While Book 1 of the Iliad establishes the epic’s enveloping action as the conflict between the Achaean (the Greeks) and the Trojans, it documents yet another agon: The disagreement between Agamemnon, the leader of the entire Achaean army, and Achilles, the Achaeans’ most important general and greatest warrior. According to ancient Greek values, as well as the ancient Greek cosmology, Agamemnon is at fault because he violates the citizen-king bond, fails to demonstrate the concept of “heart”, and exhibits hubris; the one truly unforgivable “sin”.
These three faults are shown coinciding with one another, as well as separately throughout the epic. The first time that Homer brings attention to these violations is at the beginning of Book 1: “… Incensed at the king / he swept a fatal plague through the army -- men were dying / and all because Agamemnon spurned Apollo’s priest” (1.10-12). This quote gives a taste of all three of the aforementioned misdeeds that Agamemnon commits. Agamemnon scoffing at one of Apollo’s priests shows extreme and undeniable hubris. The fact that men are dying as a result brings in the other two misdemeanors. As King, Agamemnon has a responsibility to protect his men through the citizen-king bond. He is violating that, to an extreme degree, by letting men die because of his hubris and his lack of “heart”. The term “heart”, as defined by the ancient Greeks, holds two meanings: courage and compassion. By allowing men to die on behalf of his mistakes is not only proof that Agamemnon is a coward, but also that he lacks the deep concern for others’ well being. Compassion is a strongly esteemed trait among Greeks, but is a required trait in a king. Having a lack of compassion for one’s men stands alone as a violation of the citizen-king bond.
Emphasizing Agamemnon’s rage, Homer recounts that, “… among them rose / the fighting son of Atreus, lord of the far-flung kingdoms, / Agamemnon -- furious, his dark heart filled to the brim, / blazing...
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