or a mystery to solve (like in Oedipus the King), or a turning point in civilization (like in Eumenides). Orestes’ life is distraught by matricide, and fluctuates between two different forms of justice: that of men and that of gods. Orestes himself is no hero, and does not defend a moral principle. The tragedy, thus, ends up illustrating the unreliability of popular justice.