ERINYES, in Greek mythology, the name given to the deities of vengeance; probably personified curses, but possibly in their origin ghosts of the murdered; in Roman literature they are called Furies. According to Hesiod they were the daughters of the Earth (Gaea), and sprang from the blood of her mutilated spouse Uranus; in Aeschylus they are the daughters of Night, in Sophocles of Darkness and of Earth. Sometimes one Erinys is mentioned, sometimes several. Euripides was the first to speak of them as three in number. Later Alexandrian writers gave them the names Alecto (unceasing in anger), Tisophone (avenger of murder) and Megaera (jealous).
Their home in the world below, whence they ascend to earth to pursue the wicked. They punish all offenses against laws of human society, such as perjury, violation of rites of hospitality and, above all, the murder of relatives. Though just, they are merciless and take no account of mitigating circumstances. Being deities of the underworld, they are often identified with spirits of the fertility of the earth, such as the Semnai or Eumenides at Athens ... In Aeschylus, the Erinyes are represented as awesome, Gorgonlike women wearing long black robes, with snaky locks, bloodshot eyes and clawlike nails. Later, they are winged maidens of serious aspect, in the garb of warriors, with snakes or torches in their hair, carrying scourges, torches or sickles.
See H.J. Rose A Handook of Greek Mythology (1933). SOURCE: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1964.