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The Furies

Monsters of Classical Mythology

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The Furies are sisters, monsters of classical mythology (Greek and Roman), charged with keeping order by punishing the guilty in the Underworld. They also avenged what the Greeks considered violations of the natural order such as kinship murder, breaking of oaths, and failure to respect the customs of hospitality, by driving the violator to madness with their pursuit. They were especially connected with punishing those who killed their mothers (matricide).

Description: They are depicted as completely foul: aged women with dogs' heads, bats' wings, black skin, hair of snakes; their smell was foul, and they oozed foul substances from their mouths, eyes, and noses; their noises were like an old woman's cackle or a dog's bark. Sometimes they appeared as a cloud of insects.

Also Known As:

Latin: Furiae (same root as "furor" or madness) or Dirae ("dreads")
Greek: Erinyes or Erinnyes ("raging ones"), Eumenides ("kindly ones"), Semnai Theai ("venerable goddesses"), Maniai ("senders of madness")

Parents of the Furies (different versions)

  1. mother: Nyx (Night), father: Tartarus (Erebus). Tartarus (Erebus) is the underworld in classical myth which becomes the place of punishment in later myth. The Furies torture the guilty among the dead who are in Tartarus as well as attacking mortals in life).
  2. Uranus (Ouranos) and Gaia: blood dripped from Uranus (the sky-father) when he was castrated by Cronus (leader of the Titans) and the blood fell on Gaia (the earth-mother) and conceived the Furies
  3. mother: Persephone, father: Hades

Names of the Three Furies:

  • Allecto - endless, unceasing
  • Magaera - resentful, jealous, grudging
  • Tisiphone - punishing, avenging

The Furies in Myths:

In Aeschylus' Eumenides, the Furies haunt Orestes for murdering his mother. They brought Orestes to trial in Athens, before Athene. The outcome is that they are renamed the Eumenides, reassigned roles as protectors of the city from disease and plague and pests.

In another story, the Furies pursued Alcmaeon who also murdered his mother, Eriphyle. In yet another story, the Furies haunted Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother though unknowingly.

Home: Erebus, in the underworld, where they tortured the guilty. After the trial of Orestes, Athena provided a cave at Athens for sacrifices to the Furies, under the name of the Eumenides.

Related Mythical Figures: Nemesis, Gorgons, Harpies, Graces, Fates, Norns

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