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Published in: Journal Of Hellenic Religion, , Vol. 3, 53-65.


The legislation of Dracon (c. 620 BC) and Solon (early sixth century) in Athens is the beginning of the long process by which the family or household, the oikos, was restrained and the polis (city-state) encroached on some of its former functions. The first stage was the restriction of the right to blood-vengeance. This is the background to the family revenge depicted in the Oresteia of Aeschylus. An analysis of the funerary legislation in Athens as transmitted by Plutarch, Demosthenes, and Cicero, points to an attempt by the state to curb excessive ostentation by the elite. I examine epigraphic evidence from purificatory regulations, and return specifically to a discussion of pollution by death, and the light thrown by the Eumenides on attitudes to the family, blood-feud and death, especially violent death. I close with a discussion of Greek ethics and the preoccupation with burying the dead properly in Antigone and a number of examples from historiographical and oratory sources.

Keywords: blood-vengeance,discussion-of-pollution,eumenides,oresteia,dracon,violent-death,oikos,plutarch,aeschylus,sixth-century,oratory,antigone,demosthenes,solon,polis,funerary,religion,mythology,myth

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