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This article is about the mythological character Electra. For other uses, see Electra (disambiguation).
Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon, Frederic Leighton c. 1869

In Greek mythology, Electra (/ɨˈlɛktrə/; Greek: Ἠλέκτρα, Ēlektra) was the daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra, and thus princess of Argos.[1] She and her brother Orestes plotted revenge against their mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon.

Electra is one of the most popular mythological characters in tragedies.[1] She is the main character in two Greek tragedies, Electra by Sophocles and Electra by Euripides. She is also the central figure in plays by Aeschylus, Alfieri, Voltaire, Hofmannsthal, and Eugene O'Neill.[1]

In psychology, the Electra complex is named after her.


Electra's parents were King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. Her sisters were Iphigeneia and Chrysothemis, and her brother was Orestes. In the Iliad, Homer is understood to be referring to Electra in mentioning "Laodice" as a daughter of Agamemnon.[2]

Murder of Agamemnon[edit]

Orestes, Electra and Hermes at the tomb of Agamemnon, lucanian red-figure pelike, c. 380–370 BC, Louvre (K 544)

Electra was absent from Mycenae when her father, King Agamemnon, returned from the Trojan War to be murdered, either by Clytemnestra's lover Aegisthus, by Clytemnestra herself, or by both. Clytemnestra had held a grudge against her husband Agamemnon for agreeing to sacrifice their eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis so he could send his ships to fight in the Trojan war. When he came back, he brought with him his war prize, Cassandra, who had already borne his twin sons. Aegisthus and/or Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon upon his arrival, and they killed Cassandra as well. Eight years later, Electra was brought from Athens with her brother, Orestes. (Odyssey, iii. 306; X. 542).

According to Pindar (Pythia, xi. 25), Orestes was saved by his old nurse or by Electra, and was taken to Phanote on Mount Parnassus, where King Strophius took charge of him. When Orestes was 20, the Oracle of Delphi ordered him to return home and avenge his father's death.

Murder of Clytemnestra[edit]

According to Aeschylus, Orestes saw Electra's face before the tomb of Agamemnon, where both had gone to perform rites to the dead; a recognition took place, and they arranged how Orestes should accomplish his revenge.[3] Pylades and Orestes killed Clytemnestra and Aegisthus (in some accounts with Electra helping).

Before her death, Clytemnestra cursed Orestes. The Erinyes or Furies, whose duty it is to punish any violation of the ties of family piety, fulfill this curse with their torment. They pursue Orestes, urging him to end his life. Electra was not hounded by the Erinyes.

In Iphigeneia in Tauris, Euripides tells the tale somewhat differently. In his version, Orestes was led by the Furies to Tauris on the Black Sea, where his sister Iphigeneia was being held. The two met when Orestes and Pylades were brought to Iphigeneia to be prepared for sacrifice to Artemis. Iphigeneia, Orestes, and Pylades escaped from Tauris. The Furies, appeased by the reunion of the family, abated their persecution. Electra then married Pylades.[4]

Adaptations of the Electra story[edit]

Electra and Orestes, from an 1897 Stories from the Greek Tragedians, by Alfred Church





  • Elektra (Laodice) is the unnamed protagonist and speaker in Yannis Ritsos's long poem Beneath the Shadow of the Mountain. This poem forms part of the cycle colloquially referred to as the New Oresteia.

Electra is the eponymous narrator of her story in the book 'Electra' by Henry Treece. (Bodley Head, 1963: Sphere Books., 1968).



  1. ^ a b c Evans (1970), p. 79
  2. ^ "Agamemnon" in Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization, as quoted at eNotes.com
  3. ^ Fagles (1977), p. 188
  4. ^ Luke Roman, Monica Roman, Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology, Infobase Publishing, 2010, p.143.


  • Evans, Bergen (1970). Dictionary of Mythology. New York: Dell Publishing. ISBN 0-440-20848-3. 
  • Vellacott, Philip (1963). Euripides: Medea and Other Plays. London: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-044129-8. 
  • Fagles, Robert (1977). Aeschylus: The Oresteia. London: Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-044333-2. 

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