Aeschylus’ “The Oresteia”: Why Agamemnon Seeks Revenge

There are two primary drivers behind Agamemnon’s vendetta against Troy. The first is the personal desire to seek revenge for the insult dealt with by his brother Menelaus. Many men, including Prince Paris, King of Troy, were in line to marry Helen before she settled with Menelaus. Prince Paris was so enamored of Helen that he traveled to Sparta to ask for her hand in marriage but instead kidnapped her. In order to bring justice to Troy, Agamemnon sought vengeance. Therefore, his primary reason for waging war was to restore justice for his brother.

The second motif for his instigation of the Trojan War was the assertion of his leadership position. Agamemnon is described as a person with a lust for war and violence. It implies that he was always interested in dominating Troy. Paris’ kidnapping of Helen served as a pretext for launching a campaign against Troy. On the political landscape, the defeat of Troy would assert Agamemnon’s position, which was his second goal for starting the war.

People of Argos held a primarily negative outlook on Agamemnon. The aftermath of the conflict left many wives as widows. When they realize that the reason for their husband’s death was the return of Helen, they blame Agamemnon and Menelaus. The Chorus, for example, expresses their opposition by saying to the king, “my mind painted an ugly picture of you, I don’t deny it/ …you must have lost all grip/ on your senses, when you dared/ that sacrifice.” As a result, after a decade-long campaign of revenge, Agamemnon achieved negative publicity and discontent among the populace of Argos.

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