Agamemnon, the Greek Hero, His Life and Death, Facts and Myths

You don’t have to believe in the ancient Greek gods to appreciate the value and lessons in myths. Why do those stories fascinate us so?

Do we want the power portrayed in them? Or is it that we recognize something of ourselves in those characters? Displaying both good and bad sides of human nature, Agamemnon is surely one of those characters that we can identify with.

Who was Agamemnon, the Greek Hero?

Agamemnon, who was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, was the commander of the Greek army that fought against Trojans in the Trojan War.

He was often mistaken for Zeus in Greek mythology because of his Spartan upbringing and nickname “Zeus Agamemnon.”

Agamemnon and his Greek forces laid siege and fought with Troy for ten years after Paris abducted Helen, the wife of Menelaus, Agamemnon’s brother.

Despite Agamemnon’s good intentions, bloodlust, murder, adultery, deceit and superstition reigned over his bloodline. Problems deceived and divided his family and eventually sealed his fate.

Agamemnon Facts at a Quick Glance

Agamemnon’s life was full of struggle and controversy. For a quick synopsis, here are the most important Agamemnon facts:

  • His bloodline was tainted with adultery
  • He came from a lineage of murderers
  • He was born in Mycenae more commonly known as Argos
  • He was denied birth right and exiled to Sparta
  • He married a princess who turned out to be an adulterer
  • He fathered four children
  • He reclaimed the throne
  • His sister in law was Helen (of Troy)
  • He was deceived by prophecy
  • He went to war for family
  • He was murdered for revenge

Agamemnon’s Family

It surely is not possible to understand Agamemnon’s life without having knowledge of his tumultuous past. Even before he was born, his family members were fighting against one another.

Agamemnon’s father, King Atreus had a twin; Thyestes. According to the story, Thyestes wanted everything Atreus had and had an affair with Aerope, Atreus’ wife. Finding out about Queen Aerope’s affair with the two sons she had from Thyestes, Atreus did an incredibly cruel act; he boiled the children and fed them to Thyestes.

But Thyestes had another son named Aegisthus from his incestuous affair with his daughter Pelopia. Sparing Aegisthus’ life was a big mistake on Atreus’ side.

Aegisthus fought for his father’s honor and executed Atreus. He did not stop fighting for his family’s name. So, Atreus’ sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus, were also in danger. That is why they were exiled to Sparta.

Agamemnon’s Life in Exile

Spartans were ruled by King Tyndareus and Agamemnon and Menelaus married his daughters (Clytemnestra and Helen, respectively).

Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had a son and three daughters:

  • Orestes: He was famous for his madness and purification rituals
  • Iphigenia: She was offered as a sacrifice to Artemis by her father in lieu of safe passage for the Greek forces’ voyage during the Trojan War
  • Electra: She was exiled for eight years during the Trojan War. When Agamemnon returned to Argos with his “war prize” Cassandra, he brought Electra home with him. He also returned with his twins born from Cassandra
  • Chrysothemis: She was widely known as the Greek demi-goddess who married and murdered Asterides

Agamemnon’s Return to Argos

After King Tyndareus was killed by Hercules, Agamemnon’s brother, Menelaus became the king of Sparta. It was around this time that Agamemnon returned to Argos, forcing into exile his cousin, King Aegisthus. He took his place as the rightful heir to the Greek throne.

Then began the downfall.

Long Years of War

It was rumored that Helen—Menelaus’ wife—was abducted, by Paris, Prince of Troy, with the help of Aphrodite. Agamemnon, as a proud man who would do anything to defend his family name, was forced to retaliate and declared war on Troy to rescue Helen.

A Greek prophet named Calchas predicted great peril for the Greek forces at sea and warned that if a sacrifice was not made for the Greek goddess, Artemis, their journey would end in disaster.

Agamemnon set sail for Troy after agreeing to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia so that he would find favor with the gods.

That probably without Iphigenia knowing anything about her father’s intentions. Some accounts also suggest that Iphigenia was not sacrificed but enslaved by Artemis to serve her forever.

Agamemnon and his forces fought a good fight, but he could not get the ending he wanted. At the same time, Aegisthus was still plotting against him.

Going Back Home

After ten long years at war with Trojans, he returned home to Argos to find Clytemnestra bedded by another—Aegisthus. The two lovers plotted against Agamemnon and finally Aegisthus murdered him to avenge his father’s death and seize the throne.

Both fought for their families’ honor, but only one could win in the end.

Agamemnon’s life story has been told by playwrights and even used in modern-day films as he was well known for his shrewd battle plans and excellent military strategies.

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