Summary and Analysis
The Eumenides: Third Stasimon (Lines 490-565)
The chorus warn of the danger of leniency toward crime. If Orestes is acquitted, all the old laws will be overthrown. Justice will come to an end and evil will become dominant. Men will commit crimes without fear of punishment.
Fear of authority and punishment is an essential element of society, the foundation of all law and order, for it restrains men from crime. It is themselves, the Furies, who embody this authority. They never harm good men who are innocent of evil, but hunt down and punish all transgressors.
Humanity should seek neither the license of anarchy nor the slavery of tyranny, but the middle path, where freedom and law are judiciously balanced, and where good behavior that proceeds from goodness of heart is rewarded. Above all, the chorus say, there must be reverence for justice, for sin begets sin and the evil always perish.
This choral ode continues the generalization of the case to the point where it is predicted that the acquittal of Orestes will result in the demoralization of society and the complete breakdown of law and order. There is much to recommend the Furies' point that authority is one of the foundations of civilization, as will be acknowledged by Athene before the conclusion of the play.