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Justice and Social Order in the Oresteia Democracy emerging in the city-state of Athens allowed unprecedented power to her citizens Among these new powers was the ability to legislate Yet legislation was not without its problems First the citizens must agree upon what is just and unjust and then enforce the law by bringing the unjust to reconcile their guilt with the public through trial and finally dispense the appropriate penalty This evolution was not without concern The Greeks were attempting to establish a governmental system which would span the middle ground between anarchy and despotism By the crimes played out in Aeschylus tragic trilogy The Oresteia Aeschylus demonstrates the contrast between anarchy and despotism and judges them both guilty Indeed he shows by the end of the play that the only way man can be absolved of guilt is by joining leagues with the gods in a united effort to promote justice His premise is supported by sequentially following the criminal legacy of the house of Atreus and showing that the curse of continued injustice can only be ended by the cooperative effort of man and god Aeschylus draws his contrast between anarchy and despotism through the main characters in the play First Atreus the father of Agamemnon though never appearing himself in the trilogy is a central figure and the vehicle by which the curse is introduced His crime is that of anarchy Second Agamemnon returns from Troy with the blood guilt of despotism Next Clytemnestra Agamemnons queen represents a mixture of the two evils in that she portrays a self-serving ruler Finally Orestes son of Agamemnon is introduced as a pious man who allows his fate to be determined by the gods in conjunction with the citizens The story of Atreus and his brother Thyestes is told and alluded to many times throughout the trilogy Thyestes seduced Atreus wife and in retribution Atreus took the matter into his
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