In Greek legend, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. When Agamemnon was murdered by Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, Electra saved her young brother Orestes from the same fate by sending him away. Orestes later returned, and Electra helped him kill their mother and Aegisthus. She then married her brother's friend Pylades. The story is treated in plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.
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The psychological concept of the Electra complex is named after her.
According to Pindar (Pythia, xi. 25), Orestes was saved by his old nurse or by Electra, and was taken to Phanote on Mount Parnassus, where King Strophius took charge of him. In his twentieth year, Orestes was ordered by the Delphic oracle to return home and avenge his father's death.
According to Aeschylus, Orestes met Electra before the tomb of Agamemnon, where both had gone to perform rites to the dead; a recognition took place, and they arranged how Orestes should accomplish his revenge. Pylades and Orestes killed Clytemnestra and Aegisthus (in some accounts with Electra helping).
Afterwards, Orestes went and pleaded with Dionysus, the god of wine, to make him, in some ways, crazy. He was pursued by the Erinyes, or Furies, whose duty it is to punish any violation of the ties of family piety. Electra, however, was not hounded by the Erinyes. Orestes took refuge in the temple at Delphi. Even though Apollo (to whom the Delphic temple was dedicated) had ordered him to do the deed, he was powerless to protect Orestes from the consequences of his actions.
At last Athena (also known as Areia) received him on the Acropolis of Athens and arranged a formal trial of the case before twelve Attic judges. The Erinyes demanded their victim; he pleaded the orders of Apollo; the votes of the judges were equally divided, and Athena gave her casting vote for acquittal.
In Iphigeneia in Tauris, Euripides tells the tale somewhat differently. He claims that Orestes was led by the Furies to Tauris on the Black Sea, where his sister Iphigeneia was being held. The two met when Orestes and Pylades were brought to Iphigeneia to be prepared for sacrifice to Artemis. Iphigeneia, Orestes and Pylades escaped from Tauris, and the Furies, sated by the reunion of the family, abated their persecution.
According to Euripides, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus had previously given Electra in marriage to a peasant, believing that her children would be less likely to take revenge if they were not of noble birth, but the peasant respected her and declined to consummate the marriage.