One is a bully and a warrior, the other is a lover and a thinker.
In ”The Iliad,” the two most important men of the Trojan War are as different as can be, and they’re heading right into conflict – with each other.
Agamemnon: Family ; Loyalty
A king vs. a hero, a bully vs.
a thinker, a warrior vs. a lover. These describe the two most important and very different Achaean heroes, Agamemnon and Achilles, in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad. This lesson focuses on the relationship and differences between the two.Agamemnon is a powerful king of the Achaeans, and he’s also powerful through family and marriage. His younger brother is Menelaus of Sparta, who won the hand of Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful woman ever. Helen falls in love with the Trojan prince Paris and runs away with him.
So Agamemnon, who commands considerable power, gets his ships together and sails for the city of Troy. The ensuing Trojan War lasts 10 years but ends in victory for Agamemnon and Menelaus.Agamemnon marries Clytemnestra, Helen’s twin sister. Together, they have four children. When he cannot get a favorable wind to sail for Troy, Agamemnon sacrifices his eldest daughter, Iphigenia.
Achilles: Divine Origins
Achilles is the son of the sea goddess, Thetis, and her mortal husband, Peleus. Though he is still a human, Achilles is stronger than many. He is the leader of the Myrmidons.Achilles has a childhood friend named Patroclus, who has come to war with him. Earlier in the war, before the start of the events in The Iliad, Achilles captured a princess named Briseis.
The two have fallen in love, and Briseis imagines they will be married upon his return to his home of Phthia.Achilles has a strange fate hanging over him. He has two choices: fight in the Trojan War and become a hero but die young or stay out of the war and live a long life but win no glory.
Achilles chooses the former.In short, Achilles is a very different type of man and leader than the older Agamemnon. The differences in their personalities and leadership play a huge role in the conflict between them.
Fighting over Briseis
Though they’re the leaders of different tribes, both Achilles and Agamemnon are Achaeans. This means that they are both commanders of large groups of men, though Agamemnon is superior in rank and brings them into direct conflict with each other.Problems between Agamemnon and Achilles start right around the same time as the events in The Iliad. Agamemnon has captured Chryseis a daughter of Chryses, a priest of the sun god Apollo.
Chryses demands the return of his daughter and is met with derision and mockery from Agamemnon. Apollo, angry at this treatment, decides to send a plague into the Achaean camp.Agamemnon doesn’t act, so Achilles calls a meeting of the Achaean commanders. When the soothsayer says that the only way to end the plague is to return Chryseis, Agamemnon tells the assembled captains that he’ll take one of their concubines if they make him return Chryseis.
Achilles tells him that this is a terrible idea, so Agamemnon shouts back that he’ll take Achilles’ Briseis. Enraged, Achilles withdraws from the fighting the moment they take Briseis from his tents.
War Without Achilles ; Reconciliation
Achilles turns to Patroclus for advice and comfort. The war, without Achilles or his Myrmidons in it, goes badly. A Trojan victory seems certain. Achilles asks his mother to help the Trojans and prepares to leave.
Many men, including Agamemnon’s councilor, Nestor, and Patroclus, try to convince Achilles to fight, since it’s clear they won’t win without him.Finally, Patroclus puts on Achilles’ armor and leads his men into battle. Patroclus is killed by the Trojan prince Hector, who then takes off the armor and realizes his mistake. Achilles, upon hearing of his companion’s death, is distraught. He again talks to his mother, who tells him that if he kills Hector, Achilles will die soon after.Achilles decides he’d rather die a hero than let Patroclus go unavenged. So, his mother promises to have the blacksmith god make him new armor.
Achilles also makes amends with Agamemnon and Briseis is returned. Agamemnon promises that he did not touch her.Achilles returns to the war, and it is clear that his presence has turned the tide in the favor of the Achaeans. He kills the Trojan prince Hector and drags his body through camp behind his chariot. That night, Patroclus comes to Achilles as a ghost in his dream. He begs Achilles to let his body be buried and Achilles agrees.
At the funeral games for Patroclus, Achilles stops the spear throwing contest before it begins. He awards the prize to Agamemnon, saying there is no better warrior.
Differences Between Agamemnon ; Achilles
As noted earlier, Agamemnon and Achilles are quite different. While Agamemnon uses his family to get what he needs, Achilles reveres his mother and listens to her advice. Agamemnon is a king who doesn’t want to lead, and Achilles helps rally the Achaean troops and figure out what is causing the plague. Agamemnon uses his power to push other people around and does not think of the consequences.
Achilles, on the other hand, thinks carefully before he makes his decisions…at least, at the beginning of The Iliad.
But, both men are ruled sometimes by anger and passion. When Agamemnon learns he must give back Chryseis, he lashes out at Achilles and steals his lover. And Achilles, when he learns his closest companion has been killed, acts without thinking and rushes into battle.
Agamemnon and Achilles come from different backgrounds, but the war in Troy brings them together. Their different abilities and personalities lead to conflict between them.
When Agamemnon must give up his concubine Chryseis, he lashes out and takes Achilles’ lover Briseis. In retaliation, Achilles withdraws from the war.Without Achilles, Agamemnon is losing. It isn’t until Achilles’ companion and best friend Patroclus is killed that Achilles rejoins the Trojan War. And Agamemnon, realizing that Achilles is needed, returns Briseis to him. Achilles takes the final step in mending their quarrel by declaring Agamemnon the best of all warriors and awarding him the prize at the funeral games held for Patroclus.