Intertwined with the celebration of Athenian democratic institutions, we find in the "Oresteia" another chain of interactions, in which the elite families of Argos, Phokis, Athens, and even Mount Olympos employ the traditional aristocratic relationships of xenia and hetaireia to renegotiate their own status within-and at the pinnacle of-the civic order, and thereby guarantee the renewed prosperity of their respective communities. The capture of Troy is the result of a joint venture by the Atreidai and the Olympian "family" (primarily Zeus xenios and Athena). Although Agamemnon falls victim to his own mishandling of aristocratic privilege, his son is raised by doryxenoi in Phokis (Strophios and Pylades), a relationship which is mirrored by that with the Olympian "allies," Hermes and Apollo. Orestes' recovery of his father's position is thus shown to depend upon a network of "guest-friends" and "sworn-comrades," reinforced by the traditional language of oaths and reciprocal loyalty. In the Eumenides, the alliance between the Olympian and Argive royal families is re-invoked as the basis both for Athena's protection of Orestes, and finally for Zeus' concern for his daughter's Athenian dependents. In contrast to this successful "networking," and the resultant benefits that trickle down to the citizens of Argos and Athens, stand the seditious oaths and perverted "comradeship" of Aigisthos and Klytaimestra; likewise, the Erinyes are unable to draw on equivalent claims of pedigree or xenia to those enjoyed by Orestes and Apollo. Like all Greek tragedies, the "Oresteia" presents the action through constantly shifting viewpoints, those of aristocrats and commoners, leaders and led, while the propriety of this hierarchy itself is never questioned. And although the action moves from monarchical Argos to an incipiently democratic Athens, paradoxically we hear less and less about "ordinary," lower-class citizens as the trilogy progresses. Thus, at the same time that the trilogy reinforces the sense of collective survival and civic values (the perspectives, e.g., of the Argive Elders, Watchman, Herald, and Athenian Propompoi), it also suggests that these can be maintained only through the proper interventions of their traditional leaders. Aeschylus' plays were composed during a time when the Athenian democracy was still developing, and elite leadership and patronage were still taken for granted. Attic tragedy and the City Dionysia may be seen as a site of negotiation between rival (democratic and aristocratic) ideologies within the polis, wherein a kind of "solidarity without consensus" is achieved. Written and staged by the elite under license from the demos, the dramas play out (in the safety of the theater space) dangerous stories of royal risk-taking, crime, glory, and suffering, in such a way as to reassure the citizen audience simultaneously of their own collective invulnerability, and of the unique value of their (highly vulnerable, often flawed, but ultimately irreplaceable) leading families.
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