Scenes from Aeschylus’s Oresteia portrayed on an Apulian red-figure bell-krater. This play was first performed 458 BC.
Following his return from Tory, Agamemnon is murdered by his wife Clytemnestra, and her lover. Orestes, the son of Agamemnon seeks revenge and kills Clytemnestra. The Erinyes (also referred to as the “Furies”) pursue Orestes for revenge.
Shown is side A, where Orestes is being purified by Apollo. Visible to the left is Clytemnestra trying to awake the sleeping Erinyes.
The following section is from Peter Burian & Alan Shapiro’s The Complete Aeschylus: Volume I: The Oresteia, Oxford University Press, 2011, pages 17-18:
The ghost of Clytemnestra, who stirs the sleeping Erinyes to continue their terrifying pursuit of her murderer-son, belongs entirely to the old world of retribution. […] The punishment they promise Orestes has the balance of an accountant’s ledger:
You’ll have to pay with your own blood for hers,
you’ll feel me suck the half-caked gore out of your living flesh;
swill from your very veins the vile dregs of the drink I crave.
I’ll shrivel you up and drag you, still alive into the underworld
where you will pay in currencies of torment for the murder of your mother.
For the Erinyes, Apollo’s very sanctuary is polluted by the welcome Apollo has given to the blood-stained Orestes. Orestes, on the other hand, repeatedly emphasizes the purifications he has received there. Apollo confirms that he has purged his suppliant of the stain of guilt, and Athena accepts him as “a proper suppliant who is clean, who bears/ no danger to us”. Despite all that, the Erinyes still track him by the scent of blood […].
Artifact courtesy of & currently located at the Louvre, France. Greek, possibly from Armento, Eumenides Painter, 380–370 BC. Accession number: Cp 710. Photo taken by Bibi Saint-Pol.