Orestes was a character in Aeschylus’s trilogy of plays, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides. He was the son of King Agamemnon, who was murdered by his vengeful wife, Clytemnestra, and her power-hungry lover, Aegisthus. Orestes had been in exile previous to his father’s death, and when he came home he found his father murdered and a strange man in charge of the household. With the help of his sister, Electra, he murdered Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. Had he been living in modern times, Orestes’ course of action and the outcome of the story would have been very different.
The ancient Greeks had different religious values than modern-day people. In the modern world, most people have religions that govern ethical and moral activity, especially the Christian religions, which focused heavily on mercy and forgiveness. Christianity viewed God as morally perfect and just, but also merciful. The ancient Greek religion had little to do with morals, and the gods of the Greeks were far from morally perfect. The system of justice that came from the gods relied on vengeance. One murder will lead to another in a never-ending circle of revenge without any mercy.
If someone in the modern world was murdered, the system of justice would not require another murder for it to be satisfied. There would be a jury of citizens in a court which would come to a conclusion based on evidence. And if the jury found the murderer to be guilty, a punishment would be to be dealt out by a judge. The system of justice would not require there to be a second round of murder to satisfy for the punishment imposed by the judge.
In the conclusion of the last play, a jury of citizens was assembled by Athena to make a verdict on the justification of Orestes’ murder of his mother, not on his guilt or innocence. Instead of finding him guilty or innocent, they found his actions not deserving of punishment, so as to end the circle of vengeance. This system of justice is very different from the modern system of justice, and the same circumstances of murder today would have a very different outcome.