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 Post subject: Eumenides
PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 1:20 pm 
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Of all the plays of Aeschylus' only surviving trilogy the Oresteia, Eumenides, or The Furies, is probably the one richest in social meaning.

In the first play of the trilogy, Agamenon, the titular character returns home from the Trojan war, only to be slain in his bathtub by his wife Clytemnestra, as revenge for the sacrifice of her daughter Iphigenia, which Agamemnon had made in return for safe passage to Troy. She invites Agamemnon's outcast cousin Aegisthus to be her consort and co-ruler, establishing a tyranny in the city of Argos.

In the second play, Orestes, the exiled son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, returns to Argos in disguise, and avenges his father by murdering his mother and her new lover.

The Furies opens with Orestes seeking aid from Apollo in his temple at Delphi. He is being hunted by a group of monsters known as the Furies, daughters of the primordial goddess Nyx (Night). Apollo tells him to hasten to the city of Athens. There, Orestes prostrates himself before Athena, who arranges a trial for Orestes' life.

Here we have trial by jury, one of the foundational institutions of Athenian democracy, presiding over a dispute which is presented as the rights of the father versus the rights of the mother. The Furies demand vengeance, a mother and child are connected by blood, whereas a husband and wife share no such connection, blood bond takes precedence over bed bond, and the crime of killing a mother is more serious than the crime of killing a husband. Apollo argues that, on the contrary, the father is the true, active parent of the child, the mother merely the soil in which the seed grows. As proof, he points to his sister Athena, who was born of a single parent - Zeus. The fact that a child could exist without a mother, but not without a father, proves the fathers precedence.

The votes of the Jurors are equal. But Athena casts a deciding vote, as the offspring of Zeus alone, she cannot deny that the rights of the father take precedence over that of the mother, and Orestes is acquitted of his crime, promising eternal friendship between the cities of Athens and Argos.

Can't find my copy of it right now, but off the top of my head, Engels points to this play in his Origins of the Family etc as a kind of primordial memory of the dissolution of ancient matriarchal societies and their replacement by patriarchal ones. Monogamous marriage created a certainty in paternity which allowed the father to assert his rights viz a vis his children. There is also a theme of masculinity as activity and femininity as passivity, which is one with a pretty long pedigree, and still present in literature of the 19th century. For example, Feuerbach conceives the joining of German philosophy with French materialism as a marriage of the feminine and masculine elements of philosophy:

Feuerbach wrote:
...we must make the mother French and the father German. The heart – the feminine principle, the sense for the finite, the seat of materialism – is a French disposition, whereas the head – the masculine principle, the seat of idealism – is German.

[..]

Hegel represents the masculine principle of self-sufficience and of self-activity, in short, the idealistic principle. Schelling represents the feminine principle of receptivity and of impressionability, in short, the materialist principle.


The victory of patriarchy is engendered by voting, a trial by jury, which was a foundational element of Athenian society.

But the play doesn't end there. The Furies promise vengeance, they will wreak havoc on the land of Athens, destroying it's crops and spreading pestilence and blight. Athena tries to palliate them, first through threatening destruction by Zeus' thunderbolts, but then by promising to establish their cult in Athens, which will provide them everlasting reverence and worship, as long as they protect the city, keeping it prosperous, and free of the cycle of blood debts which has been the driving force of all the preceding drama (The Furies were, in fact, worshiped in the city of Athens).

So in the end the play doesn't present us with a total victory for patriarchy. The matriarchal blood bond represented by the Furies must be given it's due, otherwise catastrophe is prophesied. The play ends with a kind of hymn to the future glory and prosperity of Athens. So in one play we have Gender, Democracy, Law, Patriotism and Religion all interacting in various ways to bring about a conclusion satisfying to it's original Athenian audience.

But is it a satisfying ending for us?

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"The death of the poor man is the worst eventuality for the creditor. It is the death of his capital together with the interest."
- Marx, Comments on James Mill -

"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
- Marx, Value, Price and profit -


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 Post subject: Re: Eumenides
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 9:28 am 
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Reading through my copy of Engels' Origins etc it seems that the actual analysis of Eumenides in terms of the transition from mother to father right comes from Bachofen, but is assented to by Engels, on the understanding that it wasn't the development of the Greek religion which brought about this development, but the development of private property and the institution of slavery in this period of history which necessitated the destruction of the matriarchal gens and it's replacement by a patriarchal family.

I honestly don't know much about prehistory and the current state of knowledge with regards to the social relations of indigenous Americans, Aborigines etc prior to European conquest. I had heard that the assumption of an original matriarchy was somewhat doubtful. But Engels' descriptions of, for example, the Iroquois confederacy seem to point to the fact that men were generally in charge of, for example, war, and women in charge of domestic life, but that the organisation of the family was still in this period determined primarily by descent through the maternal line. Maybe matriarchy is the wrong word in this context, it seems to imply a mirror image of patriarchal society but with women in the social position of the men.

I'm interested in what Engels has to say about the social organisation of the Greeks in their 'heroic' period. What he says about the institution of the Basileus and the way it differs from contemporary kingship does line up with what I've heard from certain contemporary historians on antiquity. Of note seems that kingship in Greece never developed to the level found in, for example, Egypt or Persia, precisely due to a certain economic backwardness. Mycenean Greece was ruled by the wanax, which were much closer in character to our contemporary notions of kingship, but at some point a general economic decline led to their replacement by the basileis, who were much closer in economic position to their subjects, and therefore held less absolute authority.

At some point I want to find some contemporary sources on both pre-Classical Greece, as well as the social organisation of native Americans and compare and contrast. I also need to find a copy of Marx's original notebooks on Ethnography. I think it would prove instructive.

_________________
"The death of the poor man is the worst eventuality for the creditor. It is the death of his capital together with the interest."
- Marx, Comments on James Mill -

"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
- Marx, Value, Price and profit -


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 Post subject: Re: Eumenides
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:44 am 
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I can't remember the exact name of the book-- think it's Women Warriors or Warrior Queens or something-- that tracks the tribes and clans were women, or a woman, was in charge of the war-making function.
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 Post subject: Re: Eumenides
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 11:19 am 
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Couldn't find a book with either title. But searching for American Indian Female Warriors and other variations of that in Google seems to give a lot of promising results.

Engels' seems to be mainly interested in the sociology of American Indian tribes from the standpoint of what they can tell us about the prehistory of the developments in Greece, Rome and among the ancient Germans and Celts. This is understandable given that Western Europe is where private property and the state find their final form in fully developed capitalism.

It still might be interesting to compare and contrast what we now know about, for example pre-historic China, which doesn't seem to have held much interest for Engels.

Relevant Libcom article:

https://libcom.org/history/engels-was-r ... atrilineal

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"The death of the poor man is the worst eventuality for the creditor. It is the death of his capital together with the interest."
- Marx, Comments on James Mill -

"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
- Marx, Value, Price and profit -


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 Post subject: Re: Eumenides
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 12:29 pm 
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Holy shitballs.

Didn't realise this was online, you better believe I saved a copy for later.

_________________
"The death of the poor man is the worst eventuality for the creditor. It is the death of his capital together with the interest."
- Marx, Comments on James Mill -

"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
- Marx, Value, Price and profit -


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 Post subject: Re: Eumenides
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 4:37 pm 
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I'll have to track it down. An anthropological study-- looking at warrior queens of various tribes-- wish I could remember, read it about 12 years ago.


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