• Devin O'Donnell

Peace, peace, Orestes-like

Updated: Mar 31

Yesterday we finished The Eumenides by Aeschylus, which concludes the trilogy of tragic plays. We saw that the solution to the violent cycle of "fury" is a "clear" and "luminous" judgment. Thus, the judicial system of a jury trial is the solution to maintaining social order and restoring peace, which is the mark of civilization. This is Aeschylus' great insight. A society that is able to accept a just judgment transcends the dark and violent logic of the "old gods" and appeals to the higher faculties of reason to forego vengeance and rivalry. (This not to say there's not a time to fight, but only that judicial structure appeals to a deeper wisdom.)

Note that Orestes is exiled and awaits this judgment to which he looks for vindication. Consider the concept of the "refuge city" in the Old Testament, as seen in Numbers 35. Yesterday we also read Matthew 18 to begin our study of "peace" and "Shalom" in Scripture. We learn that Christ establishes "shalom" between God and us. His sacrifice establishes a "new city," the City of God into which we are registered, and God judges him worthy to receive all authority in heaven and on earth. Paul writes,

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Eph. 2:14-18)

That word "peace" is the same word we find in Homer, "eirènè" (εἰρήνη). Understood properly, it is because Christ has established peace and atonement with the Father that we can have peace with men. Orestes might achieve "peace" through the procedural means of an impartial judicial system, but it won't last, nor will it extend to all nations. Procedural peace is good for one polis, but the only way to establish true, lasting, and cosmic peace is through the Cross of Christ. Athena's solution ends the curse of cyclical violence on the House of Atreus, but Christ ends the cyclical violence on the House of Adam.

The philosopher Roger Scruton notes the relationship between forgiveness and civilization:

“By living in a spirit of forgiveness we not only uphold the core value of citizenship but also find the path to social membership that we need. Happiness does not come from the pursuit of pleasure, nor is it guaranteed by freedom, it comes from sacrifice. That is the message of the christian religion and it is the message that is conveyed by all the memorable works of our culture. It is the message that has been lost in the noise of repudiation, but which it seems to me can be heard once again if we devote our energies to retrieving it. And in the christian tradition the primary act of sacrifice is forgiveness. The one who forgives sacrifices vengeance and renounces thereby a part of himself for the sake of another.”

Aeschylus is, therefore, a big deal. At a higher point in our civilization, a cursory knowledge of Western Literature would know and understand Aeschylus. Consider Longfellow's poem:

Hymn to the Night BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW Aspasie, trillistos. I heard the trailing garments of the Night Sweep through her marble halls! I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light From the celestial walls! I felt her presence, by its spell of might, Stoop o'er me from above; The calm, majestic presence of the Night, As of the one I love. I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight, The manifold, soft chimes, That fill the haunted chambers of the Night, Like some old poet's rhymes. From the cool cisterns of the midnight air My spirit drank repose; The fountain of perpetual peace flows there, — From those deep cisterns flows. O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear What man has borne before! Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care, And they complain no more. Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer! Descend with broad-winged flight, The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair, The best-beloved Night!


Agenda for the WEEK:

  1. Prayer & Catechism

  2. Finish on Agamemnon WS

  3. Read Eumenides by Aeschylus

  4. Tuesday (3/29) — read up to page 242, line 240

  5. Wednesday (3/30) — finish the play!

  6. Thursday (3/31) — work on questions

  7. Begin working on the Eumenides worksheet

  8. Do 1-4 of the questions


  1. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.

  2. Finish the play

  3. Read your Dig Deep!

  4. Bring your Odyssey books on Monday (4/4)!


Note the following images of Athena.

Attic red-figure kylix showing Athena slaying the Gigante Enceladus (c. 550–500 BC)

he Acropolis at Athens (1846) by Leo von Klenze. Athena's name probably comes from the name of the city of Athens.

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