Forms of Justice in Aeschylus’ Eumenides

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, mn, USA
  • 2 Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, mn, USA


In this article, we explore the forms of justice presented in Aeschylus’ Eumenides. Most scholarship hitherto has focused on the shift from retaliatory justice to trial by court of law enacted in the play. However, the verdict pronounced in Orestes’ favor does not bring about resolution, but rather threatens to destabilize the polis, as the Furies redirect their anger against Athens. Indeed, the play can be seen as a study in the limitations of criminal justice. Our article examines the resolution of the conflict in the post-trial phase of the play in the light of principles and practices of modern restorative justice. Such comparison is not intended as arguing for correspondence. Rather, the aim is to understand more fully the dynamics of Athena’s intervention by analyzing it against key elements of restorative justice.


In this article, we explore the forms of justice presented in Aeschylus’ Eumenides. Most scholarship hitherto has focused on the shift from retaliatory justice to trial by court of law enacted in the play. However, the verdict pronounced in Orestes’ favor does not bring about resolution, but rather threatens to destabilize the polis, as the Furies redirect their anger against Athens. Indeed, the play can be seen as a study in the limitations of criminal justice. Our article examines the resolution of the conflict in the post-trial phase of the play in the light of principles and practices of modern restorative justice. Such comparison is not intended as arguing for correspondence. Rather, the aim is to understand more fully the dynamics of Athena’s intervention by analyzing it against key elements of restorative justice.

In this article, we explore the forms of justice presented in Aeschylus’ Eumenides. Most scholarship has focused on the play as enacting a shift from retaliatory justice to trial by court of law, or has examined the play in the light of contemporary politics such as Ephialtes’ reforms of the Areopagus’ court.1 Certainly the play can be seen as presenting a foundation myth for Athens’ court system and as inviting its audience to chart a course that avoids the dangers of anarchy and tyranny (Eum. 696). However, the verdict pronounced in Orestes’ favor does not bring about resolution, but rather threatens to destabilize the polis, as the Furies redirect their anger against Athens. Indeed, the play can be seen as a study in the limitations of criminal justice, which does not alter the underlying antagonistic relationship between the opposing parties and thus does not foster outcomes satisfactory to all parties. This case of intrafamilial violence is well suited to a restorative justice approach, which is attune to the blurring of categories of victim and perpetrator and aims to address the harms and concerns of all parties, including the broader community of stakeholders. Our article examines the resolution of the conflict in the post-trial phase of the play in the light of principles and practices of modern restorative justice. Such comparison is not intended as arguing for correspondence. Rather, the aim is to understand more fully the dynamics of Athena’s intervention by analyzing it against key elements of restorative justice. Comparison brings into focus salient and anomalous elements, including the exclusion of Argos, the primary community of interest, from the judicial process and the post-trial resolution, the lack of attention to the means by which Orestes will be reintegrated into the Argive community and the complex and shifting roles of Athena, who is at once the mediator and an insider to the case.

I Violence and Justice in the Oresteia

Aeschylus’ Oresteia, first performed at the Festival of Dionysus in Athens in 458 bc, explores the problem of violence and responses to it. In the first two plays of the trilogy, the audience witnesses two sets of killings, carried out off-stage in the palace. First Clytemnestra, with the complicity of her lover Aegisthus, kills her husband Agamemnon and his war-concubine Cassandra in Agamemnon, the first play in the trilogy. She publicly displays the bodies for the citizens of Argos to see, and presents Agamemnon’s death as just revenge for the killing of her daughter Iphigenia (Ag. 1417-1418, 1431-1433, 1521-1527) and as the work of the spirit of Atreus avenging the internecine killings within the royal house of Argos (Ag. 1500-1501). The chorus of Argive elders, while condemning the murder of their king, concurs in characterizing his death as part of a cycle of violence that plagues the house, paying for the blood shed by his forefathers and exacting further deaths (Ag. 1338-1340). Their prediction is fulfilled in Libation Bearers, the second play. Orestes returns from exile and kills his mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. Again, two corpses are wheeled out of the palace and presented to the citizens; Orestes denounces Clytemnestra and Aegisthus as the murderers of his father and ravagers of his house (Ch. 973-974) and argues for the equivalence of crime and punishment. Again, the chorus understands the deaths within the framework of retaliatory killings and predicts further violence to come (Cho. 1018-1020).

Eumenides, the third and final play in this set of related tragedies, opens with Orestes at the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, chased by the Furies (Erinyes), chthonic goddesses who pursue perpetrators of crimes, especially the spillers of kindred blood. The setting then shifts to Athens, where Orestes, at the behest of Apollo, seeks sanctuary at the temple of Athena Polias (Eum. 79-80). After hearing the competing claims of Orestes and the Furies and agreeing to serve as arbiter (ll. 434-435), Athena refers the case to a panel of Athenian citizens (ll. 470-489), thereby founding the Athenian court of the Areopagus, which tried homicide cases. This inaugural homicide trial of the Areopagus court dominates a substantial portion of the play (ll. 468-777). It does not, however, bring resolution to the seemingly interminable cycle of violence. Indeed, after Athena announces the court’s verdict acquitting Orestes, violence looks set to reach new levels in its intensity and scope, with the Furies threatening to unleash their rage against the entire land of Athens (ll. 810-817). Not only is the trial marked by irregularities such as bribing and threatening of the jury, but it also highlights a fundamental shortcoming of criminal justice. Like retaliatory justice, it operates within an adversarial framework.2 When the court’s verdict is delivered there is one party that emerges as the winner and the other as the loser. In the Eumenides, Orestes and Apollo feel vindicated, but the Furies have suffered atimia: they have been disenfranchised and feel dishonored, and threaten future harm against the Athenian polis. Thus the outcome of the trial fails to address the concerns of the prosecutors and the harms committed by the acts of violence. It constitutes a zero sum rather than a positive sum outcome.

The trial scene, culminating in Athena’s deciding vote acquitting Orestes (Eum. 752-753) and Orestes’ departure to Argos (l. 777), does not constitute the lusis or ‘denouement’ of the play, but is rather an element of its dêsis or ‘complication’. The celebrated resolution of the cycle of violence that the Eumenides presents begins after the trial, in an extra-judicial interaction that begins with Athena’s employment of persuasion in response to the Furies’ minatory howls of anger and ends with her installation of the Furies at the heart of the city’s sacred landscape, accompanied by proclamations of praise and cries of triumph. By the play’s end, the Furies are escorted in a torch-lit procession to their new home at the foot of the Acropolis. It is this last, post-trial, movement of the play that we examine. In particular, we compare the interactions between the Furies, Athena, and the citizens of Athens against elements important to restorative justice.

II Overview of Restorative Justice

Restorative justice has received renewed interest since the 1970s, as an approach to justice that views crime as a violation of people and relationships.3 It is usually perceived as an alternative to or reform of criminal justice (i.e., trial by court of law). Rather than focusing on crime as breaking the laws of the state, restorative justice looks at how crime harms the victim, broader community, and even the perpetrator of the crime. In a typical criminal justice proceeding, the impersonal state, the law and lawyers take center stage. In restorative justice, the affected people and relationships are at the heart.4

Crime damages people and relationships, and this is what must be repaired in the process of restorative justice. The goal is not primarily to punish, but rather to reintegrate victims and perpetrators to their communities (or status pre-crime), respond to their needs, and help them to understand and carry out their obligations for making amends. In many cases, those most affected by the crime are empowered to decide what this process looks likes, in some cases even determining the sentence for the perpetrator. This may mean a reduced role for the state and its coercive powers. By including a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the process, the community may increase its capacity to recognize and respond to bases of crime within the community. Thus, an outcome of restorative justice could be crime prevention or reducing recidivism. For some, deep transformation is the ultimate goal of restorative justice – transformation of individuals, broken relationships, and structures in our societies.5

Restorative justice has existed in its current forms since the 1970s, but its proponents claim its deeper roots in various cultures from around the globe including the ubuntu ethic of sub-Saharan Africa, various native traditions such as the Maori peoples of New Zealand, and religious groups such as the Christian Mennonites.6 It has especially been pioneered in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada and Britain, and was first used in relation to juvenile justice and minor offenses of burglary and property crimes. Today restorative justice is also applied to situations of more severe criminal violence: assault, rape, and even murder.7 It was adopted on a national scale in the transitional justice process of South Africa, particularly in the work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a series of hearings during 1996-1998 that heard cases of gross human rights violations perpetrated during the period of apartheid.8 Another noteworthy example is Rwanda, after the 1994 genocide, where a national system of grassroots restorative justice processes – gacaca courts – was established. Practical forms of restorative justice have included victim-offender mediation, where the victim and offender meet with a mediator to explore an alternative to sentencing after a conviction in a law court. Other variants are practices known as conferences or circles, where family and friends and even the wider community of the victim or offender also come into the process. In many cases, these restorative justice processes are recognized by the state as legitimate alternatives even though they may exclude more typical criminal procedures of trials and prison terms. Though models of restorative justice vary, core features are inclusion of multiple stakeholders, a focus on restoration, and encounters between stakeholders (such as victim and perpetrator) that evoke emotions such as empathy. If crime is about harm done to relationships, not just to the law or the state, response to crime ought to restore these relations, requiring participation from a wider community in a process of dialogue, story-telling, and negotiation.9

Advocates for restorative justice describe their ideal system in contrast to what is perceived as a retributive criminal justice tradition which seeks to fix blame.10 In reality there can be considerable overlap between different types of justice systems. Whether they be restorative, retaliatory, or somewhere in between, there may be shared goals of deterrence, incapacitation of criminals, accountability, and rehabilitation.11 Restorative justice and criminal justice should be seen as being on a continuum rather than as polar opposites.12 Finally, restorative justice as a framework for dispute resolution is not a modern invention. Indeed, private arbitration and reconciliation between parties carried out through third party mediation were established ways for settling disputes at Athens already in the fifth century bc.13 Despite their reputation for litigiousness, Athenians showed an awareness of the drawbacks and limitations of the criminal justice system, as Aristophanes’ comedies (e.g., Birds, Knights, Wasps) attest.

III Inclusion of Stakeholders

Retributivism as a form of justice pays little attention to the victim of the crime. The process is centered on the perpetrator’s violation of the law, with the state serving as prosecutor.14 A central component of most restorative justice conceptions is that victims and other stakeholders in the crime will be included in the process and even, where possible, have the chance for direct or indirect dialogue. Some call this the idea of encounter, and this meeting of victims, perpetrators, and possibly other community members is a distinctive element of restorative justice.15 With an understanding that crime damages people and relationships, it makes sense that victims, offenders, and communities should be included in a collaborative process of deciding how to respond to crime and its impact. They should be invited to participate, their interests acknowledged, and the approach should be open to their participation if they choose.16

By including multiple stakeholders, restorative justice acknowledges the extent of harm done, the deeper sources of the harm, and a community defined path forward to repair the damage. In an encounter with the victim and/or the community affected by the crime, perpetrators are more likely to gain understanding of the damage they have done and to develop empathy with those they wronged. Perpetrators can also more effectively change their behavior when their own community is responsible for punishing them.17 Similarly, victims benefit from an opportunity to tell their story, to feel respected and protected by their community, and to participate in decision-making on how to repair the damage.

A central concern in restorative justice, and especially among its critics, is that inclusion of a wider community of interest in addressing criminal behaviors is fraught with difficulties. These difficulties include defining the relevant community as well as navigating situations where the victim and perpetrator are from different communities.18 Another concern is that not all communities can be trusted to implement justice fairly for all of their members. Restorative justice advocates may overly idealize the community, ignoring the fact that communities can be exclusive, hierarchical and authoritarian.19 Vulnerable parties might be made even weaker by community decisions that reinforce these existing hierarchies.20 An expanded notion of ‘stakeholder’ may actually weaken the focus on the primary victim and perpetrator.21

An encounter or dialogue between stakeholders is complicated in situations where key stakeholders are no longer alive or present. Although not very common, there are instances of restorative justice being used in cases of homicide. In cases of homicide, and in other possible scenarios, the central victim is no longer available for inclusion in the process of justice. Lack of victim participation is not uncommon in restorative justice practices and is not necessarily problematic. In such cases, it is often the convener or facilitator who takes on the role of identifying and naming the harm.22 In North America, victim-offender mediation has been used with offenders and secondary victims (such as relatives of the homicide victim) to help the offender consider the full impact of his or her crime and to provide victims some aid in the recovery process.23 While restorative justice prefers collaborative and inclusive processes, there is no rule that primary stakeholders must be present; surrogates can be used.24

Restorative justice is also challenged in cases in which it is difficult to distinguish fully between victim and perpetrator. Restorative justice is now a well-established tool in egregious crimes such as international cases of gross human rights violations, genocide and crimes against humanity.25 Despite the serious crimes committed, restorative justice has been useful in these contexts partly because of the difficulties in distinguishing between victim, perpetrator, and bystander, and identifying the complex causal factors behind the abuses. Because restorative justice allows stakeholders to tell their stories – emotions, rationales, and circumstances – and to explore the full extent of the harm done (not just the immediate harm to the victim) – it can be especially good at navigating these challenges.26

III.1 Stakeholders within the Play

Restorative justice recognizes the communal impact of crime. Likewise, the Oresteia explores the broader impact that wrongdoing has on the community at large. Actions are presented as having consequences that affect not only the perpetrator of the crime and the victim, but the entire community. For example, the ill-fated ‘marriage bond’ (κῆδος, Ag. 700) between Paris and Helen is described by the chorus as ‘rightly named’ in that it brought ‘mourning’ (κῆδος) on the entire population of Ilium, a play on these two meanings of the word κῆδος. Just as the watchman in the opening scene of the Agamemnon laments the misfortunes of the royal house of Argos (Ag. 18), so too does the chorus of serving-women in the opening scene of the Libation Bearers (Ch. 81-83). Indeed, intrafamilial violence amplifies the role of the community, since the duties of mourning and burying the dead, usually the responsibilities of the next of kin, now devolve on others (Ag. 1541-1550).

Violence within this family also blurs the distinction between perpetrator and victim. Orestes is a son deprived of his father through a brutal murder and forced into exile for fear of his life. He is also a son who kills his mother to avenge his father’s death, ignoring her implorations that he respect their mother-son relationship. This act forces him back into exile. As Orestes himself notes in the closing scene of the Libation Bearers, he has won ‘unenviable pollution through this victory’ (Ch. 1017). In serving as an agent of the Furies he becomes the object of their wrath. The play closes with him running off stage, plagued by visions of the Furies as his mother’s predatory hounds even as the chorus praises him for his loyalty to his father.

Clytemnestra is similarly both perpetrator and victim of violence. As with Orestes, this double bind is characterized in terms of a familial curse, which Clytemnestra is unable to escape despite her attempt to enter into a sworn agreement with the evil spirit plaguing the royal house of Atreus to allow her to escape ‘the madness of mutual slaughter’ (Ag. 1575-1576). Like her son, Clytemnestra is an outcast. She is forced to wander the earth as a ghost instead of being received by the other dead in the underworld, who reproach her for her violent deeds (Eum. 95-98). The verb ἀπητιµασµένη (‘shunned in dishonour’, l. 95) thus marks her exclusion from society and disenfranchisement as well as her social disapprobation. Like Orestes, Clytemnestra is seen variously as the agent and accomplice of an avenging spirit (ἀλάστωρ, Ag. 1501, 1508) and the victim of cunning-minded Revenge (δολιόφρων Ποινά, Ch. 947). At key moments in the trilogy the victory that one family member has gained over the other is overshadowed by acknowledgment of the ill fortune that they share. So, for example, in the closing lines of the Libation Bearers, the chorus characterizes what should be the third and decisive round of violence (Orestes’ killing of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus) as follows (Ch. 1073-1076):

And now again, thirdly, there has come from somewhere a saviour – or should I say, death?

So where will it end, where will the power of Ruin sink into sleep and cease?27

This more nuanced view of Clytemnestra and Orestes as both perpetrators and victims of violence is eclipsed in the Eumenides by the antagonistic rhetoric of the Furies and Apollo, who serve as surrogates for Clytemnestra and Orestes respectively. The Furies pursue Orestes as a polluted matricide, ignoring Clytemnestra’s act of violence as one that does not involve ‘kindred murder of a person of the same blood’ (Eum. 212). Apollo, for his part, argues on authority of his father Zeus that the life of a king and father is of greater value than that of a mother – who, he adds, is not truly a parent, but merely a foster-parent of the embryo (Eum. 625-630, 658-659). Criminal justice does not encourage both–and ways of thinking. Instead, it invites tendentious and at times extreme positions, frequently resulting in arguments ad extremum and even ad absurdum. In the antithetical framework of the law-court, the Furies and Apollo function as prosecution and defense teams respectively, presenting only evidence that advances their case. Unlike restorative justice, in which all stakeholders seek to reach a mutually acceptable solution, in the Areopagus trial as presented in the Eumenides the Furies and Apollo are serving as advocates and surrogates for their clients, and therefore do not entertain both/and solutions. While it was the norm in Athenian law courts for both prosecutors and defendants to represent themselves, in this trial Orestes largely leaves it to Apollo to argue on his behalf, speaking for himself only when called on by the Furies for cross-questioning. As he himself indicates, he has been coached (by Apollo) as to when to speak and when to keep silent (Eum. 276-280). He largely limits his talking to direct appeals to Athena before the trial (ll. 235-243, 276-298, 443-469) in which he offers a political alliance between Argos and Athens as an inducement to a favorable outcome, a pledge that he reiterates after the trial (ll. 754-777).

In cases of restorative justice, victim, perpetrator and the affected community usually work collaboratively to confront the crime, explore the harm caused, and arrive at a path forward to repair the damage. These elements are largely absent from the judicial process in the Eumenides. The trial of Orestes takes place not in Argos, the ‘community of interest’, but in Athens, a community that was not impacted by the cycle of violence. Far from acknowledging the harm done by his actions, Orestes maintains that he arrives at Athens free of blood pollution (ll. 443-453), and insists that he acted justly in carrying out the killings (l. 467). The court’s verdict acquitting Orestes of culpability for killing his mother subordinates the needs of the victim and weaker party, further reinforcing existing patriarchal hierarchies, as Athena explicitly acknowledges in casting her vote in favor of Orestes (ll. 734-740):

This is now my task, to be the last to judge this case; and I shall cast this ballot for Orestes. There is no mother who gave birth to me; and I commend the male in all respects (except for joining in marriage) with all my heart: in the fullest sense, I am my Father’s child. Therefore I shall not set a higher values on the death of a woman, when she has killed her husband, the guardian of her house.

As soon as he has secured a favorable outcome to the trial through Athena’s intervention, Orestes returns to Argos (l. 764). His acquittal, he states, has resulted in the restitution of his house and his reintegration into the community from which he was banished (ll. 754-760).

After the trial, there is an additional process in which parties come to terms through negotiation. This post-trial phase differs from the typical modern process of restorative justice in important ways. It happens without the participation of the perpetrator, who has already left for home, and without the victim, who is dead and therefore unable to participate. Nor is Apollo present to participate on behalf of Orestes: he has already exited (at l. 777, or possibly even earlier at l. 753).28 Only Athena and the Furies participate in this process of reconciliation. Furthermore, what is being considered is no longer Orestes’ culpability, but rather the consequences of his acquittal by the Areopagus court. Thus attention pivots from Argos to Athens. Now the Furies are the central focus and harms done to them by the decision of the court are being addressed.

IV Restoration

Restoration is the primary goal of restorative justice. Even though restoration appears to be a lofty goal, restorative justice recognizes that its efforts to restore will be imperfect, as all justice processes are. Restorative justice typically recognizes the limitations and imperfections of justice and offers greater flexibility by involving a wider set of stakeholders and offering more creative sentencing when compared to justice in courts of law.

With harm done to multiple stakeholders – victim, perpetrator, and wider community – the list of resulting needs is long. Victims need ‘information, validation, vindication, restitution, safety and empowerment …’.29 Those who perpetrated the harm need an opportunity to tell their story and to hear stories about the effects of the harm they have done. They need respect and an opportunity to take responsibility and make things right. Communities need a chance to address the social conditions that led to the harm and suffering and to build safety and peace.30 This is the transformational aspect of restorative justice that can address deeper roots of crime and recidivism.31

These needs might be organized around the two categories of reparation (making amends) and reintegration.32 Reparation includes restitution, apology, or service that help restore the direct damage of the crime. Reintegration includes needs of safety, material and psychological assistance, and respect and dignity for both victims and perpetrators.33 This reintegration work is particularly distinctive of restorative justice. The hope is to assist the perpetrator in changing his or her behavior and also to shift the community’s attitude toward the perpetrator.34 To the extent that the victim is also shunned by his or her community, the goal is to assist with reintegration of the victim as well.

In cases such as Rwanda’s gacaca courts or South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, restoration becomes a national process with multiple victims and perpetrators, and often blurring of lines, as discussed earlier. While not typical of the majority of restorative justice cases, which involve isolated individual crimes, these national processes illustrate well the task of restoring an entire community, even without widespread harsh punishments. In the South African case, as well as with other truth commissions that have held public hearings, many have argued that the public testimonials of victims and perpetrators offer their own form of justice. The act of publicly airing the stories of abuse and setting up a new public narrative of past events can be cathartic for victim and perpetrator and, through public acknowledgement of the harms done, restore these persons to the community.35 Expressions and transformations of emotions and attitudes are more easily accommodated by restorative justice than by traditional conceptions of justice.36 In Rwanda, the traditional courts were overwhelmed by the large numbers of accused offenders. It would not have made sense to imprison such a large portion of society over the long term or to expel them from their communities. With restorative justice the goal is to restore and reintegrate the offender so that they are not an ‘other’ outside the community.

IV.1 Restoration within the Play

Orestes’ reintegration into the Argive community is the issue that is at stake in his trial. He arrives at Athens as an exile from Argos, deprived of his kingdom because of the blood that he has shed. The Furies argue that his matricide and ensuing blood pollution preclude him from participation in the civic life of the polis and bar him from his royal inheritance (ll. 653-656). Apollo insists that Orestes acted justly and that he purified Orestes from blood pollution (l. 578). The court’s verdict in his favor restores Orestes to his throne and, by extension, to full participation in the community of Argos (ll. 754-760). No attention is paid to how this will be achieved, nor how the matricide and exile will be reintegrated into his community. The implication is that the court’s verdict is sufficient to ensure that this will happen, ratified as it is by the Olympian gods and the new alliance that Orestes and his divine patron Apollo have concluded with Athena and the city of Athens (ll. 667-673; 762-777). Instead, the focus of the remainder of the play is on the restoration of the relationship between the Furies and the Athenian people.

The Furies see the judgment in Orestes’ favor as a violation of their privileges. There is a conflation of two grievances in their remonstrations. They denounce the usurpation by the younger gods of their age-old prerogative to punish the spilling of blood. And they deplore the particular outcome of this trial, in which they feel they have ‘suffered unbearable treatment at the hand of the citizens’ (ll. 789-790, 819-820). Once again, the multiple connotations of atimia come into play, a word that means both dishonor (i.e., the loss of respect within the community) and disenfranchisement (i.e., the loss of privileges, especially civic rights).

The Furies’ prerogative has been a leitmotif throughout the play. Before the trial, the Furies boast (ll. 393-394), ‘I have an ancient privilege (γέρας), nor am I without honor’ (οὐδ᾽ ἀτιµίας κύρω). They zealously guard their privileges (τιµάς, l. 227), and cry out to Night, their mother, at Apollo’s attempt to deprive them of these privileges (µ᾽ ἄτιµον τίθησιν, l. 324), which they describe as the lot apportioned to them by Destiny (Μοῖρα, l. 334). They claim that the younger gods are behaving like autocrats (κρατοῦντες τὸ πᾶν, l. 163) in trying to usurp their prerogative. The verdict acquitting Orestes has, according to the Furies, rendered them dishonored and disenfranchised (ll. 780, 792, cf. l. 747). This is the perceived injury that Athena seeks to address in the post-trial phase.

The inauguration of the Areopagus homicide court by Athena was designed to bring an end to the cycle of violence within the royal house of Argos by providing an external locus of justice, a jury chosen by Athena from the best of her citizens, sworn to uphold justice (ll. 687-689). The professed impartiality of the Athenian Areopagus in trying the cases of homicide in allied cities is certainly open to question, and Orestes’ maneuverings in offering Athena and her city an alliance with Argos in return for a favorable verdict draw attention to this problem. But if the jury’s verdict succeeds in bringing to a close the internecine violence, it does not bring about resolution to the conflict. Athena seems to acknowledge this problem even as she institutes the court, noting that whether she lets Orestes remain or sends him away, ‘both options … are very hard for me to take without incurring wrath.’37 The tied vote of the jury (l. 753) is perhaps an acknowledgment of the existence of two compelling and mutually exclusive claims to justice: Orestes is at once carrying out and contravening justice in avenging his father’s murder. But criminal justice does not lend itself to an outcome acceptable to all parties. In this it is similar to retaliatory justice, in that it operates within an adversarial framework. When the court’s verdict is delivered, there is one party that emerges as the winner and another as the loser. Reconciliation is, therefore, rarely achieved by means of criminal justice. When Athena pronounces Orestes’ acquittal, Orestes and Apollo feel vindicated, but the Furies are incensed at the verdict and threaten violence, now directed against the city of Athens. Their very real concerns at the shedding of blood have been ignored, and they feel dishonored and disenfranchised.

This problem is addressed by Athena in the post-trial phase of the play. If the law-court has deprived the Furies of agency by imposing on them an externally-determined verdict, Athena restores to them their primacy as decision-makers. Acknowledging their anger, she replies with an invitation to be persuaded by what she has to say (l. 794): ‘Let me persuade you not to take this with grief and groaning’. She goes on to address their grievances directly. Far from being dishonored, they will receive a place of honor at Athens (ll. 804-807):

I unreservedly promise you that you will have an underground abode within our soil where, sitting on gleaming thrones close to your altars, you will receive honours from these citizens.

At first Athena’s overtures do not work. The seething Furies respond to her conciliatory words by reiterating their anger. The verbatim repetition of strophes (ll. 778-792, 837-846) in the antistrophes (ll. 808-822, 869-891) is unusual and draws attention to their entrenched anger. But Athena is undeterred; she bears their anger (l. 848) and continues to offer them the prospect of honored status as well as a place of honor in the land. The correspondence between the Furies’ grievance, as expressed by their (chorus-)leader, and the reparations that Athena offers them is emphasized through repetition (ll. 869-891):

[Chorus]: That I should be treated so –
ah! –
I, the old and wise, and should dwell in this land,
dishonoured (ἀτίετον) – ah! – and abhorred!
I breathe out total fury and total wrath!
Oioi, dah, pheu!
What is this pain that penetrates my side?
Hear me, O mother Night!
The evil scheming and trickery of the gods has sundered me
from my age-old privileges (τιµᾶν), and made me into nothing!

[Athena]: I will never tire of speaking to you for these good things I offer, so that you may ever say that you, an ancient goddess, are wandering in dishonor, banished from this land by me, young as I am, and the men who inhabit my city. If you have reverence for the awesome power of Persuasion, the charm and enchantment of my tongue – well, anyway, please do stay. But if you prefer not to, it would be unjust for you to let fall on this city any wrath, or any anger, or any harm to its people; for you have the opportunity to be landholder in this country, and be justly honoured (τιµωµένῃ) for ever.

The reconciliation between Athena and the Furies is brought about by a dialectical shift on the part of Athena, in which pronouncements made ex cathedra are replaced by overtures made with a view to persuading her interlocutors. Thus the play’s resolution celebrates not only the power of persuasion but also the value of listening and being persuaded. If in the first play of the trilogy Agamemnon is undone by yielding to the persuasive powers of Clytemnestra (πιθοῦ, Ag. 943), in its final play persuasion is valorized as a numinous force for the good (Eum. 794, 885-886, 900, 970-971), and is presented as the way to effect a new and positive civic discourse (Eum. 988-989).38 Thus Athena offers to the Furies and to her citizens in both the internal and external audience (Eum. 949-950, 968-972) a demonstration of the efficacy of her skills in bringing about a resolution to the conflict.39 Her intervention is successful not only because she charms the angry chthonic divinities with her words, but also because she is sensitive to their needs for respect, reparation, and reintegration, key components of restorative justice. They came seeking repayment in kind, the requital of blood drawn for blood shed. Instead, they are offered – and accept – a share in the land (ll. 868-869, 890-891, 916), largesse that they in turn repay with the promise of manifold blessings. Thus punitive justice is superseded by fair and productive exchange. The reciprocity of hatred is replaced by that of friendship, and former adversaries now join forces in safeguarding the wellbeing of the polis, in which they now all have a stake.40

V The Role of the Mediator

Restorative justice processes often involve a mediator; in fact, mediation is the best established current practice of restorative justice. The mediator can be a trained facilitator or someone with some stake in the conflict, such as a community member. In some cultural contexts, a trusted mediator is most likely to be a known mediator, even if the person is aligned with one side. This type of partial mediator would usually be a highly respected individual of stature.41 The restorative justice ideal is for the mediator to facilitate the encounter but to allow decisions to be made by the primary stakeholders; the mediator empowers the stakeholders by encouraging dialogue, listening and questioning, and not pushing a solution.42 The dialogue might result in an agreement for restitution or sentencing, or healing and community understanding. Of course restorative justice processes vary such that it is not always appropriate or possible to have a mediator. Some even prefer the term conferencing or dialogue to mediation, believing that mediation indicates neutrality or moral equivalency between victim and perpetrator.43

The mediator can be a state agent, and in practice, restorative justice has become increasingly permeated by the state in recent years.44 It is worth considering the broader state-based legal framework in which restorative justice resides. The state has a legitimate interest in outcomes of criminal cases, but restorative justice advocates trace the history of growing state domination of both restorative justice and criminal justice practices with concern. When perpetrators are said to have wronged the state, a faceless and heartless entity, they are not confronted with the full consequences of their crime. Meanwhile, victims have been sidelined in the justice process, their full story and their wishes left out. Restorative justice seeks to reevaluate the roles of government, communities and individuals in responding to the harms of crime, exposing the limits of a state-based criminal justice system and revitalizing participatory civil society.45

At the same time, to remove the state completely from justice processes is impractical because the state defines the legal entities of victim and offender, the parameters of sentencing, and even what constitutes criminal behavior.46 States assure consistency and fairness of punishments, protection of the rights of the accused and the victims, and the rule of law (applying the law equally to all).47 The acclaimed flexibility that restorative justice offers in allowing victims or communities to have a say in sentencing for the perpetrator, is precisely what some critics of restorative justice find most problematic. There are also, however, potential benefits in bypassing the state, beyond those inherent in the principles of restorative justice already discussed, such as viewing crime as a violation of people and relationships and the emphasis on community inclusion and restoration. In societies where the rule of law is being established, some argue that restorative justice, which does not rely on the state but rather the community for implementation of justice, is an asset. Thus, restorative justice is particularly suited for societies in transition.48 For example, Rwanda’s overwhelmed court system led to the implementation of traditional gacaca, community based courts.

V.1 The Roles of Athena

In many models of modern restorative justice, the process of reconciliation involves a mediator, who facilitates an open dialogue between victim and perpetrator as they seek to find a resolution by developing a mutually acceptable plan for reparation that addresses the harm caused by the crime. This does not happen in the case of Orestes as presented in the Oresteia. Orestes never acknowledges the harm done through the killing of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. Nor does he express a willingness to offer restitution. Already in the Homeric poems there are cases in which the payment of compensation to the victim’s kin offered an alternative to reciprocal killing or the exile of the killer.49 The Athenian decree of 409/8 bc (Inscriptiones Graecae i3 104; see also Athenaion Politeia 57) to republish Draco’s homicide law indicates that in cases of involuntary homicide, for which the usual penalty was exile, a pardon (aidesis) was possible if all male next of kin of the victim were in agreement.50

In Aeschylus’ Eumenides, Orestes’ case is brought to trial, and the court finds in his favor, exculpating him of homicide (l. 752) and thereby agreeing with Orestes’ claim that he acted justly. This finding brings an end to his exile from Argos, as Orestes indicates (ll. 754-758) as soon as the verdict of his acquittal is given. The post-trial settlement with the Furies has therefore little to do with the terms of Draco’s homicide law. First, Orestes has admitted the killing (l. 463), and it is therefore voluntary rather than involuntary, and he claims that he has done so with justice, i.e., legally (ll. 464-468, 612). Secondly, the court has found in Orestes’ favor and he therefore has no obligation to seek a pardon or offer restitution. And thirdly, the prosecutors are not Clytemnestra’s male next of kin, but female chthonic deities standing in for them as the personification of the retributive impulse.

If we admit that Aeschylus does not present a single coherent system of justice that corresponds directly with actual practice, then we can more readily accept that Athena plays various roles. Orestes appeals to her to come to his aid as defender (ἀρωγόν, l. 289), a term that occurs most commonly in a military context, a summons that Athena responds to in returning to Athens from Troy (ll. 397-398). Athena characterizes him as a suppliant seeking her divine protection (l. 441), though Orestes is quick to point out that he is free from pollution (l. 445), a distinction that Athena seems to accept (l. 474). Although the law court scene in the play offers only a much abbreviated approximation of a real homicide trial, it is clear that Athena fulfills the role of presiding officer (basileus) responsible for ensuring that correct procedure was followed in homicide cases. In the trial and post-trial phases, Athena both stands in for the state as an actor and also serves as its representative.

The rationale given by Athena for establishing a court is revealing. Athena declares that the matter is too weighty for a single mortal to decide (ll. 470-471), a rejection both of retaliatory justice and of sentencing by the executive dictum of a ruler, preferring the corporate judicial processes of democratic Athens over the dictum of a single individual functioning as the state. At the same time, she notes that it is not proper for her ‘to judge a case of murder which can give rise to fierce wrath’ (ll. 471-472), adding that she recognizes her own peculiar position as the divinity to whom Orestes has appealed for sanctuary while also recognizing the Furies’ prerogative to pursue such cases (ll. 473-476). Thus Athena seems to extricate herself from primary responsibility in deciding the case, appointing instead a jury of Athenians.

Through this move, Aeschylus seems to prepare a new role for Athena in the post-trial phase. It is not the role of the mediator in modern restorative justice, since she is not reconciling victim and offender. Rather, she is serving as negotiator, representing the interests of the city of Athens (ll. 927-928) and working to pacify a powerful enemy that has declared hostile intentions against the city of which she is the patron. If earlier her intervention on Orestes’ behalf secured a perpetual alliance between Argos and Athens (ll. 762-777), now her overtures to the Furies avert the prospect of sterility, plague, death and civil war, securing instead the felicitous opposite conditions. This agreement is also ratified ‘for all future time’ (l. 898). Instead of being sworn enemies of Athens, the Furies become the city’s benefactors and permanent residents. The play closes with a procession in which the Furies, now addressed as the Revered Goddesses (Σεµναὶ θεαί, l. 1041; cf. ll. 108, 383, 1006), are escorted by the Athenian citizens in a cultic procession to their new home on the northeast slope of the Areopagus.51 They are now esteemed members of the community, though at the same time it is important to note that they occupy a marginalized position as resident aliens (l. 1011), excluded from political decision making, which is the prerogative of male citizens.52

VI Other Elements of Restorative Justice

Although individual cases of restorative justice vary because of circumstances, the key dimension of this form of justice is the encounter between stakeholders. Such encounters can offer perpetrators the opportunity to acknowledge wrongdoing and feel shame at their harmful actions, and give victims the opportunity to forgive the perpetrators. These elements of restorative justice are briefly discussed below in relation to Aeschylus’ Eumenides.

VI.1 Acknowledgement of Wrongdoing

Although restorative justice values accountability for crimes, it is not as much about perpetrators getting the punishment they deserve as it is about perpetrators coming to terms with the impact of their offense. In the restorative justice process, perpetrators have an opportunity to develop empathy with their victims and other stakeholders and to understand and carry out their obligations toward making amends.

In Aeschylus’ Eumenides, Orestes is found by the Areopagus court to have acted in justice (l. 752), and he departs for Argos without any acknowledgment of wrongdoing or expression of remorse or regret. In the subsequent interactions between Athena and the Furies, the focus shifts from considering his culpability to addressing the Furies’ grievance that they have been dishonored through his acquittal. The two parties reach resolution not through coming to a shared understanding of the past (Athena continues to insist that the Furies are not dishonored, while the Furies see it differently), but through offers made by Athena on behalf of the polis of future honors (ll. 833-836; 853-857; 867-869; 881-884; 890-899), offers that are then accepted by the Furies (l. 917) and then formally ratified in a treaty made for all time (ll. 992-995).

VI.2 Forgiveness

Some criticize restorative justice as having the potential of leniency on the perpetrator or of putting excessive expectations on the victims to forgive. Some point to the benefit of the vindictive emotions, for example, in maintaining dignity for victims.53 Restorative justice by no means ignores these as if only reconciliatory emotions of mutual understanding are permitted. Quite the opposite. Without attention and acknowledgement of even hateful feelings, little progress would be made toward restoration. Restorative justice does not require forgiveness or reconciliation, although restorative justice processes result in these more than standard criminal justice procedures.54 With the transformative potential that occurs through viewing a crime through its broader context of relationships, and with possibilities of encounter and conversation between victim and perpetrator, one can easily see how forgiveness, based in empathy, emerges. Forgiveness has two aspects: counting the ‘other’ in good standing such that their offense no longer taints them, and an internal letting go of anger and resentment.55

The conflict resolution in Aeschylus’ Eumenides does not involve admission of wrongdoing on the part of Orestes as perpetrator of the matricide, nor any admission on the part of Athena and the Athenian jury that they have wronged the Furies in pronouncing in favor of Orestes. Indeed, the dominant modern conception of forgiveness (as an interpersonal response to an admission of responsibility and expression of regret) that is sometimes an element of restorative justice seems to have been absent from value systems in ancient Athens.56 However, Athena’s offer of timai (honors and privileges, with accompanying honored status) to the Furies serves as a functional equivalent of the reparations that are a frequent element of restorative justice, and have the same effects: the Furies let go of their anger (ll. 900; 1014-1020), and the restoration of right relationship between the Furies and the city of Athens is ritually enacted in the closing scene, marked by the Furies’ designation as ‘Revered Goddesses’ (Σεµναὶ θεαί, l. 1041). Although not explicitly mentioned, the implication of the reconciliation with which the trilogy closes is that the cycle of violence in the house of Argos has also been resolved.

VI.3 Shame

A negative emotion that is purposefully utilized by some restorative justice advocates is shame. ‘Reintegrative shaming’ is one method for restoring a perpetrator to his or her community, forcing the perpetrator to experience the harm of his or her wrongdoing.57 It is most effective when coming from a perpetrator’s own community rather than from a neutral or state party. It is not meant to be a form of humiliation by the general public. Rather, the perpetrator’s own community does the shaming – with the resulting emotive sense that you have let down your own people who care about you and protect you.58 The result is deterrence against more offense, since the perpetrator does not want to harm those about whom he or she cares.59

Shame is presented as a key driver of moral behavior in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. The Furies emphasize that their pursuit of wrongdoers has a deterrent effect, producing in humans the twin emotions of fear and respect (ll. 389-390); and they predict future licentiousness and violence if Orestes’ cause prevails (ll. 490-498). They highlight the role of aidôs (variously translated as shame, awe, reverence, respect), expressed through its verbal cognate aideomai (show respect, reverence), in motivating good behavior and inhibiting wrongdoing.60 Athena concurs, and foresees a vital deterrent function for the Furies, whose ‘fearsome faces’ will provide a ‘great benefit’ for Athens in keeping it ‘on the straight road of justice’ (ll. 990-995). Thus shame is positively construed and prospective in focus. This is a different emotion than the negative sense of shame that a perpetrator feels in the ‘reintegrative shaming’ described above.61 The trilogy ends with the Athenian citizens collectively reaffirming a tutelary function for the Furies, now positively identified as the Σεµναὶ θεαί (‘Revered Goddesses’, l. 1041), as guardians of normative behavior.

VII Conclusion

The primary goal of restorative justice is not to punish, but to restore the people and relationships that have been harmed. Restorative justice seeks to address the needs of all those impacted by a crime, including those of the victim, perpetrator, and affected community. These needs can include reparations for harm caused, reintegration into the community, restoration of reputation, and empowerment. In restorative justice, stakeholders work together to repair relationships and ensure the future safety and wellbeing of all community members.

In his Eumenides, Aeschylus presents a similarly positive outcome for Orestes and his community, though by altogether different means. Orestes is restored to his Argive community through his acquittal by the court, regaining his honored status as king and the accompanying material benefits, as he exclaims upon hearing Athena’s verdict (ll. 754-760):

O Pallas, O saviour of my house! I was banished from the land of my father, and you are the one who has given me back my home! Now it will be said among the Greeks, “The man is an Argive again, dwelling amid his father’s wealth, thanks to Pallas and Loxias and thirdly to the Saviour who brings all things to fulfillment …”

Orestes’ restored status and authority as king is further evident in his ratification of a treaty of non-aggression between Argos and Athens (ll. 762-766), which he declares by fiat and solemnizes for all time, guaranteed through the power of his person both while alive, and from beyond the grave as a hero with numinous power (ll. 767-740). This transformation from outlaw to king is achieved instantly through the pronouncement of the court – that is, it is an outcome of the trial rather than any process of restorative justice. Thus, while the end result of Orestes’ acquittal is his restoration to right relationship with his community, how this will be achieved in practice is not examined within the play. Rather, this restoration is taken as a fait accompli, and credited by Orestes to the intervention of the Olympian gods (ll. 754, 758-760). Like Heracles’ intervention that breaks the impasse in Sophocles’ Philoctetes, this is a deus ex machina resolution rather than one that emerges out of the process of engagement between the human stakeholders. In relation to Orestes, therefore, the way in which conflict is resolved differs fundamentally from the restorative justice model, in which resolution comes out of the process of engagement between the stakeholders and in which long-term transformation is sought by addressing the root causes of conflict through structural change.

While Orestes’ acquittal in the first ever case of the Areopagus court is presented as resolving the cycle of violence at Argos, it does not bring about an end to conflict, which now shifts to Athens and threatens to destabilize Athens through the anger of the Furies. This conflict is resolved through the intervention of Athena, who serves as a negotiator and reconciles the Furies and the Athenian community. This process of reconciliation lies outside the court system, which is inherently unsuited to reconciliation in being an adversarial model of justice, and marks a shift in the role of Athena from jurist to negotiator. In bringing about the reconciliation between the Furies and the Athenian polis, Athena functions as what might be characterized in restorative justice terms as an insider-partial mediator.62 Although she has a vested interest and acknowledged partiality toward the community of which is the patron goddess, she listens attentively to the needs of the aggrieved Furies, acknowledges their emotions, and offers them material reparations and a position of honor in the community, offerings directly responding to the Furies’ grievances, who see the court’s verdict as a violation of their privileges (ll. 845-846) and an affront to their honor (ll. 780, 810). In sum, she opens a path to a restored relationship between estranged parties. In this post-trial phase of the play, the process by which restoration occurs does occupy center stage, and the audience witnesses the effects on the Furies of Athena’s continued effort as they gradually shift from entrenched anger at their perceived ill-treatment through an intermediate position of greater openness (l. 900) to a relationship that entails full and active support of the community (l. 1040). This process leads to reconciliation between the previously opposing parties, and contributes to the prospect of future safety and order within the Athenian community as the formerly estranged and bellicose Furies now become honored residents. This fundamental change in their relationship with the community is marked by their new augurative title, the Revered Goddesses (Σεµναὶ θεαί, l. 1041) that celebrates their transformation from poison-spewing Furies to propitious and potent benefactors.63 While the conflict resolution in the post-trial phase of the Eumenides cannot be characterized as an early instance of restorative justice, differing in a number of key dimensions that we have outlined above, it does perhaps share certain traits with modern models of restorative justice.


R. Kennedy, Athena’s Justice: Athena, Athens and the Concept of Justice in Greek Tragedy (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), p. 38, provides a representative sample of the range of attempts to contextualize the play and to ascertain Aeschylus’ political leanings.


This is especially true of law courts in Athens, characterized by Herman as a ‘verbal duel … between the plaintiff and the defendant’: G. Herman, Morality and Behaviour in Democratic Athens: A Social History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 137. For a critique of the triumphalist view of the play as reflecting progress away from anger-driven revenge carried out by private citizens to dispassionate punishment carried out by a court of law, see D. Allen, The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 20-23.


H. Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice (Intercourse, pa: Good Books, 2002), p. 21.


D. Van Ness and K. Strong, Restoring Justice: An Introduction to Restorative Justice, 3rd ed. (New Providence, nj: Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., LexisNexis Group, 2006), pp. 117-118.


Van Ness and Strong, Restoring Justice, pp. 41-42.


D. Philpott, Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 65.


Zehr, Little Book, p. 4.


Transitional justice refers to processes used to help countries move from a period of gross human rights violations or other widespread injustice, to a system of law and human rights. Along with criminal courts, transitional justice processes have included truth commissions, unconventional courts (such as gacaca in Rwanda or fambul tok in Sierra Leone) and other community reconciliation processes. Often a combination of these options is used.


Philpott, Just and Unjust, pp. 65-67.


G. Johnstone, Restorative Justice: Ideas, Values, Debates (Portland, or: Willan Publishing, 2002), pp. 88-93.


Van Ness and Strong, Restoring Justice, pp. 50-53.


See K. Daly, ‘Restorative Justice: The Real Story’, in E. Mclaughlin, R. Fergusson, G. Hughes, and L. Westmarland (eds.), Restorative Justice: Critical Issues (Milton Keynes: The Open University, 2003), pp. 195-214.


For extensive discussion, see A. Scafuro, The Forensic Stage: Settling Disputes in Graeco-Roman New Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 117-141.


T. Sommers, ‘Restorative Justice’, Philosopher’s Magazine, 72 (2016), pp. 103-104.


Van Ness and Strong, Restoring Justice, p. 42.


Van Ness and Strong, Restoring Justice, p. 162.


A. Ashworth, ‘Is Restorative Justice the Way Forward for Criminal Justice?’, in Mclaughlin, Fergusson, Hughes, Westmarland, Restorative Justice, pp. 164-181, p. 169.


L. Walgrave, Restorative Justice, Self-interest and Responsible Citizenship (Portland, or: Willan Publishing, 2008), pp. 76-77.


See C. Cunneen, ‘Thinking Critically about Restorative Justice’, in Mclaughlin, Fergusson, Hughes, Westmarland, Restorative Justice, pp. 182-194.


Johnstone, Restorative Justice, p. 29.


A. Crawford and T. Clear, ‘Community Justice: Transforming Communities through Restorative Justice?,’ in Mclaughlin, Fergusson, Hughes, Westmarland, Restorative Justice, pp. 215-229, p. 219.


C. Cunneen and C. Hoyle, Debating Restorative Justice (Portland, or: Hart Publishing, 2010), p. 137.


Cunneen and Hoyle, Debating, p. 81.


Zehr, Little Book, pp. 24-25.


Cunneen and Hoyle, Debating, pp. 81-82 and Philpott, Just and Unjust.


Cunneen and Hoyle, Debating, p. 10.


Translations of Aeschylus are from A. H. Sommerstein, Aeschylus Oresteia: Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 2008).


See A. H. Sommerstein, Aeschylus: Eumenides (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 234.


D. Sullivan and L. Tifft (eds.), Handbook of Restorative Justice (New York: Routledge, 2008), p. 18.


Sullivan and Tifft, Handbook, p. 18.


See, for example, Van Ness and Strong, Restoring Justice, p. 6.


Van Ness and Strong, Restoring Justice, use the terms ‘amends’ and ‘reintegration’, pp. 49-50.


Van Ness and Strong, Restoring Justice, p. 163.


Johnstone, Restorative Justice, p. 96.


L. van den Berge and C. Caspers, ‘The Right and the Good in Aeschylus’ Oresteia and Yael Farber’s Molora: Transitional Justice between Deontology and Teleology’, Utrecht Law Review, 11.1 (2015), pp. 80-98, pp. 86, 96.


Philpott, Just and Unjust, pp. 43-45, p. 70.


Textual corruptions plague this section, though the text as proposed by Sommerstein suits the context.


For the role of persuasion in Athenian tragedy and democracy, see R. Buxton, Persuasion in Greek Tragedy: A Study of Peitho (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). See also S. Goldhill, Language, Sexuality, Narrative: The Oresteia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 263-283.


For Athena’s skills in diplomacy, see E. Hall, ‘Peaceful Conflict Resolution and its Discontents in Aeschylus’s Eumenides’, Common Knowledge, 21.2 (2015), pp. 253-269, pp. 266-268.


For a critical response to this resolution, see Hall, ‘Peaceful Conflict Resolution’, pp. 267-268.


How partial an acceptable mediator can be is in debate. J. P. Lederach identifies different roles that might be played by ‘insider-partials’ or ‘outsider-neutrals’ in facilitating dialogue about conflicts. ‘Insider-partials’ may be most common in developing nations. See P. Wehr and J. P. Lederach, ‘Mediating Conflict in Central America’, in J. Bercovitch (ed.), Resolving International Conflicts: The Theory and Practice of Mediation (Boulder, co: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996), pp. 55-74.


J. Choi and M. Gilbert, ‘“Joe Everyday, People Off the Street”: a Qualitative Study on Mediators’ Roles and Skills in Victim-offender Mediation’, Contemporary Justice Review, 13.2 (2010), pp. 207-227, p. 211. Also Johnstone, Restorative Justice, pp. 136-160.


Zehr, Little Book, p. 9.


Cunneen and Hoyle, Debating, pp. 161-167.


Ashworth, ‘Is Restorative Justice’, p. 225.


Cunneen and Hoyle, Debating, p. 162.


Ashworth, ‘Is Restorative Justice’ and D. Van Ness, lecture ‘Restorative Justice’ at Prison Fellowship International Convocation. Toronto, August 2003.


K. McEvoy and A. Eriksson, ‘Restorative Justice in Transition: Ownership, Leadership, and ‘Bottom-up’ Human Rights’, in D. Sullivan and L. Tifft (eds.), Handbook of Restorative Justice (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 321-336.


See D. Leão, ‘The Legal Founding of the Oresteia: The Crime of Homicide and the Founding of the Areopagus’, in E. Harris, D. Leão, and P. J. Rhodes (eds.), Law and Drama in Ancient Greece (London: Bloomsbury, 2010), pp. 39-60, esp. pp. 42-44.


For a detailed analysis of Draco’s code, including full bibliography, see A. Tulin, Dike Phonou: The Right of Prosecution and Attic Homicide Procedure (Stuttgart and Leipzig: Teubner, 1996), pp. 7-19.


See A. Lardinois, ‘Greek Myth for Athenian Rituals’, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 33 (1992), pp. 313-327, esp. pp. 315-322.


For a sustained critique of the subordination of matriarchy to patriarchy in the resolution at the end of the Eumenides, see F. Zeitlin, ‘The Dynamics of Misogyny: Myth and Mythmaking in the Oresteia’, Arethusa, 11.2 (1978), pp. 149-184. For a critique of the domestication of the Furies and their confinement in a subterranean chamber, see also P. Markell, Bound by Recognition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), p. 191, which draws on M. Flaumenhaft, The Civic Spectacle: Essays on Drama and Community (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994), p. 38. Allen, The World of Prometheus, pp. 113-114 notes that female anger is presented as a problem to be controlled; the Erinyes accept the male ‘system of punishing that requires that acts of anger be channeled through men …’ (p. 138); ‘by the end of the play, not only have women been taught to be housemates but men have been taught to be citizens’ (p. 138).


See, for example, J. Murphy, Getting Even: Forgiveness and its Limits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). In contrast, see M. Nussbaum, Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).


Zehr, Little Book, p. 8.


Philpott, Just and Unjust, p. 260. Forgiveness does not involve excusing behavior, forgoing of justice, or necessarily reconciling with the wrongdoer.


See D. Konstan, Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), esp. pp. 22-90.


J. Braithwaite, ‘Restorative Justice and a Better Future’, in Mclaughlin, Fergusson, Hughes, Westmarland, Restorative Justice, pp. 54-65.


Johnstone, Restorative Justice, pp. 100-101.


N. Harris and S. Maruna, ‘Shame, Sharing and Restorative Justice: A Critical Appraisal’, in Sullivan and Tifft, Handbook of Restorative Justice, pp. 453-465, pp. 453-455.


Eum. 539, 548, 680. See also τὸ δεινόν (‘the fearsome’) at l. 517 and σέβας / ἀστῶν φόβος τε συγγενής (‘the respect and inborn fear of the citizens’, ll. 690-691). For aidôs and sebas discussed in the context of Aeschylus’ Eumenides, see D. Cairns, Aidôs: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 208-214.


See D. Konstan, The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), pp. 91-110, pp. 291-305.


See footnote 41.


Nussbaum, Anger and Forgiveness, pp. 4-8, argues that this shift marks a transformation of the fundamental nature of the Furies themselves from dog-like creatures characterized by unbridled anger to women showing measured restraint. Contrast J. P. Euben, ‘Justice and the Oresteia’, The American Political Science Review, 76.1 (1982), pp. 22-33, who characterizes the play’s final movement as a ‘reconciliation of diversities into a restored yet new unity’ (p. 28) in which complementary but separate identities are maintained even as the importance of the other is recognized and the precarious and contingent nature of reconciliation and human existence is brought to the attention of the audience members.

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