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Greeks Research

Matricide is the act of killing one's mother. As for any type of killing, motives can vary a lot.

Amastris, queen of Heraclea, was drowned by her two sons in 284 BC.

Cleopatra III of Egypt was assassinated in 101 BC by order of her son, Ptolemy X, for
her conspiring.

Ptolemy XI of Egypt had his wife, Berenice III, murdered shortly after their wedding in
80 BC. She was also his stepmother, or perhaps his mother.

In AD 59, the Roman Emperor Nero is said to have ordered the murder of his mother
Agrippina the Younger, supposedly because she was conspiring against him.

Mary Ann Lamb, the mentally ill sister of essayist Charles Lamb, killed their invalid
mother during an episode of mania in 1796.

Sidney Fox, a British man killed his mother in 1929 to gain from her insurance policy.
He was convicted and hanged the following year.

The Parker-Hulme murder case of 1954. This case was chronicled in the film Heavenly

Jack Gilbert Graham killed his mother along with 44 people by planting a dynamite
bomb in his mother's suitcase, that was subsequently loaded aboard United Airlines
Flight 629 in 1955.

Charles Whitman killed his mother and wife before going on his killing spree at the
University of Texas at Austin that killed 14 people and wounded 31 others, as part of a
shooting rampage from the observation deck of the University's 32-story administrative
building on August 1, 1966. He was eventually shot and killed by Austin police.

John Emil List murdered his mother, wife and his three children on November 9, 1971,
making List also guilty of filicide and uxoricide. He was a fugitive for 18 years. He was
apprehended on June 1, 1989 after an episode of "America's Most Wanted" aired. On
May 1, 1990 he was sentenced to 5 life terms in prison.

Antony Baekeland murdered his mother, Barbara Daly Baekeland on November 11,
1972, at their luxurious London apartment. She had allegedly forced him to have sex
with her, in order to "cure" his homosexuality.

Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child. The word filicide derives from the
Latin words filius meaning "son" or filia meaning daughter and the suffix -cide meaning to kill,
murder, or cause death. "A filicide" may refer to the parent who killed his or her child as well
as to the criminal act that the parent committed.

Filicide has existed since the dawn of mankind. In ancient Greco-Roman times, a father
was allowed to kill his own child without legal repercussions. Despite the later rise of
Christianity and its greater respect for life, filicides continued, often perpetrated by the
mother, who may have claimed the child accidentally suffocated in bed. Reasons for
wanting to end the life of a child, particularly a newborn, included disability, gender,
lack of resources to care for the child, or illegitimacy. These reasons still hold true
today. However, without our current systems of documentation, including records of
birth and death, it was far easier to succeed in completing a filicidal act in earlier times
without the knowledge of authorities, who may have turned the other cheek regardless
of the laws in order to strike a balance between population growth and resources
available in impoverished areas.

Filicide has a presence in literature from all eras. Perhaps the most famous is also the
oldest, and that is the story of Medea, a woman who killed her children to punish her
husband for his affair. To him, she says, Thy sons are dead and gone. That will stab thy
heart. Even fairy tales meant for children, such as Snow White and Hansel and Gretel,
are filicidal in nature, telling of evil (step) parents who cast their children out into the
world with the hope of eradicating them.

Sacrificial deaths [both historical and modern]

Prayer is a form of communication with a deity or other spiritual being. Words

addressed to a deity usually offer praise or seek guidance, blessing, forgiveness,
fertility, victory, or protection. Like prayer, sacrifice is a form of communication with a
deity for similar purposes. The word itself means "to make holy." As distinct from
prayer, sacrificial offerings include objects of value and symbolic significance that are
given to the gods to earn their favour. The gifts can take many forms, becoming sacred
themselves through ritual consecration. The gods might be offered the most desirable
foods or provided with the finest vessels, carvings, tools, and weapons. Historians,
however, have often regarded blood sacrifice as the most powerful way to appease the
gods. It was not unusual for societies to engage in both animal and human sacrifice,
although the historical trend has been toward a sharp reduction in the latter.

Participants in blood sacrifice rituals experience a sense of awe, danger, or exaltation

because they are daring to approach the gods who create, sustain, and destroy life. The
buildup of tension prior to the blood sacrifice gives way to a festive sense of triumph
and relief. Morale is strengthened by the ritual killing because the group has itself
performed the godlike act of destruction and is now capable of renewing its own
existence. The underlying philosophical assumption is that life must pass through death.

According to ancient rites of sacrifice, the sacrificial animal or human should be of high
value. The gods would be offended by a sickly or inferior offering. In Old Testament
tradition, Abel was obeying what was already an ancient tradition when he sacrificed
the firstborn of his herds to God. Bulls were sacred to Egyptians more than 5,000 years
ago, being associated with Taurus, a god with both animal and human features. For the
Egyptians, then, the sacrifice of a bull was the gift of a demigod to the gods. In the
years immediately preceding the emergence of Christianity some mystery cults
switched from bull to human sacrifices, using the same ceremonies in which the victim
was first honored as a god, then put to bloody death. Osiris, the legendary Egyptian
ruler who, murdered, became the god of fertility, cast a long shadow over these
proceedings. Biblical scholars have often commented that the death of Jesus had been
prefigured by other events in which a person was raised to the status of a god and then
sacrificed for the good of the people. The significance of blood as a link between Jesus
and his followers is consistent with that tradition.

Human sacrifice, in the context of religious ritual, still occurs in other traditional
religions, for example in muti killings in South Africa and other ritual killings in West
African Vodun. When the purpose of the practice is to procure wealth for the one who
commissions the act, a human sacrifice is called a Money ritual. Human sacrifice is no
longer officially condoned in any country, and such cases are regarded as murder.

In January, 2008, Milton Blahyi of Liberia confessed being part of human sacrifices
which "included the killing of an innocent child and plucking out the heart, which was
divided into pieces for us to eat." He fought against Charles Taylor's militia.

The instances closest to "ritual killing" in the criminal history of modern society would
be pathological serial killers such as the Zodiac Killer, and mass suicides with doomsday
cult background, such as the Peoples Temple, Movement for the Restoration of the Ten
Commandments of God, Order of the Solar Temple or Heaven's Gate incidents. Other
examples include the "Matamoros killings" attributed to Mexican cult leader Adolfo
Constanzo and the "Superior Universal Alignment" killings in 1990s Brazil.

What is the point of a chorus?

The chorus was the central feature of Greek drama. Composed of similarly costumed
men, they performed on the dancing floor ("orchestra"), located beneath the stage.

The chorus stayed in the orchestra for the duration of the performance from which
vantage point they observed and commented on the action of the actors. Dialogue
consisted of long, formal speeches in verse. Choral training was the responsibility of a
chorus leader, selected by an archon, one of the top officials in Athens.

This responsibility to train the chorus was like a tax on the wealthy citizens. The
choregus provided all the equipment, costumes, props, and trainers for the roughly,
dozen chorus members (choreutai). This preparation might last for 6 months. At the
end, if the choregus was lucky, he would then have to fund a celebratory feast for
winning the prize.

To modern readers of Greek tragedy, the chorus may seem an interlude between the
main action -- a section to gloss over. The ancient actor (hypokrites, literally the one
who answers the chorus' questions), likewise, might ignore the advice of the chorus. Yet
the chorus was crucial to winning the competition for best set of tragedies. Aristotle
says the chorus should be regarded as one of the actors. The chorus had a personality
and could be important in the action, depending on the play, according to Rabinowutz in
Greek Tragedy, but even so, they couldn't prevent the 1,2, or 3 actors from doing what
they would. Being a member of a chorus was also part of the Greek civic education

The chorus enters the orchestra during the parados, from the two ramps known
asparadoi on either side of the orchestra. Once there the leader, coryphaeus, speaks
the choral dialogue. Scenes of dialogue alternate with choral song, which is called
stasimon. In this way the stasimon is like the darkening of the theatre or curtains down
between acts. The final scene of Greek tragedy is one of dialogue.

Values of Greek plays from historical perspective

Theatre in democratic Athens was a forum for exploring the most contentious of political
issues. For the duration of the festival law courts would be closed, governmental and
municipal business suspended and people who lived in the neighbouring rural townships
would leave their agricultural tasks and flock to the city. The Athenian prisons would
even release inmates for the duration of the festival so that they could attend the
processions, plays and sacrifices.

In the days leading up to the festival, the whole city would be buzzing with excitement.
Workmen brought in by the cartload would begin building the rows and rows of wooden
benches on the southern slope of the Acropolis (there was no permanent theatre in
Athens until the mid-fourth century). Merchants would trundle in from out of town to
set up their stalls selling food, sacred objects and other festival wares, while behind
closed doors, boys and young men would be obsessively going over their words and
walking through their steps in preparation for their performances. On stage in front of
anything between six and twelve thousand spectators, there was nowhere to hide if you
missed a beat.

The City Dionysia was also something of a PR exercise for the Athenians. They would be
able to show off their dramatic prowess but the processions and ceremonies that
preceded the performance days also honoured the bravery of their fallen soldiers,
revelled in the splendour of the citys buildings and publicly displayed their wealth.
Visiting delegates from tribute-paying allied cities were given seats of honour in the
theatre so that they might better observe the power of their mother city.

Although the deaths of Sophocles and Euripides in 406 BC were felt keenly throughout
Greece, theatre continued to grow and evolve. If anything, theatre became more

popular and, as it spread beyond Athens and rural Attica, was increasingly important for
the Greek economy. In contrast to the somewhat ambiguous status of actors for much
of history, actors in fourth-century Greece were well-respected artistes and celebrities,
in demand and obscenely well paid. Long before Angelina Jolie ever became a Goodwill
ambassador for the UN, actors like Neoptolemus and Aristodemus were performing the
duties of ambassador and promoting peace between the warring nations of Athens and

In a way lost to us now, going to the theatre in the ancient Greek world was a
communal activity and one that was hard-wired into the social, political and religious
rhythms of the ancient city. But for all the differences, we can still find those moments
on the modern stage when the spirit of ancient theatre lives and long-dead poets speak
once more.

What is the point of the furies?

The Furies of Greek mythology are monstrous women who lived in the underworld and
avenged murders, particularly matricides. In Greek they are called Erinyes, a name
thought to have come from the Arcadian word meaning, to be angry, hence the
English name Furies.

The creatures first appear in Homers Iliad as punishers of oath-breakers and as

embodied curses of parents wronged by their children. Their function would eventually
narrow to be primarily avengers of the angry dead, but in Homer they are more
generally enforcers of the proper order of things. In this role, they are even said to be
responsible for stopping the warrior Achilles horse from talking, since a talking horse is
outside of the natural order of things.

Despite these vivid presentations of Erinyes, the creatures did not have a well-defined
appearance until the Greek tragedian Aeschylus featured them in his trilogy, the
Oresteia. In this three-part tale, King Agamemnon returns home victorious after the
Trojan War, only to be killed by his wife Clytemnestra as revenge for him sacrificing
their daughter to the gods. Their son, Orestes, learns what his mother has done and
murders her. In the final play of the trilogy, the Erinyes, goaded by Clytemnestras
vehement ghost, rise up from the underworld and hunt Orestes down.

The Furies are especially associated with snakes. This is because in ancient Greek
religion, snakes were closely linked with the dead. Snakes would often appear at
gravesites to lap up libations and sacrifices offered to the dead. There was even a belief
that when a dead body breaks down, the spine slithers off as a snake. The Erinyes,
adorned with snakes, have instilled terror for centuries by embodying the dead.