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In Greek mythology, Agamemnon (Ancient Greek: Ἀγαμέμνων; modern Greek: Αγαμέμνονας, "very resolute") is the son of King Atreus of Mycenae and Queen Aerope; the brother of Menelaus and the husband of Clytemnestra; different mythological versions make him the king either of Mycenae or of Argos. 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 his 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.

The so-called 'Mask of Agamemnon' which was discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 at Mycenae (whether it represents an individual, and if so, whom, remains unknown)

Contents

Historical prototype

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

Early life

Atreus was murdered by Aegisthus, who took possession of the throne of Mycenae and ruled jointly with his own father Thyestes, Atreus's twin brother. 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, a result of the curse placed upon Pelops by Myrtilus, whom he had murdered. Thus misfortune hounded the entire House of Atreus.

The 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. 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 Greece

After a stormy voyage, Agamemnon and Cassandra landed in Argolis or were blown off course and landed in Aegisthus' country. Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, had taken a lover, Aegisthus and when Agamemnon came home he was treacherously slain either by Aegisthus (in the oldest versions of the story) or by his wife, Clytemnestra. According to the account given by Pindar and the tragedians, Agamemnon was slain by his wife alone in a bath, a blanket of cloth or a net having first been thrown over him to prevent resistance. Clytemnestra also killed Cassandra. Her wrath at the sacrifice of Iphigenia, her jealousy of Cassandra, and Agamemnon's having gone to war over Helen, are variously said to have been motives for her crime. Aegisthus and Clytemnestra then ruled Agamemnon's kingdom for a time, but the murder of Agamemnon was eventually avenged by his son Orestes with the help or encouragement of his daughter Electra, by murdering Aegisthus and their own mother.

Genealogy

Genealogy of Agamemnon

Other stories

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.[4]

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.[5][6]

In fiction

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 film

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 violates Helen before being stabbed by Clytemnestra in his bath.

In Wolfgang Peterson's film Troy (2004), Agamemnon is the primary villain of the movie, a cruel and power-hungry warlord who seeks to control the Agean 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. 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).

See also

References

  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. ^ Ebeling, Erich; Meissner, Bruno; Edzard, Dietz Otto (1999). Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie: A - Bepaste. Walter de Gruyter, Inc.. p. 57. ISBN 311004451X. http://books.google.com/books?id=aVkj3ZedbocC&pg=PA57&lpg=PA61&ots=ORv1fxgpr_&dq=Akagamunas#PPA57,M1. 
  4. ^ Butler, Harold Edgeworth & Barber, Eric Arthur, eds. (1933) The Elegies of Propertius. Oxford: Clarendon Press; p. 277
  5. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece; 5.8.3
  6. ^ Plutarch. Amores, 21

Primary sources

Secondary sources

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Agamemnon
by Aeschylus
Agamemnon is one of four Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus in 450 B.C. collectively known as The Oresteia.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AGAMEMNON, one of the most distinguished of the Greek heroes, was the son of Atreus (king of Mycenae) and Aerope, grandson of Pelops, great-grandson of Tantalus and brother of Menelaus. Another account makes him the son of Pleisthenes (the son or father of Atreus), who is said to have been Aerope's first husband. Atreus was murdered by Aegisthus, who took possession of the throne of Mycenae and ruled jointly with his father Thyestes. During this period Agamemnon and Menelaus took refuge with Tyndareus, king of Sparta, whose daughters Clytaemnestra (more correctly Clytaemestra) and. Helen they respectively married. By Clytaemnestra, Agamemnon had three daughters, Iphigeneia (Iphianassa), Electra (Laodice), Chrysothemis, and a son, Orestes. Menelaus succeededTyndareus, and Agamemnon,with his brother's assistance, drove out Aegisthus. and Thyestes, and recovered his father's kingdom. He extended his dominion by conquest and became the most powerful prince in Greece. When Paris (Alexander), son of Priam, had carried off his brother's wife, he went round to the princes of the country and called upon them to unite in a war of revenge against the Trojans. He himself furnished loo ships, and was chosen commander-inchief of the combined forces. The fleet, numbering 1 200 ships, assembled at the port of Aulis in Boeotia. But Agamemnon had offended the goddess Artemis by slaying a hind sacred to her, and boasting himself a better hunter. The army was visited by a plague, and the fleet was prevented from sailing by the total absence of wind. Calchas announced that the wrath of the goddess could only be appeased by the sacrifice of Iphigeneia. The fleet then set sail. Little is heard of Agamemnon until his quarrel with Achilles. After the capture of Troy, Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, fell to his lot in the distribution of the prizes of war. On his return, of ter a stormy voyage, he. landed in Argolis. His kinsman, Aegisthus, who in the interval had seduced his wife Clytaemnestra, invited him to a banquet at. which he was treacherously slain, Cassandra also being put to death by Clytaemnestra. According to the account given by Pindar and the tragedians, Agamemnon was slain by his wife' alone in a bath, a piece of cloth or a net having first been thrown over him to prevent resistance. Her wrath at the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, and her jealousy of Cassandra, are said to have been the motives of her crime. The murder of Agamemnon was avenged by his son Orestes. Although not the equal of Achilles in bravery, Agamemnon is a dignified representative of kingly authority. As commander-in-chief, he summons the princes to the council and leads the army in battle. He takes the field himself, and performs many heroic deeds until he is wounded and forced to withdraw to his tent. His chief fault is his overweening haughtiness, due to an over-exalted opinion of his position, which leads him to insult Chryses and Achilles, thereby bringing great disaster upon the Greeks. But his family had been marked out for misfortune from the outset. His kingly office had come to him from Pelops through the blood-stained hands of Atreus and Thyestes, and had brought with it a certain fatality which explained the hostile destiny which pursued him. 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 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.

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 characterized by the sceptre and diadem, the usual attributes of kings.

See articles in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopadie and Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie.


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Etymology

From Ancient Greek Ἀγαμέμνων (Agamemnōn), very resolute).

Proper noun

Singular
Agamemnon

Plural
-

Agamemnon

  1. (Greek mythology) One of the most distinguished heroes of Greek mythology. He is the son of King Atreus of Mycenae and Queen Aerope, and brother of Menelaus. He is attributed with rallying the Greeks for the Trojan War

Translations

See also

  • Menelaus

Simple English

Agamemnon was a person in Greek mythology. He was the son of King Atreus of Mycenae and Aerope. He was the brother of Menelaos. He was King of Mycenae.

His wife was Klytaimnestra, and with her his children were Iphigeneia, Elektra, Orestes and Chrysothemis.

In the Trojan War he was the highest leader of the Greek armies.

After the Trojan War he took Kassandra as a slave. She warned him that his wife Klytaimnestra would kill him, but he would not believe her. At home, Agamemnon was killed by Klytaimnestra and her lover Aegisthos.

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