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Orestes and Pylades
(myth) Greece

Orestes and Pylades - Louvre



Orestes is the hero of the Oresteia cycle.

Orestes and Pylades were bywords for faithful and life-long love in Greek culture. Their story is the purest of friendships with no existing evidence of how they relate to one another as separate persons rather than Pylades, the younger of the two, being Orestes alter ego or brother. They were friends since childhood, and did much together, such as killing Clytemnestra (Klytemnestra), mother of Orestes and Elektra.

Orestes and Pylades

Phocis preserves from early times the memory of the union between Orestes and Pylades, who taking a god as witness of the passion between them, sailed through life together as though in one boat. Both together put to death Klytemnestra, as though both were sons of Agamemnon; and Egisthus was slain by both. Pylades suffered more than his friend by the punishment which pursued Orestes.

Orestes and Pylades - PradoHe stood by him when condemned, nor did they limit their tender friendship by the bounds of Greece, but sailed to the furthest boundaries of the Scythians-the one sick, the other ministering to him. When they had come into the Tauric land straightway they were met by the matricidal fury; and while the barbarians were standing round In a circle Orestes fell down and lay on the ground, seized by his usual mania, while Pylades "wiped away the foam, tended his body, and covered him with his well-woven cloak" - acting not only like a lover but like a father.

When it was determined that one should remain to be put to death, and the other should go to Mycenae to convey a letter, each wishes to remain for the sake of the other, thinking that if he saves the life of his friend he saves his own life. Orestes refused to take the letter, saying that Pylades was more worthy to carry it, acting more like the lover than the beloved. "For," he said, "the slaying of this man would be a great grief to me, as I am the cause of these misfortunes". And he added, "Give the tablet to him, for (turning to Pylades) I will send thee to Argos, in order that it may be well with thee; as for me, let any one kill me who desires it."

Such love is always like that; for when from boyhood a serious love has grown up and it becomes adult at the age of reason, the long-loved object returns reciprocal affection, and it is hard to determine which is the lover of which, for - as from a mirrror-the affection of the lover is reflected from the beloved.

Orestes and Pylades


Source: Lucian (2nd C. CE), Amores (Affairs of the Heart), #48 - Trans. by W. J. Baylis

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