Furies. In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the Erinyes, also known as the Furies, were female chthonic deities of vengeance, sometimes referred to as infernal goddesses. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as the Erinyes, that under earth take vengeance on men, whosoever hath sworn a false oath. Walter Burkert suggests they are an embodiment of the act of self-cursing contained in the oath. They correspond to the Dirae in Roman mythology. The Roman writer Maurus Servius Honoratus wrote that they are called Eumenides in hell, Furiae on earth, and Dirae in heaven. According to Hesiod's Theogony, when the Titan Cronus castrated his father, Uranus, and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood which fell on the earth, while Aphrodite was born from the crests of sea foam. According to variant accounts, they emerged from an even more primordial level, from Nyx, or from a union between air and mother earth. Their number is usually left indeterminate. Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three: Alecto or Alekto, Megaera, and Tisiphone or Tilphousia, all of whom appear in the Aeneid. Dante Alighieri followed Virgil in depicting the same three-character triptych of Erinyes; in Canto IX of the Inferno they confront the poets at the gates of the city of Dis. Whilst the Erinyes were usually described as three maiden goddesses, the Erinys Telphousia was usually a by-name for the wrathful goddess Demeter, who was worshipped under the title of Erinys in the Arkadian town of Thelpousa. 458–459, has proposed a Pre-Greek origin. The word Erinys in the singular and as a theonym is first attested in Mycenaean Greek, written in Linear B, in the following forms:, e-ri-nu, and, e-ri-nu-we. These words are found on the KN Fp 1, KN V 52, and KN Fh 390 tablets. The Erinyes live in Erebus and are more ancient than any of the Olympian deities. Their task is to hear complaints brought by mortals against the insolence of the young to the aged, of children to parents, of hosts to guests, and of householders or city councils to suppliants, and to punish such crimes by hounding culprits relentlessly. The Erinyes are crones and, depending upon authors, described as having snakes for hair, dog's heads, coal black bodies, bat's wings, and blood-shot eyes. In their hands they carry brass-studded scourges, and their victims die in torment. According to some sources, the three classic Furies sprang forth from the spilled blood of Uranus when he was castrated by his son Cronus. The sisters are: Alecto-Punisher of moral crimes. Megaera-Punisher of infidelity, oath breakers, and theft. Tisiphone-Punisher of murderers. Pausanias describe a sanctuary in Athens dedicated to the Erinyes under the name Semnai: Hard by is a sanctuary of the goddesses which the Athenians call the August, but Hesiod in the Theogony calls them Erinyes. It was Aeschylus who first represented them with snakes in their hair. But on the images neither of these nor of any of the under-world deities is there anything terrible. There are images of Pluto, Hermes, and Earth, by which sacrifice those who have received an acquittal on the Hill of Ares; sacrifices are also offered on other occasions by both citizens and aliens. Tantalizing myth fragments dealing with the Erinyes are found among the earliest extant records of ancient Greek culture. The Erinyes are featured prominently in the myth of Orestes, which recurs frequently throughout many works of ancient Greek literature. Featured in ancient Greek literature, from poems to plays, the Erinyes form the Chorus and play a major role in the conclusion of Aeschylus's dramatic trilogy the Oresteia. In the first play, Agamemnon, King Agamemnon returns home from the Trojan War, where he is slain by his wife, Clytemnestra, who wants vengeance for her daughter Iphigenia, who was sacrificed by Agamemnon in order to obtain favorable winds to sail to Troy. In the second play, The Libation Bearers, their son Orestes has reached manhood and has been commanded by Apollo's oracle to avenge his father's murder at his mother's hand. Returning home and revealing himself to his sister Electra, Orestes pretends to be a messenger bringing the news of his own death to Clytemnestra. He then slays his mother and her lover Aegisthus. Although Orestes' actions were what Apollo had commanded him to do, Orestes has still committed matricide, a grave sacrilege. Beca
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