Agamemnon

Summary

Agamemnon (in ancient Greek, Ἀγαμέμνων Agamémnôn) is one of the most distinguished heroes of Greek mythology whose adventures are recounted in Homer”s Iliad. Son of King Atreus of Mycenae and Queen Aérope, he was the brother of Menelaus.

Youth

In the Iliad and other works Agamemnon is said to be the son of Atreus, grandson of Pelops and great-grandson of Tantalus, although some consider him the son of Plisthenes and grandson of Atreus, in whose house Menelaus and he would have been educated after the death of his father. His mother was Aérope according to most sources, but some name Eriphilus as wife of Plisthenes and mother of Agamemnon. In addition to Menelaus, Agamemnon had a sister named Anaxibia, Cindragora or Astioque.

Agamemnon and Menelaus were raised together with Aegisthus, the son of Thiestes, in the house of Atreus. When they became adults Atreus sent Agamemnon and Menelaus to look for Thyestes. They found him at Delphi and brought him to Atreus, who threw him into a dungeon. Aegisthus was then ordered to kill him, but he, recognizing his father, refrained from such a cruel act, killed Atreus and, having expelled Agamemnon and Menelaus, occupied the throne of Mycenae with his father. The two brothers wandered for some time until they finally reached Sparta, where Agamemnon married Clytemnestra, the daughter of Tindarus, with whom he fathered Iphianase (Iphigenia), Chrysothemis, Laodice (Electra) and Orestes, and Menelaus with Helen.

The way in which Agamemnon returned to the kingdom of Mycenae differs according to the sources. In Homer”s work it seems that he peacefully succeeded Thiestes, but according to others he expelled him and usurped the throne. After becoming king of Mycenae, he conquered Sicyon, taking over his kingdom and became the most powerful prince in Greece. In the part of the Iliad known as the Catalogue of the Ships, an account of Agamemnon”s dominions is given. When Homer attributes to Agamemnon the sovereignty of all Argos, he means the Peloponnese or most of it, since the city of Argos was ruled by Diomedes. Strabo also notes that the name Argos was sometimes used by the tragic poets as a synonym for Mycenae.

The Trojan War

When Paris, son of Priam, took Helen away, all the Achaean chieftains were summoned to organize an attack against Troy. The chiefs met at the palace of Diomedes in Argos, where Agamemnon was elected commander-in-chief, either as a consequence of his greater power, or because he won the favor of the assembly by means of rich presents.

After seven years of preparations, the Achaean army and fleet assembled at the port of Aulide in Boeotia. Agamemnon had previously consulted his lackey on the matter and the answer given was that war would break out at the moment when the most distinguished among the Greeks (Achilles and Odysseus) quarreled. A similar prophecy came from a wonderful event that occurred while the Greeks were gathered at Aulide: when a sacrifice was being offered under the branches of a tree, a dragon crawled out from underneath and devoured a nest of the tree containing eight chicks and their mother. Calcante interpreted the sign as indicating that the Greeks were to leave to fight Troy for nine years, but on the tenth the city would fall. Aeschylus relates a different miracle foreshadowing the same thing. Another interesting event occurred while the Greeks were assembled at Aulide: Agamemnon is said to have killed a stag which was consecrated to Artemis, and also provoked with irreverent words the wrath of the goddess, whereupon she sent a pestilence on the Greek army and produced an absolute calm, so that the Greeks could not leave the port for lack of wind. When the seers affirmed that the wrath of the goddess could not be appeased unless Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon, was offered to her as a compensatory sacrifice, Diomedes and Odysseus were sent to fetch her to the camp on the pretext that she was to betroth Achilles. She agreed to accompany them, but at the moment when she was to be sacrificed she was taken by Artemis herself (according to other sources, by Achilles) to Thauride, and another victim took her place. After this the calm ceased and the army left for the coast of Troy. Agamemnon had a hundred ships, in addition to the sixty he had lent to the Arcadians.

In the tenth year of the siege of Troy – which is the year in which the Iliad narrative begins – Agamemnon has a dispute with Achilles over the possession of Briseis, which the latter had to cede to the former. Achilles withdraws from the battlefield, and the Greeks are victims of various disasters. Zeus sends a dream to Agamemnon to persuade him to lead the Greeks in battle against the Trojans. The king, to test the Greeks, commands them to return home, which they willingly comply with, until their courage is rekindled by Odysseus, who persuades them to prepare for battle. A single combat between Paris and Menelaus was followed by a battle in which Agamemnon killed several of the Trojans. When Hector challenged the bravest of the Greeks, Agamemnon offered to fight him, but Ajax was chosen instead by lot. Shortly after this another battle took place in which the Greeks were defeated and Agamemnon, dejected, advised them to take flight and return home, but the other heroes objected. An attempt at reconciliation with Achilles failed, and Agamemnon summoned the chiefs at night to deliberate on measures to be taken. Odysseus and Diomedes were sent as spies, and the next day the contest with the Trojans was resumed. Agamemnon himself was again one of the bravest and slew many of the enemy with his own hands. In the end, however, he was wounded by Coon and forced to retreat to his tent. Hector then advanced victoriously, and Agamemnon again advised the Greeks to save themselves by fleeing. But Odysseus and Diomedes again resisted, and the latter persuaded him to turn back to the battle which was raging near the ships. Poseidon also appeared to Agamemnon in the form of an old man and inspired him with new courage. The pressing danger of the Greeks at last induced Patroclus, the friend of Achilles, to take a vigorous part in the battle, and his death caused him to return to action, leading to his reconciliation with Agamemnon. In the games in honor of Patroclus, Agamemnon took the first prize in the luck consisting of throwing the spear.

Agamemnon, though the commander-in-chief of the Greeks, is not the hero of the Iliad, and in chivalrous spirit, bravery, and character is on the whole inferior to Achilles. But in spite of this he is above all the Greeks in dignity, power, and majesty, and his eyes and head are like those of Zeus, his girdle like that of Ares, and his breast like that of Poseidon. Agamemnon is among the Greek heroes what Zeus is among the gods of Olympus. This idea seems to have guided the Greek artists, for in several representations of Agamemnon still preserved there is a remarkable resemblance to the representations of Zeus. In the Iliad, the emblem of his power and majesty is a scepter, the work of Hephaestus, which Zeus had given to Hermes and the latter to Pelops, and from him would inherit it Atreus and from him Agamemnon. His armor is described in the Iliad.

Return to Greece

After the capture of Troy, Agamemnon received as part of the booty Cassandra, daughter of Priam and condemned prophetess, with whom, according to a tradition collected by Pausanias, he had two sons: Teledamus and Pelops (the latter named after his great-grandfather).

During his return home, Agamemnon was twice diverted by storms, but at last made landfall in the Argolid, which was then ruled by Aegisthus, who had seduced Clytemnestra during her husband”s absence. When the latter arrived, Aegisthus invited him to a banquet, and in the course of it he treacherously killed him and his companions, and on the same occasion Clytemnestra killed Cassandra. Odysseus met the shadow of Agamemnon in the underworld. Menelaus erected a monument in honor of his brother on the river Egypt. Pausanias states that in his time there was still a monument to Agamemnon at Mycenae.

The tragic poets have extensively modified the story of Agamemnon”s death. Aeschylus had Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon alone: she threw a net over him while he was taking a bath and then killed him with three blows. Her motives were partly Agamemnon”s sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia and partly the queen”s adulterous life with Aegisthus, and according to Tzetzes, Aegisthus killed Agamemnon with the help of Clytemnestra. According to Tzetzes, Aegisthus killed Agamemnon with the help of Clytemnestra. Euripides tells that Clytemnestra wrapped a net around Agamemnon to kill him, and both Sophocles and he present the sacrifice of Iphigenia as the reason for killing him. After the death of Agamemnon and Cassandra, their children were also killed on their tomb by Aegisthus. According to Pindar, the death of Agamemnon took place in Amiclas, in Laconia, and Pausanias relates that the inhabitants of this place disputed with those of Mycenae the possession of the tomb of Cassandra.

Other stories

Athenaeus tells the story of Arginus, an eromenon of Agamemnon:

This episode was also picked up by Clement of Alexandria and Stephanus of Byzantium with slight variations.

Several Latin poets mention a bastard son of Agamemnon, named Halesus, who is credited with founding the city of Falisci or Alesia. Halesus was Agamemnon”s herdsman during the Trojan War, and later fought with Aeneas in Italy.

In later times statues of Agamemnon were erected in various places in Greece, and he was worshipped as a hero at Amiclas and Olympia. He was represented on the pedestal of the celebrated Nemesis Ramnusia.

Agamemnon”s fight against Coon was depicted on the Cypselus chest.

The painter Polignotus left a representation of Agamemnon in the lesque

The so-called Mask of Agamemnon does not correspond to the character: archaeologists consider that the mask predates the king by three centuries, but the discoverer of the object called it so, and it is still known by that name today.

Agamemnon appears in one of the Assassin”s Creed: Odyssey simulations. The game version appears to be worshipped by the Cult of Kosmos.

Sources

  1. Agamenón
  2. Agamemnon
  3. ^ Leeming, David (2005). Argos. Oxford Companion to World Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199916481.
  4. ^ Graves, Robert (2017). The Greek Myths – The Complete and Definitive Edition. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 418 & 682. ISBN 9780241983386.
  5. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 8.
  6. Ilíada XI, 131. Traducción al español, en Wikisource. Texto griego, en el mismo sitio.
  7. Traducción al español, en Wikisource. Texto griego, en el mismo sitio.
  8. ^ Nel Ciclo Troiano non è molto chiaro intuire su che città regnasse Agamennone. Si può presagire comunque che regnasse o su Micene o su Argo e che ad ogni modo fosse il capo degli Achei. Sono più certe invece le informazioni fornite dai tragediografi del V secolo, che considerano Agamennone come re di Argo.
  9. ^ Il mito è incerto riguardo alla collocazione della vicenda a Micene o ad Argo. Anche i poemi omerici danno informazioni contraddittorie in merito.
  10. ^ Igino, Fabulae, 83.
  11. ^ Euripide, Elena, versi 386-392.
  12. Na 97a Fábula, Higino apenas menciona Agamemnon como filho de Aérope, mencionando Menelau como irmão de Agamemnon;
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