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Pylades and Orestes by Francois Bouchot.


In Greek mythology, Pylades ( , Gk. Πυλάδης) is the son of King Strophius of Phocismarker and of Anaxibia, daughter of Atreus and sister of Agamemnon and Menelaus. He is mostly known for his strong friendship or homosexual relationship with his cousin Orestes, son of Agamemnon.

Orestes and Pylades

Orestes had been sent to Phocis during his mother Clytemnestra's affair with Aegisthus. There he was raised with Pylades, and so considered him to be like a brother. While Orestes was away, Clytemnestra killed her husband and Orestes' father Agamemnon.

Death of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra

Once an adult, Orestes returned to Mycenaemarker/Argosmarker seeking revenge, and with his friend Pylades's assistance, they slew Aegisthus and his mother. When Orestes begins to feel pity for his mother and father it is Pylades who encourages him. This story is directly from the first remaining trilogy of Greek Tragedy The Oresteia by Aeschylus, namely the second play Libation Bearers. In this play, Pylades speaks only once.

Pylades accompanies Orestes, but does not speak in other versions of Orestes' and Electra's revenge story: Sophocles' Electra and Euripides' Electra. In Sophocles' version Orestes is pretending to be dead and Pylades carries the urn supposedly holding his friend's remains.

Attempted murder of Helen

Pylades returned to his homeland, but was exiled by his father for taking part in the crime. He then returned to Orestes' side, where he helped him to come up with a plan to avoid execution. They attempted to murder Helen, wife of Orestes' uncle Menelaus, after he proved to be of no help in protecting Orestes. However, their attempt failed through the intervention of the Gods. They then took hostage Hermione, daughter of Helen and Menelaus. Apollo arrived to settle the situation and gave them all instructions, including one for Pylades to marry Orestes' sister Electra.

Tauris

Pylades played a big role in another of Euripides' plays, Iphigeneia in Tauris. In order to escape the persecutions of the Erinyes, Orestes had been ordered by Apollo to go to Tauris, carry off the statue of Artemis which had fallen from heaven, and bring it to Athensmarker. He went to Tauris with Pylades and the pair were at once imprisoned by the people, among whom the custom was to sacrifice all strangers to Artemis. The priestess of Artemis, whose duty it was to perform the sacrifice, was Orestes' sister Iphigeneia. She offered to release Orestes if he would carry home a letter from her to Greece; he refused to go, but bid Pylades take the letter while he himself will stay and be slain. After a conflict of mutual affection, Pylades at last yields, but the letter brought about a recognition between brother and sister, and all three escaped together, carrying with them the image of Artemis.

Notes


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