Agamemnon

Agamemon is the king of the powerful Mycenae, and thus over all the Greeks, during the Trojan War.  He is the son of Atreus and Aerope.  His twin brother is Menelaus, the king of Sparta. 

After his father Atreus was killed by Aegisthus, his uncle Thyestes usurped the throne of Mycenae.  After a period of exile, Agamemnon and Menelaus return, forcing Thyestes and Aegisthus into exile themselves.  Agamemnon made his seat Mycenae, and Menelaus took Sparta as his kingdom.

As king, his first action was to rid himself of a potential rival.  Agamemnon killed Tantalus, a son of Thyestes.  Tantalus' wife, Clytemnestra was in the women's quarters nursing her baby.  Agamemnon seized the infant, and smashed its head against the wall.  He then made Clytemnestra his own wife.  She bore him several children: Iphigeneia, Electra and Orestes.  When the beautiful Helen was seeking a husband, all the men of Greece pursued her.  Agamemnon used his influence as her brother-in-law to persuade her to choose his brother Menelaus.

When Menelaus' wife Helen fled with Paris to Troy, he approached his brother Agamemnon for help.  Agamemnon and Menelaus sailed to each city, gathering enlisting the help of the king of each city.  The huge army, with their 1,000 ships, gathered at Aulis, preparing to sail for Troy.

At Aulis, however, a favorable wind will not blow.  This is because the goddess Artemis was angered.  There are two different explanations as to why.  Either Agamemnon claimed to be a better hunter than Artemis, or cattle sacred to her were killed by the Greeks.  The Greeks consult the seer Calchas, who says that Agamemnon's first-born daughter Iphigeneia must be sacrificed.

Agamemnon did not want to sacrifice his daughter, but he fears retribution from his army, if they forced to wait longer or perhaps sent back home.  He tells his daughter Iphigeneia that she is to marry Achilles.  The next day, she is brought to the temple, where she is either sacrificed or taken away at the last minute by Artemis.  Either way, Agamemnon lost a daughter and incurred the wrath of his wife, Clytemnestra.

During the Trojan War, Agamemnon, a great spearman, fought well, although he seemed to take a passive role, allowing other Greeks to command during battle.  In the tenth year of the war, Agamemnon and Achilles fell into a argument.  After taking a town, Agamemnon claimed Chryseis as his prize.  She was the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo.  Agamemnon was infatuated with her, and refused to except Chryses' ransom.  As a result, Apollo sent a plague upon the Greeks.

The other Greeks pressured Agamemnon to give up Chryseis, and he finally relented.  As recompense, Agamemnon took Briseis, a concubine of Achilles.  With his pride now injured, Achilles refused to fight.  Achilles' mother, Thetis, went to Zeus for help.  In order that her son should receive more glory, she persuaded him to cause the Trojans to win, until the Greeks would beg Achilles to return to the battle.  Many Greeks died as a result of this.

When Troy finally falls, Agamemnon claims the beautiful Cassandra as his prize.  Together, they sail back to Mycenae.  During the trip, Cassandra gives birth to two sons.  When they arrive in back Mycenae, Cassandra warns of their imminent doom.  Agamemnon does not listen, but instead takes a bath. They are then both killed by Clytemnestra and her new lover Aegisthus.

Source(s):

  1. ApollodorusBibliotece.

  2. HomerIliad.

  3. AeschylusOresteia.

  4. EuripidesIphigeneia e en Aulidi.