There is another problem with vigilantism, and more generally with the quest for accountability that vigilantism represents: not the problem of unjust punishment, but the problem of endless vendetta. Here the archetype is Aeschylus' Eumenides, the final play of the Oresteian trilogy. The play offers literature's most famous myth of the origin of the legal system. You will recall the story: King Agamemnon has killed his own daughter in response to a prophecy. In revenge, his wife Clytemnestra murders Agamemnon. In turn their son Orestes takes vengeance by murdering his mother. At that point, the Furies—the primordial goddesses of revenge—pursue Orestes for his crime. He flees to Athens, where the goddess Athena sets up a trial, the first ever, over whether their pursuit is right. The Furies argue their own case, and Apollo represents Orestes.
The legal issue they debate is which is worse, the murder of a father or of a mother? Apollo, a divine sexist, insists that murdering a father is worse, so that Orestes was right to avenge it. The Furies side with the right of mothers. The jury divides evenly. Athena, far from a neutral, impartial judge, breaks the tie, declaring that she is "for the male with all my soul." She persuades the Furies to give up the accountability project and instead become protectresses of the city. The Areopagite court takes over the Furies' profession. Law interrupts the cycle of vengeance and retribution, and the chorus underlines the point. It prays that the dry dust should never drink "the blood of citizens through passion for revenge and bloodshed for bloodshed."
Strikingly, even though Aeschylus obviously likes the outcome, he makes it clear that the Furies lost their case only because Apollo and Athena cheated. It was the Furies who had established law on their side. As I read the story, its fundamental message is that breaking the cycle of vengeance is more important than holding the guilty accountable, that legal systems exist not so much to do justice as to water it down in the name of peace and order. Legal systems, Aeschylus seems to say, always generate an accountability deficit—and they always should. If they did not, the dry dust would be soaked forever with the blood of citizens.
The questions this insight leaves us with are obvious. First, are peace and justice the only alternatives? Second, is peace really more important than justice? Third, if it is, what becomes of the world's [victims]? . . . And fourth, is the role of states and the international society of states to create accountability or to dilute it?
- David Luban, Folktales of International Justice, 98 Am. Soc'y Int'l L. Proc. 182, 184–85 (2004)
@Snjallastr 你要的Aeschylus相关论文（我在考虑给某门课写篇关于vigilante killings的学术辣鸡，查资料的时候偶然发现的。从法律角度来解读Oresteia是不是特别棒！全篇都很有趣，而且才六页，如果不是我太懒而且搞不到授权的话恨不得动手翻译了（。