What qualities make a great leader? Is it their ability to lead by example, having respect for others or it is a right, a role inherited such as a king? Whichever it may entail, a leader can make or break a situation. The question remains, did Agamemnon possess the desired virtues to lead thousands of men? His decisions and actions both prior and during the protracted war with the Trojans determined the outcome not only for himself but for many others. A flawed character and perhaps besides Odysseus one that is easily identifiable.
Right from Book 1 in the Iliad, Agamemnon’s personality is revealed through words and actions. He demanded to take what he wanted and it didn’t matter who from. As leader of the entire Greek army he believed it was his right.
Akhilleus speaks to his mother Thetis:
‘Look how wide-ruling Agamemnon son of Atreus has dishonoured me. He took my prize, made off with her in person and now he has her for himself.’
Iliad, Book 1 Lines: 256-259
And he doesn’t stop there. He insults the other kings calling Menestheus, Diomedes and Odysseus cowards; bullies the seer Kalkhas; threatens to take booty from the other kings when he was told to return Chryseis and doesn’t respond very well to well-meaning advice. He also blames Zeus for giving him misleading dreams.
Agamemnon recalls a dream he had after landing on the shores of Troy:
‘[Zeus] tells you to prepare your long-haired Greeks for battle at once. Your chance of capturing the Trojans’ town with its broad streets has come.’
Book 1 Lines: 28-30
Although he comes across as arrogant, bullish and superior, Agamemnon proved he was invested in the war against the Trojans. By sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis, he demonstrated to other kings and the army his dedication and conviction. This inspired the allies to support and fight with fervour. Nevertheless, Agamemnon would later pay for his actions—those leading to the war and during.
Agamemnon wanted the wealth and power Priam and Troy held, how he gained it didn’t matter as long as he did. His brother’s plea for help was a means to attain that goal. Evidence from archaeological digs has found links between Mykenae and Ilios, a trade of goods in gold, pottery, oil and bronze ingots. A ship dating back to the time of the war had been discovered laden with the items mentioned. Bronze, a mixture of copper and tin, forged not only for making pots but also swords, knives, arrowheads and shields.
Was Agamemnon a good leader? Not in my opinion, he didn’t have the hallmarks which showed skills in leading a massive army. He was greedy, egotistical, didn’t listen to the wisdom of others and was quick to argue. He was a product of his time, they all were, but a great leader knows when and how to get the best from his fellow colleagues and employees.