In Greek mythology,
Agamemnon (/æɡəˈmɛmnɒn/; Greek:
Ἀγαμέμνων) was the son of King
Atreus and Queen
Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of
Clytemnestra and the
father of Iphigenia,
Electra or Laodike (Λαοδίκη),
Chrysothemis. Legends make him the king of
Mycenae or Argos,
thought to be different names for the same area. When Helen, the
wife of Menelaus, was taken to
Troy by Paris,
Agamemnon commanded the
united Greek armed forces in the ensuing Trojan War.
Upon Agamemnon's return from Troy, he was murdered (according to the
oldest surviving account,
Odyssey 11.409–11) by Aegisthus, the lover
of his wife, Clytemnestra. In old versions of the story, the scene of
the murder, when it is specified, is usually the house of Aegisthus,
who has not taken up residence in Agamemnon's palace, and it involves
an ambush and the deaths of Agamemnon's followers as well. In some
Clytemnestra herself does the killing, or they act
together as accomplices, killing
Agamemnon in his own home.
2 Early life
3 Trojan War
4 Return to Greece
6 Other stories
7 See also
9.1 Primary sources
9.2 Secondary sources
10 External links
His name in Greek, Ἀγαμέμνων, means "very steadfast",
"unbowed". The word comes from *Ἀγαμέδμων from ἄγαν,
"very much" and μέδομαι, "think on".
Atreus, Agamemnon's father, murdered the children of his twin brother
Thyestes and fed them to
Thyestes after discovering Thyestes' adultery
with his wife Aerope.
Aegisthus with his own
daughter, Pelopia, and this son vowed gruesome revenge on Atreus'
Aegisthus successfully murdered
Atreus and restored his
father to the throne.
Aegisthus took possession of the throne of
Mycenae and jointly ruled with Thyestes. During this period, Agamemnon
and his brother, Menelaus, took refuge with Tyndareus, King of Sparta.
There they respectively married Tyndareus' daughters
Clytemnestra had four children: one son, Orestes,
and three daughters, Iphigenia,
Electra and Chrysothemis. Menelaus
Tyndareus in Sparta, while Agamemnon, with his brother's
assistance, drove out
Thyestes to recover his father's
kingdom. He extended his dominion by conquest and became the most
powerful prince in Greece.
Agamemnon's family history had been tarnished by murder, incest, and
treachery, consequences of the heinous crime perpetrated by his
ancestor, Tantalus, and then of a curse placed upon Pelops, son of
Tantalus, by Myrtilus, whom he had murdered. Thus misfortune hounded
successive generations of the House of Atreus, until atoned by Orestes
in a court of justice held jointly by humans and gods.
Main article: Trojan War
Agamemnon gathered the reluctant Greek forces to sail for Troy.
Preparing to depart from Aulis, which was a port in Boeotia,
Agamemnon's army incurred the wrath of the goddess Artemis. There are
several reasons throughout myth for such wrath: in Aeschylus' play
Artemis is angry for the young men who will die at Troy,
whereas in Sophocles' Electra,
Agamemnon has slain an animal sacred to
Artemis, and subsequently boasted that he was Artemis' equal in
hunting. Misfortunes, including a plague and a lack of wind, prevented
the army from sailing. Finally, the prophet
Calchas announced that the
wrath of the goddess could only be propitiated by the sacrifice of
Agamemnon's daughter Iphigenia.
Achilles' surrender of
Briseis to Agamemnon, from the House of the
Tragic Poet in Pompeii, fresco, 1st century AD, now in the Naples
National Archaeological Museum
Classical dramatizations differ on how willing either father or
daughter was to this fate; some include such trickery as claiming she
was to be married to Achilles, but
Agamemnon did eventually sacrifice
Iphigenia. Her death appeased Artemis, and the Greek army set out for
Troy. Several alternatives to the human sacrifice have been presented
in Greek mythology. Other sources, such as
Iphigenia at Aulis, say
Agamemnon was prepared to kill his daughter, but that Artemis
accepted a deer in her place, and whisked her away to
Tauris in the
Hesiod said she became the goddess Hecate.
Agamemnon was the commander-in-chief of the Greeks during the Trojan
War. During the fighting,
Antiphus and fifteen other
Trojan soldiers, according to one source. But in the "Iliad"
itself, he's shown to slaughter hundreds more in Book 11 during his
"aristea" loosely translated to "day of glory" which is the most
similar to Achilles' "aristea" in Book 21 (they both are compared to
lions and destructive fires in battle, their hands are described as
"splattered with gore" and "invincible," the Trojans flee to the
walls, they both are appealed to by one of their victims, they are
both avoided by Hector, they both get wounded in the arm or hand, and
they both kill the one who wounded them). Even before his "aristea,"
Agamemnon was considered to be one of the three best warriors on the
Greek side as proven when
Hector challenges any champion of the Greek
side to fight him in Book 7, and
Agamemnon (along with
Big Aias) is one of the three most wished for to face him out of the
nine strongest Greek warriors who volunteered. And after they
Achilles admits in Book 23 that
Agamemnon is "the
best in strength and in throwing the spear." That claim is further
proven by the fact that
Agamemnon was the only major warrior on either
side to never need the gods' direct intervention to increase his
strength or give him any unfair advantages in battle and yet he still
caused incredible destruction almost on the scale of Achilles.
Iliad tells the story about the quarrel between
Achilles in the final year of the war. Following one of the Achaean
Army's raids, Chryseis, daughter of Chryses, one of Apollo's priests,
was taken as a war prize by Agamemnon.
Chryses pleaded with Agamemnon
to free his daughter but was met with little success.
Apollo for the safe return of his daughter, which Apollo
responded to by unleashing a plague over the Achaean Army. After
learning from the Prophet
Calchas that the plague could be dispelled
Chryseis to her father,
Agamemnon reluctantly agreed,
(but first berated
Calchas for previously forcing
sacrifice his daughter (Iphigenia) and released his prize. However, as
compensation for his lost prize,
Agamemnon demanded a new prize. As a
Agamemnon stole an attractive slave called Briseis, one of the
spoils of war, from Achilles.
Achilles, the greatest warrior of the age, withdrew from battle in
response to Agamemnon's action and put the Greek armies at risk of
losing the war. Agamemnon, having realized Achilles's importance in
winning the war against the Trojan Army, sent ambassadors begging for
Achilles to return, offering him riches and the hand of his daughter
in marriage, but
Achilles refused, only being spurred back into action
when his closest friend, Patroclus, was killed in battle.
Although not the equal of
Achilles in bravery,
Agamemnon was a
representative of "kingly authority". As commander-in-chief, he
summoned the princes to the council and led the army in battle. His
chief fault was his overwhelming haughtiness; an over-exalted opinion
of his position that led him to insult
Chryses and Achilles, thereby
bringing great disaster upon the Greeks.
After the capture of Troy, Cassandra, the doomed prophetess and
daughter of Priam, fell to Agamemnon's lot in the distribution of the
prizes of war.
Return to Greece
Orestes slaying Clytemnestra
After a stormy voyage,
Cassandra either landed in
Argolis, or were blown off course and landed in Aegisthus' country.
Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, had taken Aegisthus, son of Thyestes,
as a lover. When
Agamemnon came home he was slain by either Aegisthus
(in the oldest versions of the story) or Clytemnestra. According to
the accounts given by
Pindar and the tragedians,
Agamemnon was slain
in a bath by his wife alone, a blanket of cloth or a net having first
been thrown over him to prevent resistance.
killed Cassandra. Her jealousy of Cassandra, and her wrath at the
Iphigenia and at Agamemnon's having gone to war over
Helen of Troy, are said to have been the motives for her crime. 
Clytemnestra then ruled Agamemnon's kingdom for a time,
Aegisthus claiming his right of revenge for Agamemnon's father Atreus
Thyestes his own children (
Thyestes then crying out "So
perish all the race of Pleisthenes!", thus explaining Aegisthus'
action as justified by his father's curse). Agamemnon's son Orestes
later avenged his father's murder, with the help or encouragement of
his sister Electra, by murdering
Clytemnestra (his own
mother), thereby inciting the wrath of the
Erinyes (English: the
Furies), winged goddesses who tracked down wrongdoers with their
hounds' noses and drove them to insanity.
Genealogy of Agamemnon
Athenaeus tells a tale of how
Agamemnon mourned the loss of his friend
or lover Argynnus, when he drowned in the Cephisus river. He
buried him, honored with a tomb and a shrine to Aphrodite
Argynnis. This episode is also found in Clement of Alexandria,
Stephen of Byzantium
Stephen of Byzantium (Kopai and Argunnos), and in Propertius, III
with minor variations.
The fortunes of
Agamemnon have formed the subject of numerous
tragedies, ancient and modern, the most famous being the
Aeschylus. In the legends of the Peloponnesus,
Agamemnon was regarded
as the highest type of a powerful monarch, and in
Sparta he was
worshipped under the title of
Zeus Agamemnon. His tomb was pointed out
among the ruins of
Mycenae and at Amyclae.
Another account makes him the son of
Pleisthenes (the son or father of
Atreus), who is said to have been Aerope's first husband.
In works of art, there is considerable resemblance between the
representations of Zeus, king of the gods, and Agamemnon, king of men.
He is generally depicted with a sceptre and diadem, conventional
attributes of kings.
Agamemnon's mare was named Aetha. She was also one of two horses
Menelaus at the funeral games of Patroclus.
Following his death at the hands of Aegisthus,
Agamemnon made an
appearance in Homer's
Odyssey within the kingdom of Hades. There, the
former king met
Odysseus and explained just how he was murdered before
Odysseus a warning about the dangers of trusting a
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
^ Leeming, David (2005). Argos. Oxford Companion to World Mythology.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199916481.
Aeschylus (1986), Choephori; introduction by A. F. Garvie, Oxford
University Press, p. x
^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p.
^ a b c d Chisholm 1911.
Iliad Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics, 1998
^ Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 1389
^ Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 1602
^ Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles. "Argynnus". A Latin Dictionary.
Perseus Project. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
^ The Deipnosophists of
Athenaeus of Naucratis, Book XIII Concerning
Women, 80D (p. 603)
^ Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus II.38.2
^ Butler, Harold Edgeworth & Barber, Eric Arthur, eds. (1933) The
Elegies of Propertius. Oxford: Clarendon Press; p. 277
^ Pausanias. Description of Greece; 5.8.3
^ Plutarch, Amores, 21
Odyssey 11: 485–486
Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers;
Odyssey I, 28–31; XI, 385–464;
Apollodorus, Epitome, II, 15 – III, 22; VI, 23.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Agamemnon".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Agamemnon - Ancient History Encyclopedia
Characters in the Iliad
Ajax the Greater
Ajax the Lesser
Balius and Xanthus
Mygdon of Phrygia
Rhesus of Thrace
Characters in the Odyssey
House of Odysseus
Eurycleia (chief servant)
Monarchs and royals
Alcinous of Phaeacia
Arete of Phaeacia
Nestor of Pylos
Menelaus of Sparta
Nausicaa of Phaeacia
Agamemnon of Mycenae
Old Man of the Sea
Scylla and Charybdis
Iphigenia in Aulis and
Tauris by Euripides
Iphigenia in Aulis
Iphigénie en Aulide
Iphigénie en Aulide (1774, Gluck)
The Songs of the Kings
Alcmaeon in Corinth
Bash: Latter-Day Plays
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Iphigenia in Tauris
Iphigénie en Tauride (1699, Desmarets and Campra)
Ifigenia in Tauride (1771, Jommelli)
Iphigénie en Tauride (1779, Gluck)
Iphigénie en Tauride (1781, Piccinni)
The Forgotten Pistolero
The Forgotten Pistolero (1969)
Electra, My Love
Electra, My Love (1974)
The Travelling Players
The Travelling Players (1975)
Idoménée (1712, Campra)
Idomeneo (1780, Mozart)
Oresteia (1895, Taneyev)
Elektra (1909, Strauss/von Hofmannsthal)
Leben des Orest (1930, Krenek)
Electra (1967, Levy/Butler)
Oresteia (458 BC, Aeschylus)
Electra (c. 413 BC, Euripides)
Orestes (c. 408 BC, Euripides)
Electra (c. 405 BC, Sophocles)
Electra (1937, Giraudoux)
The Flies (1943, Sartre)
Elektra (1971, Wijesinha)
Electra (1931, O'Neill)
Elektra (1981, Marvel)
Orestes and Electra