Thyestes and Oresteia
Thyestes and Oresteia are two stories that follow each other whereby the Thyestes story precedes the Oresteia story. At the beginning of the play, the reader is introduced to Pelops’s sons Atreus and Thyestes who are bloody rivals. Atreus is married to the daughter of the king of Mycenae Aerope (Schiesaro 233). The deadly rivalry between Atreus and Thyestes is as a result of their action which involved the killing of their half-brother Chrysippus which in turn forced their grandfather and father to proclaim curses on their families.
The rivalry starts when Atreus ascends to the throne of Mycenae and he opted to make a sacrifice to the gods. As he was searching for a perfect lamb to sacrifice he discovers a sheep that has a Golden Fleece, which he sacrifices and gives the wife the Golden Fleece (Schiesaro 234). Atreus wife is in an affair with his husband’s brother Thyestes, and Thyestes takes advantage of the relationship to get the golden flee from Atreus. Due to jealousy, Thyestes wants to be the king, and he proposes that whoever has the Golden Fleece should ascend to kingship in which he succeeds. Atreus is not happy with Thyestes act and following the god’s advice and powers he gets back to the throne. After which he learns of his wife and brother relationship and his vows to revenge. Since Thyestes had been forced to leave the country, he later comes back, and Atreus pretended that he had made peace with him when he invited him to welcome him officially and he served him with his two son’s flesh which made Thyestes plan revenge on him (Schiesaro 238). Thyestes seeks help from an oracle who advises him to bear a child with his daughter Pelopia who later bores a son and names him Aegisthus (Schiesaro 238). When Aegisthus was a grown up and clearly understood the family history he killed his uncle Atreus, hence, giving Thyestes a chance to ascend to leadership.
On the other hand, on the Oresteia story, after Atreus was killed, his son Agamemnon rose to Argo’s throne and when he was of age, he married Clytaemnestra king Sparta’s daughter and they bore three children namely Iphigenia, Electra, and Orestes (Goldhill 129). On the other hand, Atreus’s son Menelaus married Clytemnestra sister Helen. It is unfortunate that when the Paris, the son of the king of Troy come visiting Argos, he seduced Helen and elopes with her and a mission to get her back started whereby Agamemnon was crowned the commander (Goldhill 142). The journey to get Helen back was challenging, and the gods needed sacrifice so as to allow Agamemnon and his men to go on the mission, which in turn forced Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter. The act of sacrificing his daughter was a blow to his family as when he was in the war his wife Clytaemestra who was upset by the sacrifice started planning revenge on his husband. Luckily, Clytaemestra got the support of her plan from her secret lover Aegisthus who happened to be Agamemnon, the cousin (Goldhill 159-160).
Aegisthus is also planning revenge on Agamemnon to revenge for his father’s death. Upon coming home, Agamemnon arrives home where Clytaemestra welcomes him warmly. Interestingly, Agamemnon has another woman Cassandra upon his arrival from the war (Goldhill 217). It is after the warm welcome that Clytaemestra kills here husband and his other woman Cassandra while in the bathtub and immediately, Clytaemestra and Aegisthus move to the palace and become the new rulers (Goldhill 228).
The two stories are related in their concept. Also, the two stories share some common themes such as revenge where the main characters are revenging on each other as well as the theme of infidelity, death, and hunger for power.
Goldhill, Simon. Aeschylus: The Oresteia. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Schiesaro, Alessandro. The passions in play: Thyestes and the dynamics of Senecan drama. Cambridge University Press, 2003.