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Two Furies, from an ancient vase.

In Greek mythology the Erinýes (Ἐρινύες, pl. of Ἐρινύς, Erinýs; lit. "the angry ones") or Eumenídes (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 whosoever has sworn a false oath". Burkert suggests they are "an embodiment of the act of self-cursing contained in the oath".[1]

When the mighty Titan Cronus castrated his father Uranus and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood, while Aphrodite was born from the crests of 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; in Canto IX of the Inferno they confront the poets at the gates of the city of Dis. The heads of the Erinyes, whom the two poets met in Canto IV, 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.

References

  1. ^ Burkert 1985, p. 198

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ERINYES (Lat. Furiae), in Greek mythology, the avenging deities, properly the angry goddesses or goddesses of the curse pronounced upon evil-doers. According to Hesiod (Theog. 185) they were the daughters of Earth, and sprang from the blood of the mutilated Uranus; in Aeschylus (Eum. 321) they are the daughters of Night, in Sophocles (O.C. 40) of Darkness and Earth. Sometimes one Erinys is mentioned, sometimes several; Euripides first spoke of them as three in number, to whom later Alexandrian writers gave the names Alecto (unceasing in anger), Tisiphone (avenger of murder), Megaera (jealous). Their home is the world below, whence they ascend to earth to pursue the wicked. They punish all offences against the laws of human society, such as perjury, violation of the rites of hospitality, and, above all, the murder of relations. But they are not without benevolent and beneficent attributes. When the sinner has expiated his crime they are ready to forgive. Thus, their persecution of Orestes ceases after his acquittal by the Areopagus. It is said that on this occasion they were first called Eumenides ("the kindly"), a euphemistic variant of their real name. At Athens, however, where they had a sanctuary at the foot of the Areopagus hill and a sacred grove at Colonus, their regular name was Semnae (venerable). Black sheep were sacrificed to them during the night by the light of torches. A festival was held in their honour every year, superintended by a special priesthood, at which the offerings consisted of milk and honey mixed with water, but no wine. In Aeschylus, the Erinyes are represented as awful, Gorgon-like women, wearing long black robes, with snaky locks, bloodshot eyes and claw-like nails. Later, they are winged maidens of serious aspect, in the garb of huntresses, with snakes or torches in their hair, carrying scourges, torches or sickles. The identification of Erinyes with Sanskrit Saranyu, the swif tspeeding storm cloud, is rejected by modern etymologists; according to M. Breal, the Erinyes are the personification of the formula of imprecation (&p&), while E. Rohde sees in them the spirits of the dead, the angry souls of murdered men.

See C. O. Muller, Dissertations on the Eumenides of Aeschylus, (Eng. tr., 1835); A. Rosenberg, Die Erinyen (1874); J. E. Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903); and Journal of Hellenic Studies, xix. p. 205, according to whom the Erinyes were primarily local ancestral ghosts, potent for good or evil after death, earth genii, originally conceived as embodied in the form of snakes, whose primitive haunt and sanctuary was the omphalos at Delphi; E. Rohde, Psyche (1903); A. Rapp in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie, and J. A. Hild in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquites, S. V. Furiae.


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Simple English

File:William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Remorse of Orestes (1862).jpg
The Erinyes pursue Orestes for the murder of his mother.

The Erinyes (or Eumenides) were the goddesses of revenge in Greek mythology.

They forever followed the person who did a crime (even if the person had a good reason to do it), and they even could make the person go mad. They are often shown with snakes on their heads, blood coming out of their eyes, and looking very horrific.

Very well known is the one time the Erinyes followed Orestes: Orestes' mother Klytaimnestra and her lover Aegisthos had killed Orestes' father Agamemnon. The god Apollo told Orestes to kill the murderers of his father, which he did. Orestes was then pursued by the Erinyes for his crime. But with the help of Athena and Apollo Orestes went to a court in Athens. It was decided that Orestes had acted right and nobody should hurt him. Even the Erinyes accepted the decision, and from then on they were also called Eumenides, which means "the kind ones", because they could also let people go in peace if their crime was done for a good reason.

These three female divinities were named Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera, & were born from Mother Earth & the blood of Uranus. They avenged family crimes such as matricide & parricide, & also tormented evil men in the "Hell" of the underworld, Tartarus. Their true name was "The Erinnyes" Angry ones, but to the Greeks were known as "The Eumenides" Kindly ones to try to aviod bad luck which may have been brought on by speaking their name.

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