Family Relationships

Mother/Child || Father/Child || Children and Marriage || General Family


Orestes: My grandfather, Tyndareus—
the man who cared for me when I was small,
who held me in his arms so tenderly—
Agamemnon's baby boy—who loved me,
he and Leda both, no less than their own sons,
Castor and Polydeuces.
They loved me,
and how have I returned their tenderness and love?
— Euripides, Orestes, 463–466


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The Muse: Perish the scion of Oeneus.
Perish the son of Laertes.
He made me childless, who had
the best child in the world.
Perish the woman who forsook
her Greek home for a Phrygian bed.
She, dearest son, she is your true destroyer,
she, who made the unnumbered cities
empty of the brave.
Philammon's son, who live and die your many lives
and deaths, you have struck back and wounded me deep,
O Thamyris.
Rude violence did all. It brought you down. The quarrel
of the Muses, too, made me bear this unhappy son;
for as I waded through the waters of the Strymon,
the River-God was on me, I was in his arms
and conceived. It was when we Muses, all arrayed
with instruments, went to the gold-soiled mountain-mass
of Pangaeus, and the high contest of melody
with that great Thracian singer, and we blinded him,
Thamyris, who had vilified our craft of song.
When you were born, in shame over my maidenhood
and before my sisters, I flung you into the great waters
Of your father, and Strymon gave you into the care
of no mortals, but the maiden nymphs of his own springs
who nursed you to perfection and then sent you forth,
child, to be king of Thrace and first of mortal men.
— Euripides, Rheseus, 906–931

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Electra: The wife of Menelaus
was Helen, whom the gods in heaven themselves
despise, while Agamemnon married Clytemnestra
in a marriage that became the scandal of Hellas.
By her three daughters—myself
and my two sisters, Chrysothemis and Iphigenia—
and one son, Orestes there. All of us his children
by that one wife—I cannot call her mother—
who snared her husband in the meshes of a net
and murdered him.
I leave it to the world
to guess her motive. It is no topic for a virgin
like myself.
— Euripides, Orestes, 19–20

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Orestes: Do you know the dream, too? Can you tell it to me right?
Chorus: She told me herself. She dreamed she gave birth to a snake.
Orestes: What is the end of the story then? What is the point?
Chorus: She laid it swathed for sleep as if it were a child.
Orestes: A little monster. Did it want some kind of food?
Chorus: She herself, in the dream, gave it her breast to suck.
Orestes: How was her nipple not torn by such a beastly thing?
Chorus: It was. The creature drew in blood along with the milk.
Orestes: No void dream this. It is the vision of a man.
— Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers, 526–534


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Cilissa: Poor unhappy me,
all my long-standing mixture of misfortunes, hard
burden enough, here in this house of Atreus,
when it befell me made the heart ache in my breast.
But never yet did I have to bear a hurt like this.
I took the other troubles bravely as they came:
but now, darling Orestes! I wore out my life
for him. I took him from his mother, brought him up.
There were times when he screamed at night and woke me from
my rest; I had to do many hard tasks, and now
useless; a baby is like a beast, it does not think
but you have to nurse it, do you not, the way it wants.
For the child still in swaddling clothes can not tell us
if he is hungry or thirsty, if he needs to make
water. Children's young insides are a law to themselves.
I needed second sight for this, and many a time
I think I missed, and had to wash the baby's clothes.
The nurse and laundrywoman had a combined duty
and that was I. I was skilled in both handicrafts,
and so Orestes' father gave him to my charge.
And now, unhappy, I am told that he is dead
and go to take the story to that man who has
defiled our house; he will be glad to hear such news.
— Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers, 743–65

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Teucer: The grief comes sharp. But where
Is the little one? Where in the whole width
Of Troyland shall I look for him?
Chorus: He is alone
By the tents.
Teucer: Go quickly, then,
Quickly, and bring him here. Some enemy else
May snatch him, as one would a lion-whelp
Torn from its mother. Hurry and lose no time!
When a man lies dead and cannot help himself,
The world delights to mock and injure him.
— Sophocles, Ajax, 986–990


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