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I'm trying to write a paper with a thesis to the effect that Odysseus and Agamemnon exemplify two opposing models of kingship - that they demonstrate that a naked lust for power and glory is detrimental, while a modest love for the wisdom and domesticity is beneficial.

I am trying to come up with points.

Thus, I am brainstorming when I present:


1. Ask for a poll on whether we should call ourselves Akhaians/Acheans/Achaeans, Argives, Danaans, or just Greeks.
Honestly, people. Come up with a name. Ahem. Okay, that had nothing to do with my paper, but it had to be said.

2. When forced to choose between my child's life and my heart's desire, I will choose my child's life.
Agamemnon wanted to defeat Troy, and he wanted it badly. He needed the glory of being king of kings, ringleader of the Greeks. So it was embarrassing when the thousand ships wound up stuck at Aulis with a contrary wind. He refused to turn around and go home. The prophet Calchas sought a way to make the gods help them out, and divined that if they made a human sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter, Iphigenia, the gods would make a favorable wind. Agamemnon wielded the knife himself. Enemies created: the goddess Artemis, his wife Clytemnestra. Friends created: ...

Odysseus figured staying home was better than going to war, especially since (in at least one version) he knew it would be a long time before he came home, and that in poverty and loneliness. So he faked insanity, plowing the sand and sowing salt. One guy guessed Odysseus wasn't crazy and threw his baby Telemachus in front of the plow. Odysseus immediately conceded. Enemies created: none, really. Allies created: Telemachus. Very useful in that lonesome homecoming.

3. If I am unfaithful to my spouse, I will be discreet and maintain at least plausible deniability that I can't help it.
Agamemnon goes after Chryseis at Troy until a plague forces him to return her to her father. Then he causes a huge rift in the Greek army when he takes Briseis from Achilles to make up for it. Then he brings home the Trojan princess Cassandra for a concubine and has his wife escort her in. Enemies made: Clytemnestra, again. She makes up for it by sleeping all around town with her husband's sleazy cousin. Friends created: Arguably, Cassandra, but not much.

Odysseus has no dalliances at Troy worth noting, and sleeps only with immortal goddesses on the way home who found him inexplicably irresistible and held him captive, honestly, it's impossible to get these all-powerful nymphs to let a guy go... Friends made: Circe and Calypso, if he wasn't lying when he told the story to his wife. Which he might have been, the sly dog. Also Nausicaa fell for him a bit, but that princess didn't do anything with him supposedly - she also got her father Alkinoƶs' invaluable help for Odysseus' homeward journey. Enemies made: None.

4. I will listen when my people try to hint that something may be wrong.
Both heroes got hints as subtle as anvils that all was not well at home. Agamemnon vaguely worried that something might be off. Odysseus immediately went into deep cover. Agamemnon died. Odysseus killed his enemies. Agamemnon's kingdom is ruled by a half-maniacal sex queen and her idiot lover for eight years. Odysseus' kingdom finally begins to prosper.

5. I will incur the favor of a goddess.
Really, this might be cheating, but I was thinking about this. Odysseus wants wisdom, so he courts Athena and has such an excellent relationship with her that I'm sure she regretted her vow of chastity. Agamemnon wants power and glory, so he ought to court Hera. Ooh, she was the patron goddess of his city too! Unfortunately, Hera wouldn't like his treatment of marriage nor his relationship to Zeus. No god would appreciate the fact that Agamemnon accepted a divine accolade upon returning home (the gods abandon him for using a red carpet. Does that mean Hollywood is doomed in the next big thunderstorm?). And this leads us to...

6. I will avoid offending any gods.
Both Agamemnon and Odysseus fail this test. Agamemnon offends just about every member of the pantheon when he can. Odysseus blinds Poseidon's son, then yells back his name, address, phone number, and social security number (across the ocean, Poseidon's kingdom, no less) to let that son know, with love and kisses, who blinded him and how he could be reached. Agamemnon dies. Odysseus wanders the sea for another ten years, largely because Poseidon gets Odysseus' men to offend the sun god Helios as well. Odysseus gets home only because Athena calls a last-minute council behind Poseidon's back when he's out of town.

Okay, that has almost nothing to do with kingship. Umm... the land suffers without a king. Right. We can use that. The king has to be virtuous enough to hold the land.

7. I will seek and heed advice.
Agamemnon has to be bullied into everything that helps his cause. Odysseus only has to be told. Granted, in the Underworld he's told by Agamemnon that "Hey, my wife and lover killed me - you might want to watch out for that kind of thing." But still, even at Troy Agamemnon claimed leadership but ended up doing what his councilors forced him to do.

8. I will make friends and influence people.
See above, really. And below:

9. I will recognize when I am about to create an irreparable breach with my people - and I will step back from it.
Odysseus could have tried to force his men to be smarter than they were, but he knew when he was pushing it too much and let them have enough rope to hang themselves. Agamemnon did not, and ultimately lost his best warrior until factors outside his control brought him back.

10. I will step forward to lead my people against my enemies, thus using subtle self-promotion.
Really, Odysseus made life hard for himself here. His people liked him, but didn't appreciate him because he kept his hands light on the reins. Agamemnon capitalized on any opportunity to advance against the foe. He got much better short-term PR at very little cost.

11. I will tell the truth when necessary. I will lie when necessary. I will amuse myself practicing either when neither is necessary.
Aside from the self-promotion moment mentioned above, Odysseus is really good at knowing when to open his mouth and when to shut it, and is a most creative liar. Apparently he keeps in practice by lying even when unnecessary.

12. I will marry my equal - and I will treat her well.
Odysseus wouldn't have had a home to come to if Penelope hadn't been just as clever in defending her home as he was in coming back to it. Agamemnon wouldn't have had a home, either, and it would have been safe if he'd respected his wife and children. Perhaps I should simplify to I will keep my house in order.

13. I will pick a name that has good connotations.
Sounding like "odd, he sees us!" hints that I will be observant. (Forget that the Greek means "man of sorrows!") Sounding like "armageddon" hints at a bad end.


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