The confrontation between Athena and the Furies is something that has long fascinated me. Thwarted of their vengeance upon Orestes, the Furies threaten destruction upon Attica. Athena talks calmly and reasonably to them, treating them with respect, offering to ensure that they are honoured, that justice demanded Orestes' acquittal, and asking that they not visit war upon Athens. I have always seen a subtext here. Athena is trying to bribe the Furies not to resort to violence, but behind her words is a message that says, "I don't want this fight, but if you force me to it, there will only be one side standing at the end, and it won't be you." And the Furies know this - that is why they blink first. (Is Athena meant to represent Athens here? Perhaps an expression of how Athens - and every other state with pretensions to liberality ever since - wanted its foreign policy to be seen: "We do not want war, and will do everything we can to avoid it, but if you force us then we'll give you a war you won't forget.")
I must check out the programme on the fall of the Roman empire. And I'm looking forward to Lord Bragg's Presidential Address at the Classical Association this year.