“Sing of it from the moment when Agamemnon, Atreus’ son, that king of men, parted in wrath from noble Achilles.” – Homer’s Iliad. Opening verses.

Who was Agamemnon?

Agamemnon was the king of Mycenae (according to Homer), and was the leader of the Greek forces during the Trojan War. His father was King Atreus and his brother was Menelaus of Sparta (the husband of Helen of Troy). Agamemnon was married to Clytemnestra and had several children by her, including Orestes, Electra, and Iphigenia.

According to myth (Iliad), when the Greeks set sails for Troy, their fleet was trapped by unfavorable winds at Aulis. Not knowing what to do they turned to  seer Calchas who revealed that their misfortune was due to King Agamemnon, who had boasted that he equaled Artemis in hunting. According to Calchas the winds would only change if Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia was sacrificed. Agamemnon reluctantly agreed to the sacrifice, but Artemis herself whisked Iphigenia away from the altar and substituted a deer in her place.

Later on in Iliad, during the siege of Troy, Agamemnon offended the greatest of the Greek warriors, Achilles, when he took the girl Briseis from him. Achilles’ anger with Agamemnon was the key plot in the Iliad as it kickstarted a number of events, eventually leading to the death of Achilles . After the sack of Troy, Agamemnon acquired Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam, as his concubine, and took her home with him to Greece.

After the Trojan War Agamemnon had a rather unhappy homecoming. He came home to Mycenae to find that Aegisthus had become the lover of Clytemnestra. The two together murdered Agamemnon and Cassandra shortly after their arrival. Aegisthus and Clytemnestra then ruled Mycenae but were eventually killed by Agamemnon’s son, Orestes (or by Orestes and Electra in other accounts). The homecoming of Agamemnon and its aftermath were favorite subjects for Greek tragedy.

Heracles

Jason and the Argonauts

Agamemnon

Achilles

Odysseus

The mask of Agamemnon

The “Mask of Agamemnon” is one of the most famous gold artifacts from the Greek Bronze Age. Found at Mycenae in 1876 by the distinguished archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, it was one of several gold funeral masks found laid over the faces of the dead buried in the shaft graves of a royal cemetery.

The most detailed and stylistically distinct mask came to be known as the Mask of Agamemnon, named after the famous king of ancient Mycenae whose triumphs and tribulations are celebrated in Homer’s epic poems and in the tragic plays of Euripides.

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