The Iliad Book 10–13
Rating Agamemnon’s decisions
1. Agamemnon’s decision in which is seen early on in the Iliad is probably one of the most vital to the entire poem. Agamemnon decides to take Achilles’ female conquest, Breseis, in returning his lady, Chryseis. I feel as though this was a decision made poorly as a leader. He let his pride deface his reltionship with his greatest warrior. Instead of simply returning Chryseis to her father, he decided it would be best for Achilles to sacrifice something he enjoys for a man of his position. Agamemnon abused his power as he often does throught the rest of the poem. I rate this decision a three out of ten because it was purely based on pride and ego however I did not give it a one because almost any man in his position would have done the same thing.
2. Agamemnon’s decision to go to war was another mildly poor decision but for differing reasons than pride. Agamemnon declaring war with the Trojan’s was a result of the taking of his sister-in-law, Helen. Helen being with Paris out of her full will and control would of course cause Menelaus, Agamemnon’s brother, great anger. A more natural and realistic response would have been for Menelaus to engage in some sort of duel with Paris or try and retrieve her himself. But in a fit of rage and backlash, he caused a war spanning over ten years. If nothing else, the Greeks can be surely recognized for being overly dramatic in valuing their vanity and ego. Agamemnon leading his people in battle for his brother would seem more honorable had the cause be more worthy. For example, maybe someone had captured and slaughtered close family members or had bothered a large portion of the territory in which he ruled over. Nope, he allowed for a vast amount of Achaean citizens to die in battle for a cause they probably didn’t even understand or see fit to truly be apart of. I think the phrase, “choosing your battles” would have been of great assisstance for King Agamemnon. I rate this decision a four out of ten.
My reasoning behind this score was because I understand the vaue of loyalty and family dignity for the Greeks. This would appear to be a general human trait to weigh loyalty so heavily. For Agamemnon, the taking of his brother’s wife would be a close equivalent to the taking of his wife. It is almost as if to be looked upon as weak and unmanly to allow this to happen to one’s brother, especially as a king. Another great degree of the situation was that Helen was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. She was seen less as a phenomenal woman and more as a prize or trophy to be shown off. Therefore is someone takes a highly esteemed trophy that is in your family possession, it would be outrageous to not try at any risk to get it back. This would then bring a greater sense of satisfaction in being received as hero for bringing back something so precious. In light of him being a man who values honor I could see Agamemnon’s reasoning but as a king it falls short of the best decision to be remembered by.
3. Another decision Agamemnon made that arguably could be one of the more trivial actions he’s made is the attempt at persuading Achilles to come back and fight to help the Achaean side from facing a treacherous defeat. He sends Ajax, Phoenix and Odyseuss to relay the message of all the things Achilles will be rewarded for rejoining the fight. This includes Agamemnon plans to give Achilles Briseis back unharmed, lots of plunder from Troy, seven captive women, seven cities to rule and marriage with one of Agamemnon’s daughters along with other things that would be pleasing to any man of the time’s imagination. However his promises of gifts for Achilles is laced with obvious manipulative intent. Of course he wants Achilles to come back but instead of being sincere about the situation and going to Achilles instead, he sends other men to do his dirty work. Although the men sent were decent soldiers who Achilles wouldn’t be enraged at seeing, it still showed a cowardly nature.
Achilles would have respected his upright apology and visitation far greater than what he received. I rate this decision a six out of ten. I give it his rating for the simple fact of bribery tends to work on many people and I could see why Agamemnon would think it would work an Achilles. Achilles is a warrior who holds a high temper as seen in book one where he almost killed Agamemnon in a fit of rage for Breseis. Manipulation and bribery tend to have an effect on people who are short tempered and very quick to make rash decisions without considering the long-term effects. As a leader it is very key to know the personalities and overall vibe of your highest ranked soldiers and those you put in charge under you. However even though it might have worked for most people, most people do not have the fate of either living a short life and being great or living a long life without glory. Agamemnon did the best he believed he could do and sometimes as a leader all your calls don’t go exactly as planned, especially in his case where Achilles decided not to return to battle.
4. Quite literally the only decision Agamemnon has made throughout the poem thus far in which I would regard as decent thinking for a leader is his decision to agree with Nestor in infiltrating the Trojan line in order to get more information on any secrets the Trojans may have hiding up their sleeve. In doing so he attained vital information on the Thracian King Rhesos and his army of men aiding as an ally of the Trojans. Diomedes and Odyseuss have served their leader well in getting this key information as well as massacring the supposed allies. This decision would rank an nine out of ten in my book. The only reason it did not receive a full 10 was that I wish Agamemnon has thought up the idea himself rather than being advises by Nestor. Although a great must recognize that all his strength does not come from solely within himself.
5. The 5th major decision that Agamemnon made in which I stand with wholeheartedly is when he is fighting first-hand on the battlefield during book 11. I appreciate Agamemnon’s ability to put himself in serious danger as well as the danger of his people and kingship in order to put in the physical work of fighting the enemy. Although he was wounded and could not endure for as long as he might have hoped it showed less of his cowardly nature and more strength. I can honestly say i’d rate this decision a solid nine point nine out of ten. For me, the missing tenth of a point was because I don’t feel as though any leader has or can ever make a perfect decision. Even given the admirable characteristic in which Agamemnon seems to robe into, he put a great risk of completely loosing the war at the hand of one fatal injury.
Comparing Book 5 Diomedes to Agamemnon
For starters I believe that Agamemnon appeared very heroic in dealing battle. It is not common for a leader to involve himself in battle firsthand for fear of loosing his life in seeing himself as more valuable than the average soldier or even the mightiest. It is as if to say he or she is the brains of the operation. However Agamemnon proves himself to be much more than that.
In the defense of Diomedes he also exhibits another characteristic in which I would personally consider very heroic. While Achilles is off denying his responsibilities of being the greatest warrior fighting the Achaeans, Diomedes steps up to plate and proves himself to be a worthy competitor for the same title. When faced with a vast majority of adversity on the opposing side, he manages to literally cut them down. He goes ransacking through the trojan army. To his avail he causes a whirlwind of hurt by demeanor as a true warrior.
Overall both men are due their respect in the feat of truly fighting for their army and being a man who causes great fear.
gods who have participated in the war
the Trojan side
-Apollo (Heavily protects Hector and aides in support of the Trojans due to Chryses being a priest of him and praying to him trying to get his daughter Chryseis back in which Apollo then sends a plague on the Greek camp causing great suffering)
-Aphrodite( protects many warriors especially Paris. This is because he declared her the fairest in the Judgement of Paris after offering him Helen, the “world’s most beautiful woman”)
-Ares ( The god of war that comes to rescue of the Trojans at the call of Apollo)
-Zeus( he uses the “fair” concept of fate and weighing each side in order to apply his influence to the war, however he is sometimes susceptible to sacrifice, honor and prayer in his name)
The Greek Side
-Athena ( is mostly influenced by Hera in her loss to Aphrodite in being declared the fairest. She often helps the warriors such as Achilles and Diomedes in giving them special tools and decision making skills in regards to advancing in the war. Being that she is the goddess of wisdom it didn’t hurt to have her assistance.)
-Hera ( she was bitter against Paris ,a Prince of Troy, for not choosing her as the fairest amongst Aphrodite, Athena and herself. Her ever-present grudge feeds into to long nature of the war with her constant interferences)
-Thetis ( She is the mother of Achilles and helps him make decisions when considering of staying the war when his fate is brought into question. She helps him rationalize his options)
-Poseidon( The god of the seas takes pity on Aenaus, the cousin of Hector, and saves him from death at the attack of Achilles, although he does favor the greeks)
-Zeus (same as prior reasononing)