Definitions

Erinyes

Erinyes

[ih-rin-is, ih-rahy-nis]
Erinyes: see Furies.

Group of Greco-Roman goddesses of vengeance. The Furies lived in the underworld and ascended to earth to pursue the wicked. They were known to the Greeks as the Erinyes, but those who feared to speak their name often called them by euphemisms such as Eumenides (“Kind Ones”). According to Hesiod, they were daughters of Gaea, the earth goddess. Aeschylus made them the terrifying chorus of his tragedy Eumenides, and Euripides was the first to speak of them as three in number.

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In Greek mythology the Erinyes (Ἐρινύες, pl. of Ἐρινύς; lit. "the angry ones") or Eumenides (Εὐμενίδες, pl. of Εὐμενίς; lit. "the gracious ones") or Furies in Roman mythology were female, chthonic deities of vengeance or supernatural personifications of the anger of the dead. They represent regeneration and the potency of creation, which both consumes and empowers. A formulaic oath in the Iliad (iii.278ff; xix.260ff) invokes them as "those who beneath the earth punish whoever has sworn a false oath." Burkert suggests they are "an embodiment of the act of self-cursing contained in the oath".

When the Titan Cronos castrated his father Ouranos and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood, while Aphrodite was born from the seafoam. According to a variant account, they issued from an even more primordial level—from Nyx, "Night". Their number is usually left indeterminate. Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three: Alecto ("unceasing," who appeared in Virgil's Aeneid), Megaera ("grudging"), and Tisiphone ("avenging murder"). Dante followed Virgil in depicting the same three-charactered triptych of Erinyes. The heads of the Erinyes were wreathed with serpents (compare Gorgon) and their eyes dripped with blood, rendering their appearance rather horrific. Sometimes they had the wings of a bat or bird and the body of a dog.

Erinyes in Mythology

The Erinyes often 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. Predominantly, they were understood as the persecutors of mortal men and women who broke natural laws. In particular, those who broke ties of kinship through murdering a father (patricide), murdering a brother (fratricide), 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 of retribution to the dead man's Erinyes.

The Erinyes were connected with Nemesis as enforcers of a just balance in human affairs. The goddess Nike originally held a similar role as the bringer of a just victory. 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 ("kindly ones"), as they were called in instances portraying their more positive, beneficial qualities.

Nonetheless, many scholars believe that when they were originally referred to as the Eumenides, it was not to reference their good sides but as a euphemism to avoid the wrath that would ensue from calling them by their true name. The taboo in speaking the names of certain uncanny spirits included Persephone, and there are parallels in many cultures (for instance, the tendency to refer to faeries as "the fair folk" or "the little people"). The Erinyes might also be recognized as Semnai ("the venerable ones"), the Potniae ("the Awful Ones"), the Maniae ("the Madnesses") the Praxidikae ("the Just-doers") and Kampesigounoi ("bending the knees").

Another myth says that the Erinyes struck the magical horse Xanthus dumb for rebuking Achilles.

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

Modern age references

Star Trek "Invasion" four book anthology features the future descendants of the ancient FURIES and other archetypal evil or monstrous beings as the intended conquerors of Federation and Klingon space in retaliation for being banished several millennia ago. Invasion was a collaborative work by several well-known Star Trek authors. More information can be found at greenmanreview and at startrek.wikia

In T. S. Eliot's play The Family Reunion, the protagonist Harry is haunted by the Eumenides for killing his wife.

In Jean-Paul Sartre's play The Flies, the Erinyes (who represent remorsefulness) chase Orestes and Electra for the murder of their mother Clytemnestra and her husband, King Aegistheus.

Tisiphone appears and is a major character (and the others are mentioned) in David Weber's book Path of the Fury and its expanded version In Fury Born.

The Erinyes are the main subject of the comic book The Kindly Ones from comic book series Sandman.

The Furies are what three girls looking to murder Cam and Alex in the book series T*Witches call themselves, as they live in underground caves.

They are monsters in the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

The Furies also feature in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess.

In the fourth season of the TV show Charmed, Piper interferes with the Furies' business and becomes a fury, which causes her to express her anger towards her deceased sister, Prue, who was killed in the previous season

In the computer game Freespace 2, the Erinyes class is a playable advanced assault fighter for the GTVA. It is considered one of the more advanced ships.

In Stephen King's novel "Rose Madder", Erinyes is the name of the blind bull which guards Rose Madder's baby at the heart of a labyrinth.

See also

References

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