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Restless DeadEncounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece$
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Sarah Iles Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780520217072

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520217072.001.0001

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Purging the Polis

Purging the Polis

Erinyes, Eumenides, and Semnai Theai

(p.250) Chapter 7 Purging the Polis
Restless Dead

Sarah Iles Johnston

University of California Press

This chapter looks closely at the Erinyes and two related groups of goddesses, the Eumenides and the Semnai Theai, and at the relationship between the goddess Erinys and Demeter. The Erinyes acted on behalf of dead souls who were angry at the living, especially blood kin who had mistreated those souls, and also punished souls who deserved it after death. The role that the ritual practitioner Epimenides played in simultaneously quieting the restless dead after the Cylonian affair and establishing cult to the Semnai Theai is examined in this light. The chapter ends with a close reading of the end of Aeschylus’ Eumenides, arguing that it offers a new myth about the origin of the Athenian court system on the Areopagus, in which Athena plays the role of a goês, quieting the Erinyes who are angry on behalf of Clytemnestra’s ghost, and thus reiterating the new importance, in the fifth century, of maintaining good relationships between the living and the dead.

Keywords:   Erinyes, Eumenides, Semnai Theai, Demeter, Epimenides, Derveni, Cylon, Oresteia, Athena, Goês

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