Delice Bette | May 18, 2023


In Greek mythology, Clytemnestra, in ancient Greek Κλυταιμήστρα

She is the wife of Agamemnon and the sister of Helen. In Aeschylus’ Oresteia, she murders Agamemnon – cited by Euripides as her second husband – and the Trojan princess Cassandra.

In Homer’s Odyssey, her role in the death of Agamemnon is not clear. But she is designated by the very soul of the latter addressing Odysseus, during his journey to the kingdom of Hades, as the one who killed Cassandra.

Its Greek name Klytaimnḗstra is also sometimes Latinized as Clytaemnestra. It is commonly interpreted to mean “famous for her suitors”. However, this form is a later misreading motivated by an erroneous etymological link to the verb mnáomai (μνάoμαι, “to woo, court”). The original form of the name is thought to have been Klytaimḗstra (Κλυταιμήστρα) without the -n- and originally meant “famous counselor” which corresponds to the Night who gives advice.

The modern form, with “mn”, does not occur until the middle Byzantine period: it is a misreading motivated by an erroneous etymological connection with the verb μναoμαι

Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, married Clytemnestra after killing her previous husband Tantalus, son of Thyestes, and their child. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra have four children: Iphigenia, Chrysothemis, Electra and Orestes. Some versions add Laodicea and Iphianassa, who will be later confused with Electra and Iphigenia.

Before his departure for the Trojan war, Agamemnon and his troops gathered in Aulis, cannot leave. Artemis has thrown up contrary winds to the departure for the war and answers to Agamemnon, eager to leave, that he must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia for that. Agamemnon thus brings Iphigenia on the altar of Artemis who replaces Iphigenia by a doe for the sacrifice.

Agamemnon, as well as Cassandra, the captive and concubine he brings back with him, are killed on their return from Troy. By Clytemnestra herself according to Aeschylus. According to Homer Aegisthe (Clytemnestra’s lover) killed Agamemnon but it was Clytemnestra who slit Cassandra’s throat. Orestes was saved by his nurse, which makes it possible to specify his young age. Several years later, he returned from exile to avenge his father, killing his mother and her lover Égisthe. Having become a parricide, Clytemnestra’s son went to purify himself in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, then left for Athens to submit to the justice of Athena, who acquitted him.


Besides Homer and Aeschylus, Sophocles (Electra) and then Euripides (Electra, Orestes, Iphigenia in Tauris, Iphigenia in Aulis) take up the role of Clytemnestra, making it detestable. Only Aeschylus attributes greatness and dignity to her, considering the murder of Agamemnon as a revenge, a plea that Clytemnestra could not make, inducing the tragic aspect of the myth.

Like many more recent authors, among whom Goethe (Iphigénie en Tauride), Giraudoux (Électre), Sartre (Les Mouches), Yourcenar (Feux, “Clytemnestre ou le crime”). Simone Bertière, in Apologie pour Clytemnestre, gives her vision by claiming to be from Aeschylus, although strongly influenced by his successors.

Visual art

Clytemnestra is one of 1,038 women represented in Judy Chicago’s contemporary work, The Dinner Party, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum. The work takes the form of a triangular table with 39 guests (13 per side). Each guest is a woman, a historical or mythical figure. The names of the other 999 women appear on the base of the work. The name of Clytemnestra appears on the base, she is associated with Sophie, the sixth guest of the I wing of the table.

The asteroid (179) Clytemnestra discovered on November 11, 1877 is named after Clytemnestra.

External links


  1. Clytemnestre
  2. Clytemnestra
  3. ^ “Definition of CLYTEMNESTRA”. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  4. ^ Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  5. ^ “Clytaemnestra” , Encyclopædia Britannica , vol. Vol. VI (ninth ed.), New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1878, p. 44.
  6. ^ Oresteia, Loeb edition by Alan Sommerstein, introduction, p. x, 2008.
  7. a b c et d Jean-Claude Carrière, Bertrand Massonie, La Bibliothèque d’Apollodore. Traduite, annotée et commentée, Annales littéraires de l’Université de Besançon, 1991 (ISSN 0523-0535, DOI 10.3406/ista.1991.2647, lire en ligne)
  8. Algunos autores defienden que la forma «Clitemnestra», que se ha impuesto en el uso, es en realidad una deformación tardía de época bizantina, y es debida a una falsa conexión etimológica con el verbo «μναoμαι»: «lamentar». (Orestíada; edición en la Loeb Classical Library de Alan Sommerstein, introducción, p.x, 2008). En cambio, otros han señalado que no es posible demostrar cual de las dos formas del nombre es más antigua y estiman que es claramente preferible el uso de la forma «Clitemnestra» porque la mayoría de los manuscritos antiguos apuntan a que esta era la forma utilizada tanto por Homero como por los trágicos de la Antigua Grecia. (Antonio Ruiz de Elvira: Clitemnestra mejor que Clitemestra, en revista Myrtia n.º 16, 2001, pp. 5-31).
  9. III, 10, 6 y 7: texto griego en Wikisource.
  10. ^ a b c (EN) Apollodoro, Biblioteca III, 10.6 e 7, su URL consultato il 29 maggio 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g (EN) Apollodoro, Biblioteca, Epitome II, 16, su URL consultato il 22 giugno 2019.
  12. ^ a b (EN) Pausania il Periegeta, Periegesi della Grecia II, 18.2, su URL consultato il 22 giugno 2019.
  13. ^ a b (EN) Pausania il Periegeta, Periegesi della Grecia, II, 22.3, su URL consultato il 13 agosto 2019.
  14. ^ (EN) Apollodoro, Biblioteca, Epitome VI, 25, su URL consultato il 18 giugno 2019.
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