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Erinyes

From Academic Kids

Greek deities
series
Primordial deities
Titans and Olympians
Aquatic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Chthonic deities
Hades and Persephone,
Gaia, Demeter, Hecate,
Iacchus, Trophonius,
Triptolemus, Erinyes
Heroes and the Dead

In Greek mythology the Erinyes or Eumenides (the Romans called them the Furies) were female personifications of vengeance. They were usually said to have been born from the blood of Uranus that fell upon Gaia when Cronus castrated him; i.e., they were chthonic (earth) deities. According to a variant account, they were born from Nyx. Their number is usually left indeterminate, though Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three; Alecto ("unceasing"), Megaera ("grudging"), and Tisiphone ("avenging murder"). The heads of the Erinyes were wreathed with serpents, their eyes dripped with blood, and their whole appearance was terrific and appalling. Sometimes they had the wings of a bat or bird, or the body of a dog.

Missing image
TwoFuriesFromAncientVase.gif
Two Furies, from an ancient vase.

One myth had Tisiphone fall in love with Cithaeron. She caused his death by snakebite, specifically, one of the snakes from her head. Another myth says that the Erinyes struck the magical horse Xanthus dumb for rebuking Achilles.

The Erinyes generally stood for the rightness of things within the standard order; for example, Heraclitus declared that if Helios decided to change the course of the Sun through the sky, they would prevent him from doing so. But for the most part they were understood as the persecutors of mortal men and women who broke "natural" laws. In particular, those who broke ties of kinship through patricide, murdering a brother (parricide), or other such familial killings brought special attention from the Erinyes. It was believed in early epochs that human beings might not have the right to punish such crimes, instead leaving the matter to the dead man's Erinyes to exact retribution. The goddess Nike filled a similar role. When not stalking victims on Earth the Furies were thought to dwell in Tartarus where they applied their tortures to the damned souls there.

The Erinyes are particularly known for the persecution of Orestes for the murder of his mother, Clytemnestra. Since Apollo had told Orestes to kill the murderer of his father, Agamemnon, and that person turned out to be his mother, Orestes prayed to him. Athena intervened and the Erinyes turned into the Eumenides ("goodly ones"), as they always did in their beneficial aspects.

Many scholars believe that they were originally referred to as the Eumenides not to reference their good sides but as a euphemism to avoid their wrath by calling them by their true name. This is similar to the taboo on speaking the names of certain spirits in many cultures. The Erinyes were also known as Semnai ("the venerable ones"), the Potniae ("the Awful Ones"), the Maniae ("the Madnesses") and the Praxidikae ("the Vengeful Ones").

The Furies (their Roman name) or Dirae ("the terrible") typically had the effect of driving their victims insane, hence their Latin name furor.

Virgil VII, 324, 341, 415, 476.

Erinyes in fiction

In The Divine Comedy Dante sees the Erinyes at the gates of the city of Dis, which is the entry point to the four lower circles of Hell.

Jean-Paul Sartre's 1943 play The Flies (Les Mouches) uses a retelling of the Oresteia (with the titular Flies being the Furies) in a modern perspective against religion [1] (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/6422/rev0008.html).

In DC Comics, the Furies are invoked by Hippolyta Hall in the ninth collection of The Sandman series, The Kindly Ones. She mistakenly believed that Dream had kidnapped her baby, and she summoned the Furies, or the Kindly Ones as they are known in the Sandman mythos, in a desperate attempt to recover the child.

Also, Erinyes have been adapted in the TV series Charmed. They were portrayed as dog-faced women from Hell. They were called Furies and attacked innocents with deadly smoke.

In the science fiction novel Path of the Fury by David Weber, Tisiphone, having died when the worship of Greek gods ceased, reappears in the future.

In the eponymous track of his first album, Rob Dougan calls them Furious Angels and poetically imagines that his love for a woman is so strong that, should she leave him, "furious angels will bring you back to me".de:Erinyen fr:rinyes it:Erinni nl:Erinyen ru:Эвмениды sv:Erinyer

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