Electra’s Prayer to Hermes

Supreme herald of the realm above and the realm below, O Hermes of the nether world, come to my aid, summon to me the spirits beneath the earth to hear my prayers, spirits that watch over my father’s house, and Earth herself, who gives birth to all things, and having nurtured them receives their increase in turn. And meanwhile, as I pour these lustral offerings to the dead, I invoke my father: “Have pity both on me and on dear Orestes! How shall we rule our own house? For now we are bartered away like vagrants by her who bore us, by her who in exchange got as her mate Aegisthus, who was her accomplice in your murder. As for me, I am no better than a slave, Orestes is an outcast from his inheritance, while they in their insolence revel openly in the winnings of your toil. But that Orestes may come home with good fortune I pray to you, father: Oh, hearken to me! And as for myself, grant that I may prove far more circumspect than my mother and more reverent in deed.

I utter these prayers on our behalf, but I ask that your avenger appear to our foes, father, and that your killers may be killed in just retribution. So I interrupt my prayer for good to offer them this prayer for evil. But be a bearer of blessings for us to the upper world, with the help of the gods and Earth and Justice crowned with victory.”

[She pours out the libations.]

Such are my prayers, and over them I pour out these libations. It is right for you to crown them with lamentations, raising your voices in a chant for the dead.


From: Aeschylus Libation Bearers, lines 124-151, translated by Herbert Weir Smyth