Agamemnon, Agamemnon, Agamemnon or Agamemnon (in ancient Greek, Aγαμέμνων, "very resolute") was one of the most distinguished Greek heroes, son (or grandson) of King Atreus of Mycenae and Queen Aerope, and brother of Menelaus.
There are no records to prove that he actually existed, but it is likely that it was the king of Mycenae who commanded the epic siege of the Achaeans on the city of Troy.
There are several versions about who the fathers of Agamemnon and Menelaus were.
Several authors regard them as sons of Atreus, their mother being Aérope. Plístene appears in Hyginus' Fable 86 as a son of Atreus whom Tiestes raised as his own, and whom Atreus killed thinking he was killing a son of Tiestes.
In other versions, Agamemnon and Menelaus are sons of Plisthenes, Atreus' son. According to Tzetzes, who relied on Hesiod and Aeschylus, Plisthenes' wife was Cleola, daughter of Dias, and Plisthenes' mother was Aérope; Dias possibly was another son of Pelope. According to one of the versions found in Pseudo-Apolodorus, Plistene's wife was Aérope, daughter of Catreu.
The history of Agamemnon's family, going all the way back to the legendary King Pelope, had been tainted by rape, murder, incest, and treason. The Greeks believed that this violent past cast misfortune upon the entire House of Atreus.
Atreus, Agamemnon's father, was murdered by Aegistus, who seized the throne of Argos and ruled along with his father Tiestes. During this period, Agamemnon and Menelaus sought refuge in Sparta. They married the Spartan princesses Clytemnestra and Helen, respectively. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had four children: three daughters, Iphigenia, Electra, and Chrysotemis, and a son, Orestes.
Menelaus inherited the throne of Sparta, while Agamemnon, with the help of his brother, ousted Aegistus and Tiestes to regain his father's kingdom. He extended his dominions by conquest, and became the most powerful king of Greece.
After Helen's abduction, Agamemnon gathered the Greek forces to sail for Troy. Preparing to set sail from Aulis, a port in Beotia, Agamemnon's army provoked the wrath of the goddess Artemis.
There are many reasons to explain such anger: in the play "Agamemnon" by Aeschylus, Artemis is angry because of the young men who were to die in Troy, while in "Electra" by Sophocles, Agamemnon had killed an animal sacred to Artemis, and then boasted that he was similar to Artemis in hunting.
Misfortunes, including a plague and lack of wind, prevented the army from setting sail; finally, the soothsayer Calcas announced that the goddess' wrath could only be tamed with the sacrifice of Iphigenia (Agamemnon's eldest daughter). Classical dramatizations differ with respect to what will either father or daughter were in regarding this fate.
In one, Agamemnon invented that she was promised as a wife to Achilles, but ended up sacrificing Iphigenia. Her death calmed Artemis, and the Greek army left for Troy.
Many alternatives to human sacrifice have been presented in mythology. Other sources say that Agamemnon was prepared to kill his daughter, but that Artemis accepted a deer in Iphigenia's place, and took her to Taurida in the Crimea. Hesiod said that she became the goddess Hecate.
Agamemnon was the supreme commander of the Greeks during the Trojan War. During the fighting, Agamemnon killed Antipheus. Agamemnon's chariot driver, Halaeso, later fought with Aeneas in Italy.
The Iliad tells the story of the fight between Agamemnon and Achilles in the final year of the war. Agamemnon took for himself an attractive slave and war booty, Briseis, who was Achilles'. Achilles, the greatest warrior at the time, left the battle out of revenge, and nearly cost the Greeks the war.
Although not equal to Achilles in bravery, Agamemnon was a worthy representative of royal authority. As supreme commander, he summoned the princes to assembly and led the Greek army into battle. He fought himself, and performed many heroic deeds, until he was wounded and forced to return to his tent.
His main flaw was his vain arrogance. An over-exalted opinion of his position caused him to insult Crises and Achilles, casting great misfortune on the Greeks.
After the taking of Troy, Cassandra, princess of the city (daughter of the Trojan king Priam) and doomed prophetess, fell to him in the distribution of the spoils of war.
Return to Greece
When Troy was finally defeated, Agamemnon received the young Cassandra, daughter of Priam, as his share of the loot. However, Cassandra was loved by Apollo, from whom she had received the gift of prophecy.
When she refused to fulfill Apollo's wishes, he cursed her and made sure that no one would believe her predictions. So when Agamemnon took her with him, she warned him that he would die if he returned to his homeland, but was not heard.
After a violent journey, Agamemnon, his wife Climnestra and Cassandra get lost and end up in Argolida, the country of Aegistus. Egistus, seduced Clytemnestra and invited Agamemnon to a banquet, where he was treacherously killed. According to Pindar and the tragediographers, Agamemnon was murdered by his wife alone in the bath.
Clytemnestra also killed Cassandra. Her anger at the sacrifice of Iphigenia, and her jealousy of Cassandra are named as the reasons for her crime. Egistus and Clytemnestra then ruled Agamemnon's kingdom for a time, but Agamemnon's murder was eventually avenged by his son Orestes (possibly with Electra's help).
Agamemnon in contemporary fiction and films
Modern writers of time travel and fictional romance often try to show the Trojan War "as it really happened," based on archaeological findings about the Mycenaean Civilization. Such authors often use Agamemnon as the archetypal Mycenaean king, bringing old artifacts to life by dressing them up as a familiar face.
Of particular interest is the time travel trilogy Island in the Sea of Time, Against the Tide of Years and On the Oceans of Eternity by S. M. Stirling, where the fate that befalls the House of Atreus is as horrific as portrayed in mythological tradition. The horror is provided by a time-traveling villain who is well informed about mythology.
Agamemnon is believed to have been the ancient ancestor or relative of the noble family Atreides from Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi Dune series (Note that the surname, Atreides is derived from the name of Agamemnon's father, Atreus). There are many similarities between the story of Agamemnon and Dune, such as the protagonist of the Dune series, Paul Atreides, both being tragic heroes.
Agamemnon makes an appearance in the movie Time Bandits, embodied by actor Sean Connery, although his portrayal in the movie seems more similar to Odysseus. Masks very similar to the famous Mask of Agamemnon are also worn in the film.
He also appeared in the 2004 film Troy, embodied by Scotsman Brian Cox.
Agamemnon was the name of the military ship commanded by Horatio Nelson, who began his rehabilitation following the spito of wealthy sugar merchants. Babylon 5 author J. Michael Straczinsky used this information to choose a name for the command ship of his hero protagonist John Sheridan.
Thus, Agamemnon was the name of the "Earth Fleet Destroyer" that John Sheridan commanded near the end of the 4th season of Babylon 5.
He was also a king in Shakespeare's play Troilus and Cressida (Troilus and Cressida).