Electra

by

Sophocles

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Pythian Games Term Analysis

The Pythian games were one of the four Panhellenic Games, or sports festivals, held in Greece during ancient times. The Pythian Games were held in Delphi every four years, two years after the Olympic Games, and they honored the god Apollo. Sophocles twice mentions the Pythian Games in Electra, and most importantly, the old slave tells Clytemnestra that Orestes was killed in a chariot race during the festival. The Pythian Games began during the sixth century BCE and occurred during Sophocles’s time. While the festival is a reference to the contemporary culture of Sophocles’s era (rather than the much earlier time period of Electra’s story), the inclusion of it in Electra allows Sophocles to draw a parallel between Orestes’s false death in a chariot race and the death of Myrtilus, the charioteer of the king of Pisa, who was killed in a chariot race against Pelops, the father of Atreus and grandfather of Agamemnon. Before Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops and all his descendants, and this curse is responsible for the plight of Agamemnon and his children as well.
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Pythian Games Term Timeline in Electra

The timeline below shows where the term Pythian Games appears in Electra. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-85
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...from Phocis” and that Orestes has been killed after falling from a chariot during the Pythian Games . (full context)
Lines 516-822
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
...long and detailed story in which Orestes is killed by a chariot accident during the Pythian Games . The chorus notes that “the royal house of Argos” is “cut down at the... (full context)