From book 1 of the Iliad, what impression do you get regarding the character of Agamemnon?

From book 1 of the Iliad, the impression that we get regarding the character of Agamemnon is that he’s stubborn, arrogant, and incompetent. Agamemnon makes a huge mistake in taking Achilles’s war trophy, which acts as a catalyst for Achilles’s wrath and causes serious reverses for the Greeks in their war against the Trojans.

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In book 1 of the Iliad Agamemnon comes across as vain, stubborn, arrogant, and totally incompetent. As king of Mycenae and commander-in-chief of the Argive forces, Agamemnon feels that he has the right to take the lion’s share of booty and glory, even if he personally did much less fighting that warriors such as Achilles.

Such overbearing arrogance would be hard enough to take at the best of times, but especially when it has serious consequences for the Greeks in their epic war against the Trojans. Agamemnon’s arrogance is such that he doesn’t think twice about grabbing Chryseis as his sex slave, even though the young lady’s father is a priest of Apollo. Chryseis’s father Chryses offers Agamemnon a substantial amount of treasure in order to get his daughter back, but the stubborn, haughty Agamemnon won’t play ball, with damaging consequences for his men.

Chryses prays to Apollo for help. The god duly responds by sending down a terrible plague on the Achaeans. The plague will only lift if Agamemnon agrees to give Chryseis back to her father, which he duly does. But then Agamemnon’s arrogance gets the better of him once more. By way of compensation for Chryseis, he appropriates Achilles’s war trophy, Briseis. This fateful decision acts as a catalyst for the wrath of Achilles, who’s angered at what he perceives as an outrageous insult to his honor and dignity.

Achilles duly storms off to his tent, where he broods on Agamemnon’s insult. Without their finest warrior, the Greeks end up suffering severe reversals in their war against the Trojans. If anyone’s responsible for this, it’s Agamemnon. His stubbornness, arrogance, and incompetence in handling his best soldier have led directly to the death of so many of his men on the field of battle.

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In book 1 of the Iliad, Agamemnon comes off as a proud, antagonistic man. The central conflict of this section is between Agamemnon and Achilles as they fight over the possession of Briseis, a captured woman whom both men want to take as a spoil of war. Agamemnon loses his own captive, Chryseis, when the god Apollo answers her prayer to be rescued from a fate worse than death at her captor's hands and sends a plague upon the camp that can only be lifted once Chryseis is returned to her father. Agamemnon is willing to do so for the good of the camp, but he is also strongly motivated by masculine pride, so he demands that he be given Briseis, even though Achilles claimed her first.

This masculine pride is what causes the antagonism between Agamemnon and Achilles. Both men are proud, and neither wishes to yield, since such action would suggest a lack of manliness. However, Agamemnon gets his way, and Achilles is forced to give up Briseis. Agamemnon gives the impression that for all his power as a man of war, he lacks the humility needed of a leader. This pride causes conflict within his own ranks and leads to trouble further down the line.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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