How Does the View of Ethical Cause and Effect in History in Works and Days Compare With the View in Eumenides?

Ancient Greek literature usually contained tales regarding the Greek deities or the supernatural, which gave these stories a sense of ethical cause and effect. Two examples of ancient Greek literature are: Works and Days, by Hesiod, and Eumenides, by Aeschylus. Both of these pieces of literature revolve around an ethical debate, which involves the supernatural, also because both of these stories revolve around some form of an ethical debate both have views on ethical cause and effect in history. But how do these separate views from these two pieces of literature compare with each other?

Works and Days, by Hesiod was written by Hesiod to his brother Perses, after his brother had won in a legal case over their father’s will, and had received the whole said inheritance. Hesiod explained to his brother the importance of good, how to turn his life around, and other advice, including advice on who to marry, or how important hard work is. This piece of literature is Hesiod’s way of scolding his brother for “stealing,” his inheritance, but also providing “useful,” lessons for his brother, to heed to. It explains how Perses can live a better life.

Eumenides is the third of a series of tragic plays by Aeschylus. Eumenides tells the tale of the aftermath of Orestes murdering his mother and avenging his father’s death. The first play of this series Agamemnon, is where this whole conflict begins, with Agamemnon, Orestes’ father sacrificing his own daughter, this lead to him being murdered by his wife. In the second play, Libation Bearers, Orestes returns home from exile just in time for his father’s funeral; he and his sister Electra decide to avenge their father’s death, after being told to do so by Apollo. Orestes ends up killing his mother and her lover who was also involved in the killing of his father. In Eumenides, after killing his mother Orestes is being pursued by the Furies. The Furies were Greek mythological creatures that the Greeks feared; they all punished crime doers in one form or another. These Furies wanted Orestes to pay for killing his mother.

Orestes turns to Apollo, who was the one who had told him to do the deed. Orestes thus goes to the temple of Athena; Athena aids him by calling on a court case in Athens that was made up of mortals. The Furies had caught up to him and Orestes was in deep trouble, but he did end up winning the case and his set free from the torment of the Furies. The Furies are appeased by Athena granting them sacrifices, and rituals done in their favor. The Furies in this story are the givers of negative sanctions, they punish crimes. 

Now that there is a clear summary of both pieces of literature, how does the view of ethical cause and effect in history in Works and Days’, Compare with the Furies View in Eumenides? In Works and Days, Hesiod explains to his brother on how to live a good life, and how to make the right decisions; to work hard. He shows examples of cause and effect with examples of what would happen if Perses his brother was to do the right thing or the bad one. The view of the Furies in Eumenides, is that of punishment or negative sanctions; that if one does a bad deed such as killing their mother they must pay for it, which is their view of cause and effect.

Ethics, sanctions, and cause and effect are three things I have noticed quite prevalent in the ancient Greek literature pieces I have read so far in my life, and Eumenides is no exception. The Furies in this ancient Greek play inflicts the negative sanctions, which is why they play an important role in the cause and effect of the story. The story Works and Days, though much different, contains its own view of cause and effect. Thus one may be able to compare the two views and see how different and similar they are.

2 Comments

  1. 𝗥𝗼𝘀𝗲 says:

    keep up with the good work! your essays are always so flawless!

    Liked by 1 person

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