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Agamemnon in the Iliad: Character Analysis

Pride, ego, high self-esteem are all harbingers of dissatisfaction and clashes. In the classic Iliad by Homer, Agamemnon is shown to be a person with a high of all of these. He has to give up his prized possession, a girl whom he won when the city of Priam was conquered since the god Apollo is angry with the Agamemnon who refused to take the ransom from the girl’s father. Rather than listening to the words of the father carefully and heeding them, Agamemnon rudely sent him away. So it happens that the father of the girl was a priest to the god Apollo, and he prayed to the god to free his daughter from Agamemnon so that he can once again be happy. Apollo heard the prayers of the priest and came down in anger upon Agamemnon men, the Achaeans, and started wreaking havoc on them. To stop the casualties of his people, Agamemnon has to give up his prize so that the suffering of his fellow men would cease.

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Agamemnon is full of rage and pride that he being such a strong commander of armies and nations, has to give up his possession to save himself. In his anger, Agamemnon has a huge quarrel with his brother in arms, Achilles, which ends up with both men exchanging strong words and threats that would mar their friendship in the times to come. Agamemnon wanted a new prize in exchange for the prize that he has to give up, however upon hearing that no such a prize could be arranged, he becomes angrier and even threatens Achilles that he would take Achilles’ prize away from him.

This behavior of Agamemnon is known as ‘Hubris’ meaning an “overbearing pride or presumption or arrogance” (The Free Dictionary, 2009). The behavior was just like a proud king who refuses to let go of what he considers as his belongings and tries to humiliate whoever comes in between them. In this case, Agamemnon was not ready to give up his prize and when Achilles tried to explain that Agamemnon must let go of the prize, Agamemnon became furious and humiliated Achilles until the point when a battle between the two was almost imminent.

Even after the humiliation, Agamemnon’s thirst and anger over Achilles had still not subsided so in vengeance he chose Achilles’ prize that would replace his prize. The only reason why Agamemnon did such a deed was to disgrace Achilles even further. Agamemnon’s huge pride was damaged when he was asked to vanquish his prize; therefore he wanted revenge for the prize he has lost and tried to recover his pride by showing how strong he is by taking away another strong warrior’s prize.

The quarrel was indeed initiated by the thought of giving up a woman, but in truth, the heart of the quarrel lies in the pride of both men, and not in the force of giving up a prize. Agamemnon was too proud to let go of his belonging even though the priest was ready to give a ransom for his daughter. Achilles tried to talk sense into Agamemnon, but in anger, Agamemnon argued with Achilles and tried to impose upon Achilles that he was a bigger and a stronger man.

Works Cited

Homer. Translated by Samuel Butler. The Iliad. Web.

The Free Dictionary. Hubris. Farlex. Web.

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