The Ancient Library

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memnon and Menelaus were brought up together with Aegisthus, the son of Thyestes, in the house of Atreus. When they had grown to manhood, Atreus sent Agamemnon and Menelaus to seek Thyestes. They found him at Delphi, and carried him to Atreus, who threw him into a dungeon. Aegisthus was afterwards commanded to kill him, but, recognising his father in him, he abstained from the cruel deed, slew Atreus, and after having expelled Agamemnon and Menelaus, he and his father occupied the kingdom of Mycenae. [aegis­thus.] The two brothers wandered about for a time, and at last came to Sparta, where Agamem­non married Clytemnestra, the daughter of Tynda-reus, by whom he became the father of Iphianassa (Iphigeneia), Chrysothemis, Laodice (Electra), and Orestes. (Horn. //. ix. 145, with the note of Eus-tath.; Lucret. i. 86.) The manner in which Aga­memnon came to the kingdom of Mycenae, is dif­ferently related. From Homer (//. ii. 108 ; comp. Paus. ix. 40. § 6), it appears as if he had peaceably succeeded Thyestes, while, according to others (Aeschyl. Again. 1605), he expelled Thyestes, and usurped his throne. After he had become king of Mycenae, he rendered Sicyon and its king subject to himself (Paus. ii. 6. § 4), and became the most powerful prince in Greece. A catalogue of his dominions is given in the Iliad, (ii. 569, &c.; comp. Strab. viii. p. 377; Thucyd. i. 9,) When Homer (II. ii. 108) attributes to Agamemnon the

sovereignty over all Argos, the name Argos here

signifies Peloponnessus, or the greater part of it, for the city of Argos was governed by Diomedes. (11. ii. 559, &c.) Strabo (/. c.) has also shewn that the name Argos is sometimes used by the tra­gic poets as synonymous with Mycenae.

When Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was carried off by Paris, the son of Priam, Agamemnon and Menelaus called upon all the Greek chiefs for as­sistance against Troy. (Odyss. xxiv. 115.) The chiefs met at Argos in the palace of Diomedes, where Agamemnon was chosen their chief com­mander, either in consequence of his superior power (Eustath, ad II. ii. 108 ; Thucyd. i. 9), or because he had gained the favour of the assembled chiefs by giving them rich presents. (Dictys, Cret. i. 15, 16.) After two years of preparation, the Greek army and fleet assembled in the port of Aulis in Boeotia. Agamemnon had previously consulted the oracle about the issue of the enterprise, and the answer given was, that Troy should fall at the time when the most distinguished among the Greeks should quarrel. (Od. viii. 80.) A similar prophecy was derived from a marvellous occurrence which happened while the Greeks were assembled at Aulis. Once when a sacrifice was offered under the boughs of a tree, a dragon crawled forth from under it, and devoured a nest on the tree containing eight young birds and their mother. Calchas in­terpreted the sign to indicate that the Greeks would have to fight against Troy for nine years, but that in the tenth the city would fall. (II. ii. 303, &c.) An account of a different miracle por­tending the same thing is given by Aeschylus. (Ayam. 110, &c.) Another interesting incident happened while the Greeks were assembled at Aulis. Agamemnon, it is said, killed a stag which was sacred to Artemis, and in addition provoked the anger of the goddess by irreverent words. She in return visited the Greek army with a pes-.tilence, and produced a perfect calm, so that the


Greeks were unable to leave the port. When the seers declared that the anger of the goddess could not be soothed unless Iphigeneia, the daughter of Agamemnon, were offered to her as an atoning sacrifice, Diomedes and Odysseus were sent to fetch her to the camp under the pretext that she was to be married to Achilles. She came ; but at the moment when she was to be sacrificed, she was carried off by Artemis herself (according to others by Achilles) to Tauris, and another victim was substituted in her place. (Hygin. Fab. 98 ; Eurip. Ipliig. Aul. 90, Ipliig. Taur. 15; Sophocl. Elect. 565 ; Pind. Pyth. xi. 35 ; Ov. Met. xii. 31; Diet. Creti. 19; Schol. ad Lycoplir. 183; Antonin. Lib. 27.) After this the calm ceased, and the army sailed to the coast of Troy. Agamemnon alone had one hundred ships, independent of sixty which he had lent to the Arcadians. (II. ii. 576, 612.)

In the tenth year of the siege of Troy—for it is in this year that the Iliad opens—we find Aga­memnon involved in a quarrel with Achilles re­specting the possession of Brisei's, whom Achilles was obliged to give up to Agamemnon. Achilles withdrew from the field of battle, and the Greeks were visited by successive disasters. [achilles.] Zeus sent a dream to Agamemnon to persuade him to lead the Greeks to battle against the Trojans. (II. ii. 8, &c.) The king, in order to try the Greeks, commanded them to return home, with which they readily complied, until their courage was revived by Odysseus, who persuaded them to prepare for battle. (//. ii. 55, &c.) After a single combat between Paris and Menelaus, a battle followed, in which Agamemnon killed several of the Trojans. When Hector challenged the bravest of the Greeks, Agamemnon offered to fight with him, but in his stead Ajax was chosen by lot. Soon after this another battle took place, in which the Greeks were worsted (II. viii.), and Agamem­non in despondence advised the Greeks to take to flight and return home. (11. ix. 10.) But he was opposed by the other heroes. An attempt to conciliate Achilles failed, and Agamemnon assem­bled the chiefs in the night to deliberate about the measures to be adopted. (II. x. 1, &c.) Odysseus and Diomedes were then sent out as spies, and on the day following the contest with the Trojans was renewed. Agamemnon himself was again one of the bravest, and slew many enemies with his own hand. At last, however, he was wounded by Coon and obliged to withdraw to his tent. (//. xi. 250, &c.) Hector now advanced victoriously, and Aga­memnon again advised the Greeks to save them­selves by flight. (//. xiv. 75, &c.) But Odysseus and Diomedes again resisted him, and the latter prevailed upon him to return to the battle which was going on near the ships. Poseidon also appeared to Agamemnon in the figure of an aged man, and inspired him with new courage. (//. xiv. 125, &c.) The pressing danger of the Greeks at last induced Patroclus, the friend of Achilles, to take an energetic part in the battle, and hip fall roused Achilles to new activity, and led to his reconcilia­tion with Agamemnon. In the games at the funeral pyre of Patroclus, Agamemnon gained the first prize in throwing the spear. (//. xxiii. 890, &c.)

Agamemnon, although the chief commander of the Greeks, is not the hero of the Iliad, and in chivalrous spirit, bravery, and character, altogether

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