What are Menelaus and Agamemnon fighting about after the war in Book 3?

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jane-jacobson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Nestor, in Book 3 of the Odyssey, Athena stirs up the quarrel between the two brothers, Menelaus and Agamemnon. “Athena set them feuding, Atreus’ two sons” (Book 3:153) Her anger at the Greeks stems from an incident before the fall of Troy.  A Greek warrior tries to rape Cassandra, King Priam’s daughter, who is hiding in a temple of Athena’s.  When the Greeks do not punish this misdeed, Athena dooms them to a long, difficult journey home from Troy. 

The brother’s first disagree about the best way to set sail for home.  Menelaus argues that the ships should leave without delay; Agamemnon counsels that the troops first should offer sacrifices to appease Athena’s wrath.  The goddess provokes their argument to the point that it fuels a fight between the ranks of soldiers who follow each brother.

At dawn, the men following Menelaus sail away while the men following Agamemnon hold back, camped on the beach.  Neither plan pleases Athena.  She will make sure that both sides suffer hardships and misfortunes along the way.