Agamemnon

Name: Agamemnon
Title: Atrides (Son of Atreus)
Position: King of Argos
Location: Somewhere outside Troy
City of Residence: formerly, Mycenae


Argh, Agamemnon!

Agamemnon is one of the top ten irritating figures of the Trojan War story. I have yet to compile a list of these top ten, but I'm sure he's on it. No one really seemed to like Agamemnon. And that apparently included whoever was in charge of determining his fate (that would be Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, the three Fates), because it certainly wasn't very pleasant.

Like Menelaus (whose last name was also Atrides; hmm... I wonder why...) Agamemnon was a son of Mycenaean King Atreus. Atreus was hardly the nicest of guys. He cooked his brother Thyestes's two sons in a pie and then fed the pie to Thyestes. But of course he had a good excuse. (Not that there is ever a good excuse for cooking people in pies and feeding them to their relations.) You see, Thyestes had seduced his wife.

It seems this was a common problem for men in the house of Atreus. Not only Atreus, but Menelaus and Agamemnon too! Bummer! Just one of them might have been considered bad luck, but all three looks like... carelessness.

Thyestes, when he figured out that the "mystery meat" which tasted oddly like chicken was actually his two sons, was naturally somewhat irritated. He cursed Atreus and his household. He also set about getting revenge in a very icky way. After consulting an oracle, who must have had a slightly sick sense of humor and who told him that the best way to ensure his revenge worked was to have a child by his own daughter, he did just that. The child was called Aegisthos. Keep him in mind, because he'll come up later.

In the meantime, Menelaus and Agamemnon were growing up and getting married to a pair of sisters. (Awwww!) Neither of whom were terribly faithful. (Darn!) Menelaus married Helen, daughter of Zeus and Leda, and Agamemnon married Clytemnestra, daughter of Zeus and Tyndareus.

From the start, things did not look too good. Clytemnestra bore him four children-- Orestes, Electra, Chrysothemis, and Iphigenia. However, Helen just HAD to go and run off with Paris, now didn't she, and so Agamemnon and Menelaus had to marshal all the Achaean troops and head off in pursuit. Unfortunately, Artemis (I guess she was having a bad day...) decreed that no wind would blow until Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to her. Bummer. Many fathers would have thrown up their hands and said, "That's it! I'm going home! My brother's wife is SO not worth this!" But not Agamemnon. He summoned Iphigenia, saying that she was going to wed Achilles. (This, may I note, was a relatively common bribe. Many young Greek girls grew up hearing, "If you fold your laundry nicely, Thalia, you'll get to wed Achilles!" "Don't hit your sister, Hermia, or Achilles won't marry you!" Pretty much everyone was going to marry Achilles at one point or another, which would have been fine and dandy except for the fact that, as Plato, Aeschylus, and Shakespeare all suggest, he wasn't interested in women. Ahem.) Iphigenia fell for it and went. Then they proceeded to sacrifice her. Some say she turned into a white deer on the altar before dying; others say she didn't die after all. Whatever happened, though, Clytemnestra was seriously ticked off.

Agamemnon went off to Troy, where he caused more things to go wrong. First off, he got mad when Chryses, the father of his concubine, Chryseis, (Got that?) started causing his men to die of a mysterious sickness. He gave her back, but he took Briseis, Achilles's personal concubine. Bad idea, Agamemnon. Achilles got his nose out of joint and had a bit of a hissy fit, after which he and Agamemnon were no longer on speaking terms. Achilles also decided he was no longer going to fight for the Greeks. Bummer.

Then Agamemnon had a deceptive dream that he ought to be getting everyone together for a full-out assault against Troy. No, Agamemnon. This dream occurred simply because Achilles's mother was something of a demi-goddess, and got Zeus to send a false message down to make the Greeks realize that, gosh, they really needed Achilles. It certainly worked, because Agamemnon assumed it was legitimate, attacked, and before you knew it, the Greeks were all up against the hulls of their ships, Agamemnon was wounded, after killing dozens of unimportant people in very inventive ways, and things were not looking good.

Finally the Greeks got Achilles to come back (see Achilles for more on how they did this) and the crisis (Chryseis?) was averted.

Cut to the end of the war. The Greeks have gotten into Troy, thanks to the brilliant Trojan Horse plan, and everyone is happily raping and pillaging away. (Not a good idea.) Agamemnon decides he wants Cassandra as his personal prize. (Also not a good idea!) Agamemnon gets back into his boat and sails happily home, wondering why it seemed so easy after all his friends were either shipwrecked or stranded for several years on various islands. Hmm.

Agamemnon arrives home. Gee, he thinks, how nice! Everyone is out here to meet me, and Clytemnestra has offered to give me a bath! Guess all those years of being alone without me have made her a bit randy. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I wonder why Cassandra seems so upset. She certainly is weird. If I'd only known that she'd keep on ranting about doom and not trusting my wife, I wouldn't have picked her as a concubine when we sacked Troy. How wrong she is. Clytemnestra doesn't even seem to mind that I've brought her back with me.

Help! Help! Why are Clytemnestra and Aegisthos murdering me in my bath? Ouch! Augh! Augh!<

And thus Agamemnon's unlucky life came to an end at the hands of his angry wife and Aegisthos, who had become her lover while he was away. (Come to think of it, I guess all those years of being alone without Agamemnon DID make her a bit randy...) His story continued, however, as his son Orestes decided to avenge him by knocking off Clytemnestra ("Sorry, Mom!") and Aegisthos ("Sorry, um, great-uncle a few times removed!") and then was pursued by Furies who caused him to foam at the mouth and act generally insane until Athene granted him clemency. Good old Athene.

Of course, it was a little too late for this to help Agamemnon.