Agamemnon, King of the Greeks in the Trojan War

agamemnonAgamemnon was the son of Atreus or possibly his grandson, in which case his father was Pleisthenes. His mother was Aerope from Crete, which demonstrates a connection between Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations in the Bronze Age. He was married to Clytemnestra and according to Homer he had three daughters and one son Chrysothemis, Laodice, Ifianassa and Orestes while according to another version the daughters were Chrysothemis, Electra and Iphigenia. Agamemnon was the brother of Menelaus, king of Sparta.

Depending on the emphasis one wanted to place on the past and on Agamemnon’s family tree, they were called Atreides, Pelopides, Tantalides, Pleisthenides. For his marriage to Clytemnestra it is said that he lusted after her and that, in order to obtain her, he killed her first husband and son of Thyestes Tantalus, as well as their child by knocking him to the ground.
Clytemnestra’s brothers, Castor and Polydeuces, the Dioscuri, pursued the couple wanting to free their sister from the unwanted marriage, until Agamemnon fled to their father and father-in-law, Tyndareus, who accepted the marriage.

Then, while Menelaus became king of Sparta, Agamemnon, with the help of Tyndareus, retook the throne of Argos from Thyestes as the rightful heir, exiled him and his son Aegisthus to Kythera, and in a few years became the strongest ruler of the Achaean.
According to Homer, Agamemnon was given the scepter and the right to rule Mycenae and all the Achaeans by Zeus himself. According to Plato, his name comes from the words “agan” and “memnon” which means steadfast, patient, determined, persistent.

The Mycenaeans are prosperous and Homer describes the city as a “well-founded citadel”, as “wide” and as “golden Mycenae”. This prosperity is inferred from the discovery of gold objects unearthed from tombs in the fortified citadel which dominates the plain to this day. Further excavations revealed that the city once covered 30,000 square meters and was first inhabited in Neolithic times.

Agamemnon was king of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War of the Iliad. He is described as a brave warrior but also selfish, causing him to anger Achilles thus prolonging the war and the suffering of his men. Although there is no evidence of a Mycenaean king of that name, the city was prosperous in the Bronze Age and there may have been an actual, though much smaller, attack on Troy.

Agamemnon during the War against Troy

In the Iliad, Agamemnon appears with all the virtues but also the arrogance of the commander-in-chief. He clashed verbally with Achilles when he demanded that he give him his own geras (=honorary booty), Briseis, in exchange for his own booty, Chryseis, which he was forced to return to her father and priest of Apollo Chrysis after by cruel intervention of the god himself.

In turn, Achilles expresses himself completely negatively about Agamemnon, he calls him crafty, shamelessly dressed, shameless, dog-faced, drunkard, dog-haired, with the heart of a deer, he accuses him of arrogance, that in the division he receives a large gift, although he does not fight in the first line .

However, Helen describes her husband’s brother to Priam as a good king and a strong warrior. He is distinguished from other kings in beauty and nobility and in favors divine, he inspires or argues men unwilling to fight, he shows himself brave in battle, in which he throws himself back though wounded, and this is recognized by his soldiers, while the rhapsody L is in a great part dedicated to his excellence.

Among his victims are Hippolochus and Coon, brother of Iphidamantas, whom he beheaded. Even Achilles recognized him, after the death of Patroclus and their reconciliation, as the first in strength and chariots.

The consequences of Achilles’ absence from the battlefield led Agamemnon to a reconciliation with the leader of the Myrmidons by giving him gifts which, as the mediator Nestor says, are not small; objects of precious metals, horses capable of bringing wealth to their owner of prizes in games, women (among them Briseis), a ship of booty from Troy, when they shall take it, and women of Troy, one of his daughters for a wife, and for dowry rich lands and divine honors from their residents.

The return to Mycenae

Agamemnon’s return to Mycenae was not easy. He delayed starting from Troy in order to propitiate, in vain, the goddess Athena for the devastation caused by the Achaeans to the shrines of the gods. With favorable weather he departed from Troas, arrived at Tenedos and from there set sail for Evia. At Kaphirea many ships sank and many Achaeans were drowned by an unexpected storm.

Thanks to the favor of Hera, Agamemnon and his ships were saved. A storm drove him to Kythera, where Thyestes once reigned and now his son and lover of Clytemnestra Aegisthus, who at that time was in Mycenae and was informed of Agamemnon’s return by a sentry stationed on a hill.

Thus, before Agamemnon could learn anything about his kingdom, Aegisthus welcomed him and invited him to his house for a banquet. There he murdered him, along with twenty of his followers, while Clytemnestra, hidden at the time of the murder, appeared and killed Cassandra with a sword, whose body remained buried and naked in a stream next to Agamemnon’s tomb. Cassandra herself had prophesied her fate.

Agamemnons’ Assassination

According to Aeschylus, who probably follows Pindar and the earlier Stisichorus (7th-6th century BC), the assassination was organized and carried out by Clytemnestra, while Aegisthus, clumsy and cowardly, boasts that he hatched the plan having as motivated by the outrage committed by Agamemnon’s father (or grandfather), Atreus, by killing the children of his brother Thyestes and offering them as dinner to their father.

Clytemnestra’s motives were the sacrifice of her daughter Iphigenia, which Agamemnon performed without much qualm, but also the fact that her husband had brought his mistress Cassandra to the palace, and had even asked her to take the young slave sympathetically .

In Stesichorus, Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon with an axe, while in Aeschylus she traps him in a garment from which there is no way out: the sleeves and neck were sewn.

Their daughter Electra gave Clytemnestra a horrifying murderous ferocity: her mother chopped up the dead body of her husband and father of her children and then cleaned the blood off her with the dead man’s hair