The Eumenides

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The god of light, prophecy, and music, Apollo is Orestes’ patron and has vowed to protect him. He despises the Furies, and believes that they have no right to seek vengeance against Orestes, since he has already cleansed Orestes of his sins. Apollo is a complicated figure: divine and noble, but also arrogant. Nevertheless, he (like Athena) stands for justice against the Furies’ older, bloodier form of vengeance.

Apollo Quotes in The Eumenides

The The Eumenides quotes below are all either spoken by Apollo or refer to Apollo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Eumenides published in 1975.
Lines 64-234 Quotes

They disgust me.
These grey, ancient children never touched
By god, man, or beast—the eternal virgins.
Born for destruction only, the dark pit,
They range the bowels of Earth, the world of death,
Loathed by men and the gods who hold Olympus.

Related Characters: Apollo (speaker), The Furies
Page Number: 71-76
Explanation and Analysis:

Apollo visits his protectee, Orestes, who has been tormented by the Furies for killing his mother, Clytemnestra. Reassuring Orestes that he has more power than the Furies, Apollo then turns his anger on the goddesses themselves, voicing his contempt and "disgust" for them, and mocking their ugliness and age.

Apollo's attitude towards the Furies reveals the deep hatred that the Olympian gods feel for the Furies, despite the fact that they carry out the necessary function of avenging interfamilial murders. This mindset towards the Furies, embodiments of vengeance, reveals a change in Apollo since this play's prequel, The Libation Bearers. In that drama, Apollo urges Orestes to avenge his father, and acts as a force that pushes vengeance forward. Here, however, he has turned away from vengeance and violence--a change that indicates a drastic difference in this play's worldview, as opposed to its bloody predecessors.

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Lord Apollo, now it is your turn to listen.
You are no mere accomplice in this crime.
You did it all, and all the guilt is yours.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Apollo
Page Number: 196-198
Explanation and Analysis:

Apollo and the Furies confront each other; Apollo tells the Furies that they have no right to torment Orestes, while the Furies retort that Apollo, too, is at fault. It is important to note that in the prequel to this play, The Libation Bearers, Apollo ordered Orestes to kill his mother, and then promised to protect him after the deed was done. The Furies believe, therefore, that Apollo is at fault as well as Orestes.

This quote emphasizes the Furies' obsession with vengeance, as well as the power that the gods wield within this narrative. Even though the Furies know that Apollo was the driving force behind the plan to kill Clytemnestra, they can only punish his mortal instrument, Orestes.

While the Furies cannot actually harm Apollo, however, they do call attention to what they view as his hypocrisy at punishing Clytemnestra for murdering her husband, but protecting Orestes for murdering his mother. This debate highlights the tangled and often contradictory web that vengeance creates, particularly within the House of Atreus.

Marriage of man and wife is Fate itself,
Stronger than oaths, and Justice guards its life.

I say your manhunt of Orestes is unjust.
Some things stir your rage, I see. Others,
Atrocious crimes, lull your will to act.

Related Characters: Apollo (speaker), Orestes, The Furies, The ghost of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Page Number: 215-221
Explanation and Analysis:

As Apollo and the Furies continue their debate, they touch on the difference between the bonds of mother and child, and those of man and wife. The Furies argue that because Orestes killed his own flesh and blood, he is at fault. Apollo, however, responds that the connection between a husband and a wife is fated to be, and that their bond is guarded by "Justice" itself. (Implicit in these arguments is also the sexism that undergirds Greek society at the time—Apollo is seen as more "correct" here because Clytemnestra not only violated a sacred bond in killing her husband, but also acted distinctly un-feminine.) This debate illustrates the tangled web of allegiances that vengeance creates. Although Apollo and the Furies are each trying to convince the other, they will never actually agree on who is in the right.

Apollo also brings up another crucial concept: the idea of justice. In accusing the Furies--goddesses of vengeance--of being unjust, he is implying that there is a difference between vengeance and justice. This attitude differs from Apollo's beliefs in The Eumenides' prequel, The Libation Bearers, in which he commands Orestes to perform an act of vengeance (killing his mother) in order to bring about justice. This shift highlights the evolution in The Eumenides towards a system of justice, rather than a system of vengeance.

Lines 235-566 Quotes

Queen Athena,
Under Apollo’s orders I have come.
Receive me kindly. Curst and an outcast,
No suppliant for purging…my hands are clean.

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Athena, Apollo
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 232-235
Explanation and Analysis:

Having reached Athens and the temple of Athena, Orestes begs the goddess to shelter him from the avenging Furies. His prayer illustrates his deep faith in both Apollo and Athena, demonstrating the immense power of the gods over human life within this play—and presenting Orestes as a worthy hero because of his piety. 

Orestes' claim that his "hands are clean," meanwhile, allows us to understand that Orestes does not view himself as guilty of his mother's murder. He has followed divine orders, and carried out what he believes to be justice, and is therefore free of sin or corruption. At the same time, however, Orestes considers himself to be unfairly "curst" by the actions of the Furies. 

Lines 567-1043 Quotes

So
You’d force this man’s acquittal? Behold, Justice!
Can a son spill his mother’s blood on the ground,
Then settle into his father’s halls in Argos?

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Orestes, Apollo, The ghost of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 659-662
Explanation and Analysis:

After Apollo has testified in Orestes' favor, the Furies once again take the stand, mocking what the god has just said. While Apollo has argued that Orestes in fact carried out justice by killing his mother, the Furies find this argument laughable. To them, the fact that Orestes has killed his mother is unforgivable. They believe that he should be cast out of society altogether, rather than eventually take his father Agamemnon's place as king of Argos. 

The Furies' powerful argument illustrates the true difficulty of this case. Although Orestes seeks justice, he himself is a murderer, and an agent of vengeance. Apollo calls for justice, but the Furies point out his hypocrisy, given his investment in vengeance in this play's prequel, The Libation Bearers.

The woman you call the mother of the child
Is not the parent, just a nurse to the seed,
The new-sown seed that grows and swells inside her.
The man is the source of life—the one who mounts.

Related Characters: Apollo (speaker), Orestes, The ghost of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Page Number: 666-669
Explanation and Analysis:

In the midst of the trial, Apollo tries to explain why the death of Orestes' father outweighs his murder of his mother. In doing so, he turns to a common Ancient Greek idea about parenthood: that a child is incubated in the womb of its mother, but truly belongs only to its father, who provided the "seed" for its conception.

Although tremendously sexist (and unscientific), it is this argument that eventually wins the day. Apollo has essentially proved that Orestes' familial bond to his father was more important than that to his mother; and that therefore, it made sense for him to turn against his mother after she killed his father. 

It is important to note that the trial of Orestes v. the Furies, along with the ideological struggle of justice v. vengeance, also contains the age-old struggle of male v. female. Just as Apollo proves that male trumps female in terms of family ties (and social power), so too will male triumph over female in the trial (which is judged only by men), as Orestes prevails over the Furies. 

You, you younger gods!—
You have ridden down
The ancient laws, wrenched them from my grasp—
And I, robbed of my birthright, suffering, great with wrath,
I loose my poison over the soil, aieee!
Poison to match my grief comes pouring out my heart,
Cursing the land to burn it sterile and now
Rising up from its roots a cancer blasting leaf and child,
Now for Justice, Justice!—cross the face of the earth
The bloody tide comes hurling, all mankind destroyed.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Athena, Apollo
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 820-828
Explanation and Analysis:

Learning that they have lost the trial, the Furies launch into a horrifying and vengeful rant, vowing to pay back all those who have wronged them. In reality, the ancient goddesses are terrified. In losing the trial, they have essentially lost their identity--unable to punish someone whom they believe deserves vengeance, they have been robbed of their purpose in life. The only recourse, in their understanding of the world, is to wreak vengeance on those who have decided against them. They are essentially portrayed as being unwilling to admit that they have been usurped by the "younger gods" and the polis of Athens itself.

Once again, the Furies imply that since vengeance has been thwarted, justice has as well. They truly do not understand that the two concepts are different, and can even exist in opposition to each other. Rather than understanding that in this instance justice has defeated vengeance, the Furies instead believe that justice on earth has come to an end, and destruction is near. 

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Apollo Character Timeline in The Eumenides

The timeline below shows where the character Apollo appears in The Eumenides. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-63
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
Pythia, the priestess of the god Apollo at his temple in Delphi, enters and begins her morning prayer. She honors her patron... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
...(the Furies) are sleeping, whose appearance drives Pythia to tears. She prays to the god Apollo to cleanse his house, and then exits. (full context)
Lines 64-234
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
...temple open, revealing Orestes, who prays as the Furies sleep. The god Hermes watches as Apollo appears, swearing to protect Orestes and to destroy his enemies. Apollo curses the Furies, explaining... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
...that they are suffering since their prey has escaped them, and go on to curse Apollo for allowing Orestes to escape. They ask why the god would help a criminal, and... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
Apollo emerges from his temple with his bow and arrow to drive back the Furies. He... (full context)
Lines 235-566
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
...of Athena and prays for her to shield him from the Furies. He explains that Apollo has sent him to her, and says that he will await her decision in his... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
In response, Orestes explains that suffering has made him wise. He describes how Apollo has purged him of his sins, and how he can feel his mother’s blood fading... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The leader of the Furies spits back that neither Apollo nor Athena will be able to save Orestes. She waits for him to reply, but... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
...to be cleansed. He, however, asserts that he does not need to be purged, because Apollo has already forgiven him for his sin. Orestes then goes on to explain his history,... (full context)
Lines 567-1043
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
Apollo enters, and Athena questions why he is there. Apollo responds that he has come as... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
...her, and he responds that he cut her throat at the urging of the god Apollo. The Furies are outraged that a god would condone a murder, but Orestes responds that... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
Orestes begs Apollo to explain to the jury why he killed Clytemnestra, adding that his murder was really... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
...skeptical that Zeus would care more about a father’s murder than a mother’s. They remind Apollo and Athena that Zeus defeated his own father, Kronos, in order to gain control over... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
Apollo, outraged by the Furies, insults them once again, hissing that the gods “detest” them, and... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
Apollo rebuts the Furies’ claim that mothers are as important as fathers. He claims that while... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
...Furies if they have anything else to say, and they respond that they do not. Apollo reminds the jury to be just and honest. Athena then explains to the jury that... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
...their ballots, the Furies grow anxious, threatening that they can curse Athens if they choose. Apollo shoots back that the Furies should fear the wrath of both himself and Zeus. The... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
As the ballots are tallied up, Orestes prays to Apollo and wonders what will happen. The Furies, meanwhile, pray to their Mother Night. Apollo again... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
...and returned him from exile. He vows to honor her in Argos, as well as Apollo and Zeus, and swears that this decision has brought about a new era of friendship... (full context)