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2018 Book #39 - The Oresteian Trilogy by Aeschylus, translated by Philip Vellacott

The amazing thing about this is how old it is: 2500 years. (I mean the original... my paperback copy is only 45 years old.) Given that, it's amazingly readable. The introduction and the notes definitely help. I've never been able to keep the Greek gods fixed in my mind, which one is responsible for what and so forth. I've got a pretty good handle on Sisyphus, because I work for a living,but most of the others, not so much. I know Prometheus flew too close to the Sun and Pandora unlocked the Box.

And people were psychologically different back then. If they were as neurotic as we are, Aeschylus didn't bother to make note of it.

So in this trilogy of plays, there's a cycle of vengeful murders and the questions hanging over it all are: who is justified? And how can it ever stop? There's a lot of appealing to the gods. In the end there's a trial and it seems that the overarching theme is the development of a democratic system of laws (with help from some gods) as a replacement for clan vendettas. It's interesting to think that a murder drama culminating in a trial scene could exist that far back. But unlike in our modern courtroom dramas, the question is not who did it?or how did they do it?or will they get away with it? but what is justice?They were just inventing the system we now use.

I wish I found this more compelling than I actually do, but, as amazing an artifact as it is, it's pretty dry to me, I guess mostly because of the absence of individual psychology. I think rereading it and reading more about Greece at that time would bring it to life more. Or a really good college professor. That could do the trick. But I don't think the Fates have another trip to college in store for me. Surely I have not offended the gods so sorely that they would saddle me with even more debt? Perhaps I ought not taunt them.

Tags: 2018 book reviews
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