A daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, is also called Laodice.1 She was the sister of Iphigeneia, Chrysothemis, and Orestes. The conduct of her mother and Aegisthus threw her into grief and great suffering, and in consequence of it she became the accomplice of Orestes in the murder of his mother.
Her story, according to Hyginus,2 runs thus: On receiving the false report that Orestes and Pylades had been sacrificed to Artemis in Tauris, Aletes, the son of Aegisthus, assumed the government of Mycenae; but Electra, for the purpose of learning the particulars of her brother's death, went to Delphi. On the day she reached the place, Orestes and Iphigeneia likewise arrived there, but the same messenger who had before informed her of the death of Orestes, now added, that he had been sacrificed by Iphigeneia. Electra, enraged at this, snatched a firebrand from the altar, with the intention of putting her sister's eyes out with it. But Orestes suddenly came to the spot, and made himself known to Electra. All being thus cleared up, they traveled together to Mycenae, where Orestes killed the usurper Aletes, and Electra married Pylades.
The Attic tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, have used the story of Electra very freely: the most perfect, however, is that in the "Electra" of Sophocles. When Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, after the murder of Agamemnon, intended to kill young Orestes also, Electra saved him by sending him under the protection of a slave to king Strophius at Phanote in Phocis, who had the boy educated together with his own son Pylades. Electra, in the meantime, was ever thinking on taking revenge upon the murderers of her father, and when Orestes had grown up to manhood, she sent secret messages to him to remind him of his duty to avenge his father.
At length, Orestes came with Pylades to Argos. A lock of hair which he had placed on the grave of his father, was a sign to Electra that her brother was near. Orestes soon after made himself known to her, and informed her that he was commanded by Apollo to avenge the death of his father. Both lamented their misfortunes, and Electra urged him to carry his design into effect. Orestes then agreed with her that he and Pylades should go into the house of Clytemnestra, as strangers from Phocis, and tell her that Orestes was dead. This was done accordingly, and Aegisthus and Clytemnestra fell by the hand of Orestes, who gave Electra in marriage to his friend Pylades.3 She became by him the mother of Medon and Strophius. Her tomb was shown in later times at Mycenae.4
The three great Greek playwrights, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides each describe the character of Electra in their plays (Choephoroi, Electra, and Electra respectively). Also, Richard Strauss composed a musical drama with the same theme.
- Eustathius on Homer, p. 742.
- Fabulae, 122.
- Comp. Aeschylus. Eumenides, and Euripides. Orestes.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 16.5.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.