Porter, Andrew. 2019. Agamemnon, the Pathetic Despot: Reading Characterization in Homer. Hellenic Studies Series 78. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_PorterA.Agamemnon_the_Pathetic_Despot.2019.
3. The Characterization of Agamemnon in the Odyssey
3.2.1 Agamemnon’s Nostos and the Oresteia: 1.30–43
3.2.2 Agamemnon Taken by a “Ruse Strategist”: 1.299–300
3.2.3 Nestor’s Stories of Quarrel, Nostoi, and Oresteia: 3.136–310
3.2.4 Menelaos’ Delay and Agamemnon’s Death: 4.90–92
was wandering, meanwhile another man killed my brother
by stealth, unexpectedly, by the ruse of his destructive wife.
εἷος ἐγὼ περὶ κεῖνα πολὺν βίοτον ξυναγείρων
ἠλώμην, τεῖός μοι ἀδελφεὸν ἄλλος ἔπεφνε
λάθρῃ, ἀνωϊστί, δόλῳ οὐλομένης ἀλόχοιο.
Menelaos’ story emphasizes that the death of Agamemnon involved “another man” (ἄλλος) who goes unnamed but who is clearly assumed to be known to the audience, while the “ruse” (δόλος) is made possible through Agamemnon’s “destructive wife” (οὐλομένη ἄλοχος). Agamemnon is killed “by stealth” (λάθρῃ), in circumstances where he was not personally expecting—“unexpectedly” (ἀνωϊστί)—what came. Reading this traditional word is difficult. Its only other occurrence is in Iliad 21.39. There the poet tells us that Achilles comes upon Lykaon, a young son of Priam and Laothöe, whom we considered earlier in relation to the formula “slaughter and baleful fate” (θάνατόν τε κακὸν καὶ κῆρα μέλαιναν). As we saw, Achilles had ransomed Lykaon the last time he caught him (but twelve days earlier), after Achilles had captured him on a night foray. The poet even provides details of that prior event. Achilles had surprised Lykaon as he was cutting fig branches for chariot rails from his father’s orchard (35–38). He captured the unwary youth and then sold him into oppressive slavery from which he had only recently escaped. At the base of the rare descriptive word “unexpectedly” (ἀνωϊστί) is “expect” (οἴομαι), a verb that stresses a rather more personal note of reflection or thoughtfulness, which, in both Lykaon’s and Agamemnon’s cases, was clearly absent.  Agamemnon “did not expect, feel, or personally think”  that such a situation would arise. This adds one more example, however passing, to the many other instances of Agamemnon’s thoughtlessness. Further, while Lykaon was given a short respite from his fate, on his second meeting, as we noted, Achilles did not hesitate to take his life. Agamemnon was not even this lucky, and lost his life through a lack of caution the first time around.
3.2.5 Proteus’ Account of Agamemnon’s Death: 4.512–537
The singer of Siri epic was not fully aware of the topography of his song lyrics. Yet, as Danek (1998:117) notes, simply appealing to Homer’s lack of geography should “nur ein letzter Ausweg sein,” at least as the major motivating factor. The appeal to geographical inaccuracy, in fact, misses the point. Rather, more central for our consideration of the Homeric singer’s mental topography is the meaning of the formulaic element “sheer mountain” (ὄρος αἰπύ) to the poet and his audience. An analysis of this noun-epithet combination shows that it is a traditional element in Homer’s repertoire, occurring in both the Iliad and Odyssey. It is a traditional way “mountain” (ὄρος) is indexed as a formulaic part of the last hemistich of a line with a preceding genitive of the mountain’s name. 
then indeed a storm wind, having snatched him up,
bore him upon the fishy sea, deeply groaning,
to the outskirts of the land, where Thyestes lived in his abode,
before, but then Aigisthos son of Thyestes lived [there].
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τάχ’ ἔμελλε Μαλειάων ὄρος αἰπὺ
ἵξεσθαι, τότε δή μιν ἀναρπάξασα θύελλα
πόντον ἐπ’ ἰχθυόεντα φέρεν βαρέα στενάχοντα,
ἀγροῦ ἐπ’ ἐσχατιήν, ὅθι δώματα ναῖε Θυέστης
τὸ πρίν, ἀτὰρ τότ’ ἔναιε Θυεστιάδης Αἴγισθος.
Although the order, textual history, and geographical particularities of these verses are problematic, they nevertheless contain a very important narrative element. For it seems that Homer wishes us to see Aigisthos as living near Agamemnon within the kingdom of the son of Atreus and in his father’s palace. This appears to be the case, no matter if “near” is still, in real world terms, fairly far away by land. It was near enough, thanks to the gale (θύελλα, 515).
3.2.6 Agamemnon’s Joy: 8.75–82
with vehement words, but the ruler of men Agamemnon
was rejoicing in his mind, because the best of the Achaians were contending.
ὥς ποτε δηρίσαντο θεῶν ἐν δαιτὶ θαλείῃ
ἐκπάγλοισ’ ἐπέεσσιν, ἄναξ δ’ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
χαῖρε νόῳ, ὅ τ’ ἄριστοι Ἀχαιῶν δηριόωντο.
in sacred Pytho, when he had stepped over the stone threshold
to make consultation. For then next the start of the harm was rolling along,
for both Trojans and Danaans, by the plans of great Zeus.
ὣς γάρ οἱ χρείων μυθήσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
Πυθοῖ ἐν ἠγαθέῃ, ὅθ’ ὑπέρβη λάϊνον οὐδὸν
χρησόμενος. τότε γάρ ῥα κυλίνδετο πήματος ἀρχὴ
Τρωσί τε καὶ Δαναοῖσι Διὸς μεγάλου διὰ βουλάς.
3.2.7 The People of Agamemnon of the Greatest Fame: 9.263–266
of whom indeed now greatest under heaven is his fame;
For so great a city he sacked and destroyed a people
λαοὶ δ’ Ἀτρεΐδεω Ἀγαμέμνονος εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι,
τοῦ δὴ νῦν γε μέγιστον ὑπουράνιον κλέος ἐστί·
τόσσην γὰρ διέπερσε πόλιν καὶ ἀπώλεσε λαοὺς
3.2.8 The Nekuia: 11.380–466
Or you with the ships, did Poseidon subdue,
having stirred up for grievous winds a miserable blowing?
Or you did hostile men injure on dry land,
cutting out cattle and beautiful flocks of sheep
or for [some] city fighting and for [its] wives?
τίς νύ σε κὴρ ἐδάμασσε τανηλεγέος θανάτοιο;
ἠέ σέ γ’ ἐν νήεσσι Ποσειδάων ἐδάμασσεν
ὄρσας ἀργαλέων ἀνέμων ἀμέγαρτον ἀϋτμήν;
ἦέ σ’ ἀνάρσιοι ἄνδρες ἐδηλήσαντ’ ἐπὶ χέρσου
βοῦς περιταμνόμενον ἠδ’ οἰῶν πώεα καλὰ
ἠὲ περὶ πτόλιος μαχεούμενον ἠδὲ γυναικῶν;
There may be in this extended rhetorical question, with its mention of “wives” (γυναικῶν), a thought bridge for the poet in his composition, as I will suggest shortly. The lines are also subtly suggestive in another way. They enumerate the traditional manner in which heroic men die (nor is piracy a dishonorable venture when it involves pillaging the enemy).  Moreover, Agamemnon’s response by priamel denies each of the possibilities in order (11.405–408):
not me in the ships did Poseidon subdue
having stirred up for grievous winds a miserable blowing,
nor me did hostile men injure on dry land,
διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν’ Ὀδυσσεῦ,
οὔτ’ ἐμέ γ’ ἐν νήεσσι Ποσειδάων ἐδάμασσεν
ὄρσας ἀργαλέων ἀνέμων ἀμέγαρτον ἀϋτμήν,
οὔτε μ’ ἀνάρσιοι ἄνδρες ἐδηλήσαντ’ ἐπὶ χέρσου,
killed [me] with [the help of my] destructive wife, having called me toward the oikos,
having fed [me] a meal, as someone kills an ox at a trough.
ἀλλά μοι Αἴγισθος τεύξας θάνατόν τε μόρον τε
ἔκτα σὺν οὐλομένῃ ἀλόχῳ οἶκόνδε καλέσσας,
δειπνίσσας, ὥς τίς τε κατέκτανε βοῦν ἐπὶ φάτνῃ.
3.2.9 Avoiding Agamemnon’s Nostos: 13.383–385
evil fate I was expecting  to perish in the palace,
if to me, you, each of these things, goddess, had not spoken in due measure.
ὢ πόποι, ἦ μάλα δὴ Ἀγαμέμνονος Ἀτρεΐδαο
φθείσεσθαι κακὸν οἶτον ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἔμελλον,
εἰ μή μοι σὺ ἕκαστα, θεά, κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες.
3.2.10 Agamemnon as Paramount Basileus: 14.70–71, 117, 497
3.2.11 Nekuia Deutera: Odyssey 24.19–97
among all men, [your] fame will be noble, Achilles.
Yet for me in fact, what delight [is there], after I have carried through the war?
For on [my] return, for me Zeus devised lamentable destruction
by the hand of Aigisthos and [my] destructive wife.
ὣς σὺ μὲν οὐδὲ θανὼν ὄνομ’ ὤλεσας, ἀλλά τοι αἰεὶ
πάντας ἐπ’ ἀνθρώπους κλέος ἔσσεται ἐσθλόν, Ἀχιλλεῦ·
αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ τί τόδ’ ἦδος, ἐπεὶ πόλεμον τολύπευσα;
ἐν νόστῳ γάρ μοι Ζεὺς μήσατο λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον
Αἰγίσθου ὑπὸ χερσὶ καὶ οὐλομένης ἀλόχοιο.
The placement of “certainly” (μέν) after “you” (σύ, 93) is meant to emphasize the pronoun that precedes it (Denniston 1950:360, s.v. 2). Taken together with the following strongly adversative expression, “Yet for me in fact” (αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ, 95)—“Yet in fact” (αὐτάρ) taking the place of “but” (δέ)—the ensuing contrast between Achilles and Agamemnon is given a greater level of focus for Homer’s hearers (Denniston 1950:55). Further, Agamemnon blames Zeus for his destruction. This is caused in part by the character’s limited narrative perspective, but it may also point to Agamemnon’s traditional character that includes a habitual unwillingness to face his own errors.