Electra

Electra

[ih-lek-truh]
Electra, in Greek mythology. 1 Daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. After her mother and Aegisthus murdered Agamemnon, Electra, eager for revenge, longed only for the return of her brother, Orestes. The reunion and vengeance of the brother and sister were dramatized by the three great tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. However, only in the work of Euripides did Electra take an active part in the killing of Clytemnestra. It is said that she later married Pylades, Orestes' friend, and bore him two sons. 2 One of the Pleiades. She was the daughter of Atlas and Pleione and mother by Zeus of Dardanus, the founder of what was to become the house of Troy. According to one legend she was the lost Pleiad, disappearing in grief after the destruction of Troy. 3 A sea nymph, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys and mother by Thaumus of Iris, the rainbow, and the Harpies.

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.

Learn more about Electra with a free trial on Britannica.com.

In Greek mythology, Electra (Greek:Ηλέκτρα) was an Argosian princess and daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra, and was a sibling to Iphigeneia, Chrysothemis and Orestes.

She is the main character in the Greek tragedies Electra by Sophocles and Electra by Euripides and has inspired various other works.

The psychological concept of the Electra complex is named after her.

Overview

The Murder of Agamemnon

Electra was absent from Mycenae when her father, King Agamemnon, returned from the Trojan War to be murdered by Aegisthus, Clytemnestra's lover, and/or by Clytemnestra herself. Aegisthus and Clytemnestra also killed Cassandra, Agamemnon's war prize, a prophet priestess of Troy. Eight years later Electra was brought from Athens with her brother, Orestes. (Odyssey, iii. 306; X. 542).

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.

The Murder of Clytaemnestra

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.

Marriage

Later, Pylades and Electra fell in love and married. Pylades was the son of King Strophius (who had cared for Orestes while he hid from his mother and her lover), and had helped Orestes and Electra kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

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.

Adaptations of the Electra story

Plays

Opera

Films

Search another word or see Electraon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature