In Greek mythology, Agamemnon (Ancient Greek: Template:Polytonic; modern Greek: Αγαμέμνονας, "leader of the assembly") was the son of King Atreus of Mycenae and Queen Aerope; the brother of Menelaus and the husband of Clytemnestra; mythical 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 abducted by Paris of Troy, Agamemnon was the commander of the Achaeans in the ensuing Trojan War.

Upon Agamemnon's return from Troy he was murdered (according to the fullest version of the oldest surviving account, Odyssey Book 11, l.409f.) by Aegisthus, the lover of his wife Clytemnestra, who herself slew Cassandra, Agamemnon's unfortunate concubine, as she clung to him. 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 too".[1] In some later versions Clytemnestra herself does the killing, or they do it together, in his own home.


Historical prototypeEdit

Hittite sources mention Template:Hittite, ruler of Template:Hittite (land of Achaeans) in the fourteenth century BC.[2][3] This is a possible prototype of the Agamemnon of mythology.

Early lifeEdit

Agamemnon's life was shadowed under prophecy. Atreus, Agamemnon's father, murdered the children of his twin brother Thyestes, excepting Aegisthus, and fed them to Thyestes, who vowed gruesome revenge on Atreus' children. Aegisthus took possession of the throne of Mycenae and ruled jointly with Thyestes. During this period Agamemnon and his brother, Menelaus, took refuge with Tyndareus, King of Sparta. There they respectively married Tyndareus's daughters Clytemnestra and Helen. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had four children: one son, Orestes, and three daughters, Iphigenia, Electra and Chrysothemis. Menelaus succeeded Tyndareus in Sparta, while Agamemnon, with his brother's assistance, drove out Aegisthus and 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 marred by rape, murder, incest, and treachery, consequences of the heinous crime perpetrated by their 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 joint divine-human court of justice.

The Trojan WarEdit

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 Agamemnon, 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's 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. Classical dramatisations differ on how willing either father or daughter were 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, claim that Agamemnon was prepared to kill his daughter, but that Artemis accepted a deer in her place, and whisked her away to Taurus in Crimea. Hesiod said she became the goddess Hecate.

Agamemnon was the commander-in-chief of the Greeks during the Trojan War. During the fighting, Agamemnon killed Antiphus and fifteen other Trojan soldiers.[4] Agamemnon's teamster, Halaesus, later fought with Aeneas in Italy. The Iliad tells the story of the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles in the final year of the war. Agamemnon took an attractive slave, one of the spoils of war, Briseis from Achilles. Achilles, the greatest warrior of the age, withdrew from battle in revenge and nearly cost the Greek armies the war.

Although not the equal of Achilles in bravery, Agamemnon was a dignified representative of kingly authority. As commander-in-chief, he summoned the princes to the council and led the army in battle. He took the field himself, and performed many heroic deeds until he was wounded and forced to withdraw to his tent. His chief fault was his overwhelming haughtiness. An over-exalted opinion of his position led him to insult Chryses and Achilles, thereby bringing great disaster upon the Greeks.

After the capture of Troy, Cassandra, doomed prophetess and daughter of Priam, fell to Agamemnon's lot in the distribution of the prizes of war.

Return to GreeceEdit


After a stormy voyage, Agamemnon and 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. Clytemnestra also killed Cassandra. Her jealousy of Cassandra, and her wrath at the sacrifice of Iphigenia and at Agamemnon's having gone to war over Helen are said to have been the motives for her crime. Aegisthus and Clytemnestra then ruled Agamemnon's kingdom for a time, Aegisthus claiming his right of revenge for Agamemnon's father Atreus having fed Thyestes his own children (Thyestes then crying out "So perish all the race of Pleisthenes!" (Aeschylus, Aga., ln. 1602), 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 Aegisthus and Clytemnestra (his own mother), thereby enciting the wrath of the Erinyes (English: the Furies), winged goddesses who tracked down egregiously impious wrongdoers with their hounds' noses and drove them to insanity.

Genealogy Edit

Other storiesEdit

Athenaeus tells a story of how Agamemnon mourned the loss of his friend Argynnus, when he drowned in the Cephisus river. He buried him, honored with a tomb and a shrine to Aphrodite Argynnis. (The Deipnosophists of Athenaeus of Naucratis, Book XIII Concerning Women, p. 3) This episode is also found in Clement of Alexandria (Protrepticus II.38.2), in Stephen of Byzantium (Kopai and Argunnos), and in Propertius, III with minor variations.[5]

The fortunes of Agamemnon have formed the subject of numerous tragedies, ancient and modern, the most famous being the Oresteia of 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 driven by Menelaus at the funeral games of Patroclus.[6][7]

In fictionEdit

Agamemnon is the subject of two novels by George Shipway; "Warrior in Bronze" (1977), about Agamemnon's rise to the throne of Mycenae, and its sequel, "The King in Splendour" (1979), about Agamemnon and the Trojan War.

Portrayals in filmEdit

Recent interpretations depict Agamemnon in a completely different light.

In the 2003 TV miniseries Helen of Troy, Agamemnon, played by actor Rufus Sewell, kills Paris and rapes Helen before being stabbed by Clytemnestra in his bath.

In Wolfgang Petersen's film Troy (2004), in a severe contrast to the hero from mythology, Agamemnon is now the primary villain of the story, portrayed as a cruel and power-hungry warlord who seeks to control the Aegean Sea, for which he has to conquer Troy. He cares nothing for Menelaus's marriage and sees it as a mere excuse to go to war with Troy. In the end, during the Sack of Troy, he attacks Briseis, whose romance with Achilles nearly cost him the Trojan War, and tells her she will be his personal slave. In response, she stabs and kills him with a hidden stiletto. He was portrayed by Scottish actor Brian Cox.

In Terry Gilliam's film Time Bandits, Agamemnon is played by Sean Connery. Historically somewhat incorrect, Agamemnon is shown as slaying the minotaur (who, according to legend, was killed by Theseus).


Template:Refimprovesect Agamemnon possesses a strong temper and a prideful streak similar to Achilles. He is not as strong as Achilles, nor is he an exceptional warrior. Agamemnon clearly has a stubborn streak that one can argue makes him extremely arrogant . Although he takes few risks in battle, Agamemnon still accomplishes some progress for the Greeks. As a king Agamemnon, it can perhaps be argued, is loyal, as he insists upon leading a battle for his brother, Menelaus’ stolen bride; though this may well be only a pretext for a raid for booty. Unlike Achilles, Agamemnon’s deepest concern is for himself, and therefore he sees others, depending on how they relate to him.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Aeschylus (1986) Choephori; introduction by A. F. Garvie, Oxford U. P., p. x
  2. Steiner, Gerd. The Case of Wiluša and Ahhiyawa. Bibliotheca Orientalis; LXIV No. 5-6, September-December 2007
  3. Template:Cite book
  4. Hyginus, "Fabulae" 114.
  5. Butler, Harold Edgeworth & Barber, Eric Arthur, eds. (1933) The Elegies of Propertius. Oxford: Clarendon Press; p. 277
  6. Pausanias. Description of Greece; 5.8.3
  7. Plutarch. Amores, 21

Primary sourcesEdit

Secondary sourcesEdit

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