Roulette Checkmate


Clytemnestra (Κλυταιμήστρην) was the daughter of King Tyndareus of Sparta and his wife Leda. She was thus the sister of Helen of Troy and Castor and Pollux. She eventually became the wife of Agamemnon, the ruler of Mycenae and the leading general of the Achaeans during the Trojan War. Her name is also spelled ‘Clytaemestra’

She is mentioned just once in the Iliad of Homer: Agamemnon states in Book I “the daughter of Chryses. I have set my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I love her better even than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she is alike in form and feature, in understanding and accomplishments.”

Clytemnestra, the Queen of Mycenae

In the Odyssey there is more: Nestor explains to Telemachus “…but we were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and Aegisthus who was taking his ease quietly in the heart of Argos, cajoled Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.” (Book III)

Later, when Odysseus visits the house of the dead Agamemnon reveals what happened to him:” ‘Ulysses,’ he answered, ‘noble son of Laertes, was not lost at sea in any storm of Neptune’s raising, nor did my foes dispatch me upon the mainland, but Aegisthus and my wicked wife were the death of me between them. He asked me to his house, feasted me, and then butchered me most miserably as though I were a fat beast in a slaughter house, while all around me my comrades were slain like sheep or pigs for the wedding breakfast, or picnic, or gorgeous banquet of some great nobleman. You must have seen numbers of men killed either in a general engagement, or in single combat, but you never saw anything so truly pitiable as the way in which we fell in that cloister, with the mixing-bowl and the loaded tables lying all about, and the ground reeking with our-blood. I heard Priam’s daughter Cassandra scream as Clytemnestra killed her close beside me. I lay dying upon the earth with the sword in my body, and raised my hands to kill the slut of a murderess, but she slipped away from me; she would not even close my lips nor my eyes when I was dying, for there is nothing in this world so cruel and so shameless as a woman when she has fallen into such guilt as hers was. Fancy murdering her own husband! I thought I was going to be welcomed home by my children and my servants, but her abominable crime has brought disgrace on herself and all women who shall come after- even on the good ones.’

“And I said, ‘In truth Jove has hated the house of Atreus from first to last in the matter of their women’s counsels. See how many of us fell for Helen’s sake, and now it seems that Clytemnestra hatched mischief against too during your absence.’

In the Odyssey Book III, line 305 a time frame for the murder by Aegisthus and his murder: “Aegisthus devised this woeful work at home. [305] Seven years he reigned over Mycenae, rich in gold, after slaying the son of Atreus, and the people were subdued under him; but in the eighth came as his bane the goodly Orestes back from Athens, and slew his father’s murderer, [310] the guileful Aegisthus, for that he had slain his glorious father.”

In the Catalog of Women, by Hesiod more is stated: “Leda … bore … cow eyed Clytemnestra….” and “Because of her beauty Agamemnon, lord of men, married Tyndareus’ daughter, dark- eyed Clytemnestra” Then he states “As the last one in the halls, dark-eyed Clytemnestra, overpowered by Agamemnon, bore godly Orestes, who when he reached puberty took vengeance on his father’s murderer, and he killed his own man-destroying mother with the pitiless bronze.”

In the Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides Clytemnestra speaks to Agamemnon:

I never loved you! Tantalus you slew, 
My first dear husband; and my little son,
You tore him from my breast.

The name ‘Clytemnestra’ seems to have Indo-European roots in “kleu-” to hear “tem-” to cut. If the name means famous cutter then it is a name that applies to what she did to Agamemnon. No doubt she had another name before the myths. The other possibility is Nemesis. Some accounts claim that she was deified a Nemesis. The name ‘Nemesis’ also has Indo European roots. It is from ‘nem-2’, ‘to assign, allot, also to take.’ Perhaps she is the same as Phylonoe, her sister, who had no real existence. Artemis rendered her immortal.

Clytemnestra had to suffer through three husbands:

  • Her father, king Tyndareus of Sparta, betrothed her to Tantalus while she was still a virgin. Because Tantalus was the son of Thyestes and king of Mycenae, Clytemnestra became queen. She bore Tantalus a son.
  • Agamemnon killed Tantalus because he was the son of Thyestes who had debauched his mother. He also killed the new-born son of Tantalus. Agamemnon thus obtained Clytemnestra as property from the man he defeated. Because Clytemnestra was queen of Mycenae, Agamemnon became king. Clytemenestra had four children by Agamemnon: Chrysothemis, Iphigenia, Electra and Orestes. Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to Artemis so he could go fight at Troy. Chrysothemis is mentioned by Euripides but only appears in Sophocles’ Electra.
  • She was corrupted by Aegisthus and turned against Agamemnon. When Agamemnon returned from Troy with Cassandra as his consort, they were both murdered by Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. These two lived together as king and queen of Mycenae until Orestes returned to take vengeance on them for them for the murder of his father. He killed them both.

We do not have that much literature from Mycenae. Mycenae was abandoned before the classical period. Homer does speak of Mycenae and so it is part of the mythological literature. In fact he gives details about Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon and Queen of Mycenae. Clytemnestra is a powerful woman and a powerful character in Greek plays of the Classical period. The women of Mycenae were probably more like the women of the Minoan culture since the archeology of Mycenae is quite similar to that of Crete at the same time.

In the Odyssey Homer has Zeus speak of Clytemnestra indirectly at line 32:

“Look you now, how ready mortals are to blame the gods. It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they even of themselves, through their own blind folly, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained. [35] Even as now Aegisthus, beyond that which was ordained, took to himself the wedded wife of the son of Atreus, and slew him on his return, though well he knew of sheer destruction, seeing that we spake to him before, sending Hermes, the keen-sighted Argeiphontes,1 that he should neither slay the man nor woo his wife; [40] for from Orestes shall come vengeance for the son of Atreus when once he has come to manhood and longs for his own land. So Hermes spoke, but for all his good intent he prevailed not upon the heart of Aegisthus; and now he has paid the full price of all.”

This passage seems to remove some of the guilt for the muder of Agamemnon fro Clytemnestra and place more of it on Aegisthus. One has to wonder of the guilt of Orestes in light of this passage.

Images of Clytemnestra

Ancient Artistic Pieces Involving Clytemnestra

  • Euripides, Electra
  • Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis
  • Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris
  • Euripides, Orestes
  • Homer, Iliad
  • Homer, Odyssey
  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon
  • Aeschylus, Eumenides
  • Aeschylus, Libation Bearers

Recent Artistic Pieces Involving Clytemnestra

  • Martha Graham and Halim El-Dabh, Clytemnestra (1958), a ballet.
  • Corey Allen, Clytemnestra, a play
  • Cromwell Everson, Klutaimnestra (1967), the first Afrikaans opera.
  • John Eaton, The Cry of Clytemnestra, an opera in one act.
  • Ismail Kadare, The Successor.

Questions and Answers

Question: Who is Clytemnestra and what was her role as a Trojan woman?

Answer: She was the wife of Agamemnon who fought opposite the Trojans.  Ultimately she killed one of the Trojan women, Cassandra.

Question: How were women in Antigone’s time treated in society?

Answer: Antigone’s time was about the time of the Trojan War. What is in Homer is more valid than Sophocles because Homer was an older story teller and Homer was in the tradition of the Bards who passed down stories to one another for centuries. But such traditions were not known for their historical accuracy. Both Archeology and Ancient Sources suggest that only a short time before Antigone, the culture of Greece was involved in the
overthrow of a Goddess based religion by the religion that we know of ancient Greece with Zeus as its head god. Things had to change for women because in the old religion women were the primary object of religious devotion. Women were worshipped. Later the goddesses were still worshipped, but everyone understood their submission to Zeus. The old forms of culture were not immediately destroyed by this revolution, but there are glimpses of the change. One good example is that Penelope is not desirable just because she is a sexy woman, or even that her husband, if dead, left her a
wealthy widow. Whoever married her would be a king because kingship was determined matrilineally during the reign of the goddess. The situation of Clytemnestra is the same. Agamemnon had a lot of gall picking up Cassandra to be his mate when he was king by virtue of Clytemnestra. She had every right as queen to see his behavior as a threat to the throne and to kill him. She went too far when she killed Cassandra though. This was a sacrilege as Cassandra was a priestess of Athena. She was also motivated by the death, at the hands of Agamemnon, of her daughter, Iphigenia. When Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra, and is later exonerated, then this marks the end of the matrilineal determination of kingship everywhere in Greece. Women like Penelope and Clytemnestra were queens with the powere to make or break a king. There were no women with this power later.

Women continued to serve as priestesses like Cassandra though their power and influence lessened in later times. The fact that Ajax would rape her while she was clutching the statue of Athena was a grave sacrilege, but it also showed a lessening of respect for the goddess.

Some women were treated as warriors. In fact the Amazons were plainly feared.

Other women were treated like, well, slaves. Homer demonstrates plainly that the Greek warriors liked to sack a town and take women to be sex slaves or servants. Slavery was acceptable, and slavery meant that you must do what is requested. Slave owners had life and death control over their slaves. A slave owner could not deal with an aggressive slave so that person would be killed. Slaves tended to be pretty passive and obedient.

All the women tended to be secluded, even in Antigone’s times and there were special tasks for women, such as weaving and baking of bread. These were not assigned by the head of the household, but rather by their religion. Certain agricultural tasks were assigned, such as planting seeds, because of women’s ability to be fertile. But women were freer to walk about and shop than they were later when the man of the house would even go to the market.

Question: From the period of the Bronze Age to the Classical Age, is it possible to say that,the society of the Ancient Greece was Patriarchal society?

Answer: The death of Clytemnestra ended any matriarchal component of Greek society and it became entirely patriarchal until the Roman period. The Romans were not as patriarchal as the Greeks. Clytemnestra was killed after the Trojan War just as Greece was leaving the Bronze Age. This means that during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods there were some matriarchal components
to government in Greece. During the Homeric Age, the Archaic Greek Age, The Golden Age, and the Hellenistic Age, Greece was patriarchal.

Question: Clytemnestra and Dido are two of the most memorable characters in the “masterpieces” of classical Greek liturature, even more remarkable because they are female. As women, they both challenge the roles to which female characters are ordinarily assigned. How would you compair or contrast these two characters

Answer: Clytemnestra is of Greek literature but Dido is of Roman literature. Clytemnestra was a Greek queen, while Dido was a Phoenician princess. Clytemnestra was not a great leader, but rather was a symbol of an old way of doing things. Dido led her people into North Africa and founded the city of Carthage.

Question: What are some ways that I could compare and contrast Clytemnestra and Iokaste

Answer: Clytemnestra is a character in the following plays:

  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus
  • The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus
  • Electra by Sophocles
  • Electra by Euripides

Jocasta is a character in the Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

Note that both women were queens of a territory and their husbands became king because they both killed the former king. Jocasta did not know this, however. Orestes killed his mother, Clytemnestra, because she had killed his father. Jocasta killed herself because her husband was her son who had killed
his father.

Question: where is earliest source Clytemnestra appears? Oresteia?

Answer: Clytemnestra appears in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Question: Where else do the Furies appear between Hesiod and Aeshcylus’ Oresteia?

Answer: Pausanias says: “Hard by is a sanctuary of the goddesses which the Athenians call the August, but Hesiod in the Theogony4 calls them Erinyes (Furies). It was Aeschylus who first represented them with snakes in their hair. But on the images neither of these nor of any of the under-world deities is there anything terrible.”

The Erinyes are also mentioned in the Iliad.

A recent picture of the furies is at:
The Murderer
by Franz von Stuck

Question: How do Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides each portray the woman in a different light?

Answer: This is probably a good dissertation topic and will take me a while.

Question: Ok, I just sent a request about daily life for Clytemnestra both before and after Agamemnon left – I am interested in her specifically. I hope you can help me. I am looking at the Daily life part of this website, some is valuable to me, but if I could find anything more specific to Clytemnestra, it would be wonderful. Plus, if you could dig up any pictures of Clytemnestra it would be wonderful!! Thank you in advance for your time!

In the Odyssey there is this passage about Clytemnestra: (Book III)
Telemon asks: “Nestor, son of Neleus, now tell me true:
how died the son of Atreus, Agamemnon of the wide domain?
Where was Menelaus? What death did crafty Aegisthus plan
for him, in that he killed a man more valiant far than he?
Or was Menelaus not in Argos of Achaia but wandering
elsewhere among men, and that other took heart and slew

Then Nestor of Gerenia, lord of chariots, answered him:
‘Yea now, my child, I will tell thee the whole truth.
Verily thou guessest aright even of thyself how things
would have fallen out, if Menelaus of the fair hair, the
son of Atreus, when he came back from Troy, had found
Aegisthus yet alive in the halls. Then even in his death
would they not have heaped the piled earth over him, but
dogs and fowls of the air would have devoured him as he lay
on the plain far from the town. {*} Nor would any of the
Achaean women have bewailed him; so dread was the deed he
contrived. Now we sat in leaguer there, achieving many
adventures; but he the while in peace in the heart of
Argos, the pastureland of horses, spake ofttimes, tempting
her, to the wife of Agamemnon. Verily at the first she
would none of the foul deed, the fair Clytemnestra, for she
had a good understanding. Moreover there was with her a
minstrel, whom the son of Atreus straitly charged as he
went to Troy to have a care of his wife. But when at last
the doom of the gods bound her to her ruin, then did
Aegisthus carry the minstrel to a lonely isle, and left him
there to be the prey and spoil of birds; while as for her,
he led her to his house, a willing lover with a willing
lady. And he burnt many thigh slices upon the holy altars
of the gods, and hung up many offerings, woven-work and
gold, seeing that he had accomplished a great deed, beyond
all hope.

Now we, I say, were sailing together on our way
from Troy, the son of Atreus and I, as loving friends. But
when we had reached holy Sunium, the headland of Athens,
there Phoebus Apollo slew the pilot of Menelaus with the
visitation of his gentle shafts, as he held between his
hands the rudder of the running ship, even Phrontis, son of
Onetor, who excelled the tribes of men in piloting a ship,
whenso the storm-winds were hurrying by. Thus was Menelaus
holden there, though eager for the way, till he might bury
his friend and pay the last rites over him. But when he in
his turn, faring over the wine-dark sea in hollow ships,
reached in swift course the steep mount of Malea, then it
was that Zeus of the far-borne voice devised a hateful
path, and shed upon them the breath of the shrill winds,
and great swelling waves arose like unto mountains. There
sundered he the fleet in twain, and part thereof he brought
nigh to Crete, where the Cydonians dwelt about the streams
of Iardanus. Now there is a certain cliff, smooth and sheer
towards the sea, on the border of Gortyn, in the misty
deep, where the South-West Wind drives a great wave against
the left headland, towards Phaestus, and a little rock
keeps back the mighty water. Thither came one part of the
fleet, and the men scarce escaped destruction, but the
ships were broken by the waves against the rock; while
those other five dark-prowed ships the wind and the water
bare and brought nigh to Egypt. Thus Menelaus, gathering
much livelihood and gold, was wandering there with his
ships among men of strange speech, and even then Aegisthus
planned that pitiful work at home. And for seven years he
ruled over Mycenae, rich in gold, after he slew the son of
Atreus, and the people were subdued unto him. But in the
eighth year came upon him goodly Orestes back from Athens
to be his bane, and slew the slayer of his father, guileful
Aegisthus, who killed his famous sire. Now when he had
slain him, he made a funeral feast to the Argives over his
hateful mother, and over the craven Aegisthus. And on the
selfsame day there came to him Menelaus of the loud
war-cry, bringing much treasure, even all the freight of
his ships. So thou, my friend, wander not long far away
from home, leaving thy substance behind thee and men in thy
house so wanton, lest they divide and utterly devour all
thy wealth, and thou shalt have gone on a vain journey.
Rather I bid and command thee to go to Menelaus, for he
hath lately come from a strange country, from the land of
men whence none would hope in his heart to return, whom
once the storms have driven wandering into so wide a sea.
Thence not even the birds can make their way in the space
of one year, so great a sea it is and terrible. But go now
with thy ship and with thy company, or if thou hast a mind
to fare by land, I have a chariot and horses at thy
service, yea and my sons to do thy will, who will be thy
guides to goodly Lacedaemon, where is Menelaus of the fair

Later in the Odyssey, there is this: (Book 11)
“‘So spake I, and straightway he answered, and said unto me:
“Son of Laertes, of the seed of Zeus, Odysseus of many
devices, it was not Poseidon that smote me in my ships, and
raised the dolorous blast of contrary winds, nor did
unfriendly men do me hurt upon the land, but Aegisthus it
was that wrought me death and doom and slew me, with the
aid of my accursed wife, as one slays an ox at the stall,
after he had bidden me to his house, and entertained me at
a feast. Even so I died by a death most pitiful, and round
me my company likewise were slain without ceasing, like
swine with glittering tusks which are slaughtered in the
house of a rich and mighty man, whether at a wedding
banquet or a joint-feast or a rich clan-drinking. Ere now
hast thou been at the slaying of many a man, killed in
single fight or in strong battle, yet thou wouldst have
sorrowed the most at this sight, how we lay in the hall
round the mixing-bowl and the laden boards, and the floor
all ran with blood. And most pitiful of all that I heard
was the voice of the daughter of Priam, of Cassandra, whom
hard by me the crafty Clytemnestra slew. Then I strove to
raise my hands as I was dying upon the sword, but to earth
they fell. And that shameless one turned her back upon me,
and had not the heart to draw down my eyelids with her
fingers nor to close my mouth. So surely is there naught
more terrible and shameless than a woman who imagines such
evil in her heart, even as she too planned a foul deed,
fashioning death for her wedded lord. Verily I had thought
to come home most welcome to my children and my thralls;
but she, out of the depth of her evil knowledge, hath shed
shame on herself and on all womankind, which shall be for
ever, even on the upright.”

In the Iliad Agamemnon says: “I have set my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I love her better even than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she is alike in form and feature, in understanding and accomplishments.”(Book I)

Question: was clytemnestra justified in murdering agamemnon?

Answer: Probably, but her act was still revenged.

Question: How did clytemnestra killed agamemnon?? and why did she kill him?? what happend after she killed him??

Answer: Homer tells the following: “And
straightway Aegisthus contrived a cunning treason. He chose
out twenty of the best men in the township, and set an
ambush, and on the further side of the hall he commanded to
prepare a feast. Then with chariot and horses he went to
bid to the feast Agamemnon, shepherd of the people; but
caitiff thoughts were in his heart. He brought him up to
his house, all unwitting of his doom, and when he had
feasted him slew him, as one slayeth an ox at the stall.
And none of the company of Atreides that were of his
following were left, nor any of the men of Aegisthus, but
they were all killed in the halls.”

Aegisthus and Clytmnestra were lovers. Agamemnon killed Clytemnestra’s first husband, then he sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia, to help defeat the Trojans. Finally, he brought home a mistress, Cassandra, one of the most beautiful and intelligent women in the world. He obviously was going to dump Clytemnestra. After Agamemnon was killed Clytemnestra and Aegisthus ruled Mycenae for many years. Then Orestes came and killed them both.

Question: can you please tell me how the character of Clytemnestra differs from the play of Oresteia by Aeschylus, and Euripides in Electra or Iphigenia at Aulis?

Answer: This would make a good thesis topic.

Question: Can you contrast, in a deeper sense, of what makes Clytmnestra a “bad” woman in Greek society compared to Penelope who was considered a “good” woman?

Answer: Clytemnestra was not passive, but dealt with men on their own level. Since she was queen she thought she should have her way. To get back at her husband she had him murdered. Penelope was just doing what Odysseus wanted her to do. To help her husband she conspired to preserve his home even though the
wooers wanted to take it for themselves.

Question: Does she have any pictures of herself or her family

Answer: When Heinrich Schlieman excavated the Mycenaean Civilization at Mycenae in Greece he found a gold mask on a burial. He declared this to be the face of Agamemnon, but this observation has never been confirmed. Had this been true we would have had, at least, the image of one of the husbands of Clytemnestra. The art from Mycenae is quite scarce and no other images of Clytemnestra or her family have been discovered. What we have are images
from about 800 years later of what people then thought Clytemnestra looked like. You can click on the links above to see these images.

Question: Was she considered a temptress?

Answer: Homer refers to her as fair and crafty, so she was probable not a temptress.

Question: is clytemnestra a sympathetic character?

Answer: We are not allowed to see this.

Question: what happen with clytemnestra and agamemnon that started the trojan war?

Answer: Clytemnestra’s sister Helen ran off with Paris instead of staying married to Agamemnon’s brother Menelaus.

Question: How has Clytemnestra been portrayed as the “enemy of the state”?

Answer: This quote, from Homer (Odyssey Book XI), is pretty
close: “And most pitiful of all that I heard was the voice of the daughter of Priam, of Cassandra, whom hard by me the crafty Clytemnestra slew. Then I strove to raise my hands as I was dying upon the sword, but to earth they fell. And that shameless one turned her back upon me, and had not the heart to draw down my eyelids with her fingers nor to close my mouth. So surely is there naught more terrible and shameless than a woman who imagines such evil in her heart, even as she too planned a foul deed,
fashioning death for her wedded lord. Verily I had thought to come home most welcome to my children and my thralls; but she, out of the depth of her evil knowledge, hath shed shame on herself and on all womankind, which shall be for ever, even on the upright.”

Question: From the story Agamemnon, can you tell me how Clytemnestra is used for the purpose (theme) of the story?

Answer: Clytemnestra is no passive witness, but an agent of evil.

Question: What characteristics of Clytemnestra might explain the comment: “That woman-she vmaneuvers like a man.” and what does it suggeswt about Greek attitudes toward women?

Answer: She would only need to be rational and active. Greek men
preferred passive, compliant females. They did not want to compete with women.

Question: How did Clytemnestra influence the power of women in Ancient Greece?

Answer: It seems that her story was skewed so that women lost power.

Question: how is clytemnestra hypocritical?

Answer: Taking a lover when you are married is hypocrisy.

Question: How does the portrayal of Clytmenestra in Aeschylus’
Agamemnon differ from the portrayal of Clytemnestra in Euripides

Answer: This is a good paper topic.

Question: how would you compare Clytemnestra and Medea

Answer: Click on the Menu Directory below and then click on Medea.

Question: How are Clytemnestra from Agememnon, Jocasta from Oedipus rex, and Medea from Medea characteristically related?

Answer: This should be wife to husband except Medea who was married to Jason.

Question: compare and contrast Jocasta and Clytemnestra

Answer: Read Oedipus Rex for Jocasta and Agamemnon for Clytemnestra. But there are other sources for Clytemnestra.

Question: Agamenon

Answer: This was the second husband of Clytemnestra, and the one she murdered (he murdered her first husband). It is also the name of the play by Aeschylus in which she has a leading role.

Question: How does Clytemnestra contradict the understood
role of women in Ancient Greece?

Answer: Clytemnestra was a self-actualized active woman. Greek men wanted women to be passive and servile.

Question: who are famous litureature people of greece

Answer: Click on the Menu Directory below and click on Writing.

Question: Tell me about the Greek ancestors of king Agamenon

Answer: Agamemnon’s mother was Aerope, the daughter of Catreus who in turn was the son of Minos and Pasiphae. Agamemnon’s father was Atreus who was the son of Pelops and Hippodamia. Pelops is the descendent of Zeus through Tantalus. Minos is a son of Zeus and Europa so Agamemnon was a descendent of Zeus. Clytemnestra’s sister Helen was the daughter of Zeus but she was the daughter of Tyndareus and Leda.

Question: How do you say Clytemnestra

Answer: kli – tem – NES – tra

Question: did clytemnesra have any powers?

Answer: She was an attractive woman and a queen. She commanded the respect of many in her community and she commanded the servants in her household.

Question: I’m doing a paper on Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. I need to know how would u describe Clytemnestra and Aegisthus character?

Answer: Clytemnestra was respected but calculating. Aegisthus was effective but compliant.

Question: Why did she kill Cassandra?

Answer: This is the standard response to the new woman that your husband is cavorting with. This seems unfair because Cassandra was a slave. But Agamemnon wanted to replace Clytemnestra with Cassandra.

Question: What are the differences/alikes between Clytemnestra and Medea?

Answer: Clytemnestra had to use her influence and persuasion to get everything she wanted. Medea used potions and spells. Clytemnestra was a queen while Medea was just a princess.

Question: How did she become queen?

Answer: Her father, king Tyndareus of Sparta, betrothed her to Tantalus while she was still a virgin. Because Tantalus was the son of Thyestes and king of Mycenae, Clytemnestra became queen. She bore Tantalus a son. Agamemnon killed Tantalus because he was the son of Thyestes who had debauched his mother. He also killed the new-born son of Tantalus. Agamemnon thus obtained Clytemnestra as property from the man he defeated. Because Clytemnestra was queen of Mycenae, Agamemnon became king.

Question: how was clytemnestra a dynamic and round character in the Oresteian Trilogy?

Answer: You must read the Trilogy to answer this question.

Question: Clytemnestra’s character as a masculine character towards the end of the Agememnon play

Answer: Joan of Arc was declared a witch because she seemed to have a man trapped inside. Clytemnestra’s masculinity is a male nightmare, but it is an insult to her femininity to condemn her for it. Joan was sainted because of the injustice to her. Clytemnestra may deserve similar.

Question: any information about Clytemnestra and politics or legalities with her killing Agamemnon and Orestes committing matricide?

Answer: Because Agamemnon killed Clytemnestra’s first husband and killed Clytemnestra’s daughter Iphigenia her murder of Agamemnon can be justified. But she also killed Clytemnestra and her two children. There is no legal justification for this. Orestes killed his mother because she violated her marriage with Agamemnon and killed him. At the time he did this There was a rule of matriliniarity which made her queen and his act an illegal one. His appeal to the gods and courts depended on the undesirability of the rule of matrilinearity. He was exonerated once the patrilinarity of kings was established.

Question: I have heard that there are matriarcal tribes in Africa. They may be Bedowen tribes, I am not sure….I have a necklace that supposedly comes from that region and I have been told that they were the ones who made it. I have a big argument and a bet that this is TRUE with my coworkers. Do you know the answer? Could you tell me details?

Answer: You lose. No one has ever found an existing matriarchy. The
Amazons were the only matriarchy that ever existed and we cannot prove they even existed. One group of Amazons lived in the region of modern Tunisia. But no remains have been found. There have been many matrilinial societies and the society you refer to is probably matrilineal. The closest to a matriarchy was probably the queendom of Elizabeth I of England, but most people laugh when I suggest this.

Question: how clytemnestra is model of ways for women to secure fome power in a patriarchal society?

Answer: I do not think Clytemnestra is a very good model. She lived at a time when women wielded power and she expected to wield it. Men were not secure in their patriarchy. Her son was exonerated in her death because it was felt, at the time, that she exceeded her power.


Answer: Medea killed her children. Clytemnestra was killed by her children.

Question: Can you give me a modern day example of Clytemnestra? I am trying to compare her to someone from the last few centuries who may have had a similar situation to Clytemnestra. I am broaching this subject in a term paper due very very soon! Thanks

Answer: Lucretia Borgia.

Question: What quality or accomplishment has Clytaemnestra left behind since she was so impressive?

Answer: She left behind a tragic example of a woman of power. She was victimized by the men of her time and as a result of her example women lost political power. She is viewed as evil by many, but this is unfair and results from a lack of careful judgment. In fact she was a woman of power who tried to take action against the forces against her and failed.

Question: In the PBS Special, The Greeks, Crucible of Civilization, a 19th century painting was shown of a scene from Agememnon. It portrays Clytemnestra with a knife in her hand. Can you identify the painting and the artist, and can you advise where a print may be obtained?

Answer: Click here

Question: In comparison to Antigone and medea what traits and themes did Clytaemnestra share with these other woman?

Answer: Clytemnestra is queen to the most powerful king in Greece at the time of the Trojan War. She shares little with the other two women who are princesses at best, and deposed at that. Compare Clytemnestra with Helen or Penelope. Even Hecuba, queen of Agamemnon’s opposition does not compare with Clytemnestra.

Question: Where do I find Clytemnestra saying: “So there he lay and as he gasped, his blood spouted and splashed me with black spray – a dew of death, sweet to me as heaven’s sweet raindrops”

Answer: You can find this quote in Aeschylus’s “Agamemnon,” after Clytemnestra has killed Agamemnon and Cassandra. The quote is part of her speech in defending her murder of Agamemnon. (Thanks to Yi Lin for this)

Question: Why has she been remembered?

Question: She is an important character in some powerful plays. Also she was a powerful woman who attempted to use politics for her own purposes.

Question: Why does Athena demannd that the case of Orestes’ murder of his mother be settled in a courtroom and not by the Furies directly? What are the implications of her demand?

Answer: There was no law that applied to Orestes. The furies could only respond to the superficialities of the case. Orestes did kill his mother but he was not guilty of murder. What he did was to liberate an enslaved people from a repressive regime. But he used an unnecessarily severe method. He was swayed by the emotions of the moment to take an action which was somewhat, but not thoroughly, justified. Then he suffered enormously. When
he was finally tried it was found that he had already suffered enough and he was absolved of any further punishment. And others learned not to follow in his path.

Question: What does the name Clytemnestra mean and what would be the closest English equivalent

Answer: From Greek klytos “famous, noble” and mnestria “courter, wooer”.
reference A better derivation might be From Indo-European ‘kleu-, to hear, and ‘tem-‘, ‘to cut’. If the name means famous cutter then it is a name that applies to what she did to Agamemnon.

Question: Why did Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon?

Answer: There are several possible reasons:

  • He killed her first husband.
  • He sacrificed her eldest daughter.
  • He wanted to dump her and replace her with Cassandra.
  • She liked Aegisthus a lot better.

Question: I’ve heard that there was a prophecy that Clytemnestra and her sisters would be unfaithful to their husbands. Is this true? and why was such a curse put on the sisters?

Answer: Aphrodite had doomed Helen and her sisters because their father, Tyndareus, had sacrificed to the other gods but had forgotten to offer a sacrifice to her. Aphrodite, therefore, swore to make his daughters known for adultery. The daughters of Tyndareus included the twins Helen and Clytemnestra, Philonoe, Timandra, and Phoebe. Philonoe and Phoebe died too young to be affected by the curse.

Question: does the iliad confirm or refute the guilt of clytemnestra

Answer: In the Iliad Agamemnon states that he wants to replace his
wife with Chryseis. This is pretty threatening to Clytemnestra.

Question: what is the similarities and the differences between the hellenistic age and the golden age

Answer: During the Classical age of Greece life was more community oriented and politics was more democratic. During the Hellenistic age life was more individualistic and politics was authoritarian.

Question: How do Clytemnestra, Phaedra and Jocasta relate to politics and traditional values?

Answer: Somehow the lives of these ladies seem familiar to us as we read about them in the ancient Greek dramas. But as were read closer we are struck by remarkable peculiarities in their politics and values. Fortunately these quirks awaken in us questions, not only about ancient values and politics, but also our own values and politics. The reading then becomes an education of the most remarkable kind.

Question: what is an example of a modern day Clytaemnestra?

Answer: Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Dole, or Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Question: Is Clytemnestra an annomyly in the orestia, or is her presence a key part of the cycle of vengenge?

Answer: Such a question can be debated, but not resolved, since the author is no longer available.

Question: What role does Clytemnestra represent in Greek culture

Answer: Clytemnestra was a queen during the heroic age. During this time queens possessed the realm which their husband ruled. Clytemnestra fought for this prerogative and others that gave power to women. But she lost her battle and she was one of the last women to have power from the Greek system.

Question: was clytemnestra a good mother

Answer: She had some very difficult challenges to being a mother. Her first husband was killed by her second husband who killed their oldest daughter. When she formed a liaison with a third husband she put her children in jeopardy. When she killed her second husband she angered her children who eventually killed her. But her children turned out to be very responsible and very skilled, a tribute to her mothering, no doubt.

Question: How can I compare and contrast Clytemnestra and Medea to the love and hatred towards their husbands.

Answer: You need to read materials where this might be spelled out. Medea is developed in the play ‘Medea’ by Euripides and in the poem ‘The Voyage of of the Argo by Apollonius. Clytemnestra is developed in the plays ‘Agamemnon’ and ‘Libation Bearers’ by Aeschylus, ‘Orestes’ and ‘Electra’ by Euripides, and ‘Electra’ by Sophocles.

Question: Are achilles and clytemnestra similiar because they both kill as an act of revenge?

Answer: This might make an interesting paper topic, but it may be stretching things.

Question: Clytemnestra’s role in the Odyssey?

Answer: When Odysseus learned that Clytemnestra had murdered her husband upon his return, he was determined to return in disguise until he had determined what threat he had to face.

Question: is clytemnestra a monster or a tragic hero?

Answer: Men like women to be sexy, compliant, and serving, so they can have sex whenever they want. To men Clytemnestra is a Monster. But after women have sex they get pregnant, have babies and have to raise them. And as they age they become less attractive. Women need some protection from their society so they can thrive. To women Clytemnestra is a tragic heroine.

Question: Her feelings to seek revenge

Answer: Her feelings must be induced from the various plays written about her.

Question: where did she rule

Answer: Argos or Mycenae. These two places are close together in the Peloponesian peninsula on the southeast coast. They are southwest of Athens. The extent of her rule is not known.

Question: What were her powers?

Answer: One power was the power to choose the king by marriage. When she killed Agamemnon and married Aegisthus she made him king. But she also seemed to command many loyal subjects.

Question: What is a brief summery of Clytemnestra’s life?


  1. Clytemnestra was the daughter of Tyndarus and Leda born in the years before the Trojan War.
  2. She was married young to Tantalus, son of Thyestes.
  3. When Tantalus was killed by Agamemnon she became his wife.
  4. She bore Agamemnon four children, Electra, Orestes, Iphigenia, Chrysothemis.
  5. She lost Iphigenia as a sacrifice so the fleet could sail to Troy.
  6. She formed a liaison with Aegisthus when Agamemnon left for Troy.
  7. By Aegisthus she bore a daughter, Erigone.
  8. When she aided Aegisthus in the murder of Agamemnon, she became his wife.
  9. She murdered Cassandra and her children by Agamemnon.
  10. She was murdered by Orestes in revenge for her part in killing Agamemnon.

Question: How were Klytemnestra and Penelope similar? Did both hold the key to thier kingdoms?

Answer: Both Clytemnestra and Penelope were Mycenaean Queens whose husbands left for the Trojan War and they were left in charge of their children and their palace. It was the custom in those days for the consort of the queen to rule. But the queen did not exactly choose the king. Nor could she dump the king if she did not like him. It is clear from the Odyssey that Penelope did not rule either the kingdom or even the palace. She was able to dispatch her responsibilities only by trickery and deception. Fortunately she was
very good at it. Clytemnestra was more in control but this was because she formed an alliance with another man.

Question: how was tantalus choosen as Clytemnestra’s first husband? and what part did her father play in Tantalus’ death?

Answer: The only reference to this first husband of Clytemnestra is in Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis (1149-1152). If we also assume that
Tantalus was the son of Thyestes then we can make some suggestions. Thyestes was the king of Argos (Mycenae) and Tyndareus, the father of Clytemnestra, was the king of Sparta. The marriage of Clytemnestra to Tantalus would have been a marriage of politics joining the ruling families of two city-states. One can believe that the fathers arranged this marriage. But to arrange a
marriage between two incompatible partners would have been patently stupid. The two kings were neighbors and peers and their families would have socialized together. The parents then had the opportunity to see if the offspring got along. In this way the daughter would have her input as well.

It is not clear how Tantalus died, but Clytemnestra said that he was
killed by Agamemnon. This was a result of a family feud between Atreus, the father of Agamemnon, and Thyestes. Tyndareus was not involved. When Agamemnon killed Tantalus he obtained all of his possessions. This included all of Argos (Mycenae) and his queen Clytemnestra.

Question: Compare Clytemnestra to Homer’s Homeric Code

Answer: “The heroic ideal in the Iliad is sometimes offensive to modern sensibility, but what is required here is not the reader’s approval, but understanding of these heroic values.” reference. Clytemnestra has no hope of honor and cannot be a hero
according to Homer.

Question: who is Aerope?

Answer: Aerope was the mother-in-law of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon’s mother. Agamemnon’s father died young and his grandfather Atreus married Aerope. When Aerope had an adulterous affair with Thyestes, the younger brother of Atreus,
she was drowned by Atreus. Aerope was the granddaughter of Minos but her father sent her away when he found one of his children would kill him. She actually was intended for slavery but got to marry Pleisthenes, the father of Agamemnon instead.

Question: I read in “Iphigeneia in Aulis” that Pollux and Castor made war on Agamemnon, who then fled to Clytemnestra’s father Tyndareos for protection. I’d like to know if Pollux and Castor fought Agamemnon because their sister Clytemnestra was forced to marry Agamemnon.

The reference is from Euripides’ “Iphigeneia at Aulis”, in Clytemnestra’s speech to Agamemnon in the scene where she’s pleading him not to sacrifice their daughter. She began with all the wrongs Agamemnon has done her over the years. She says “You took me by force. You married me against my will. You killed the husband I had, Tantalos. You ripped from my breast my new-born
child and smashed it on the ground. And when my brothers, twin-sons of Zeus (Pollux and Castor), brought war onto you on their shining horses, you pleaded to my father Tyndareos, and he saved you…”

Answer: Realize, first of all that the information seems only to be found in a drama. The dramatists were generally reliable but seemed often to include material that was reasonable and not necessarily factual. I do not find other references to this act. But if Castor and Pollux attacked Agamemnon that it probably was a political decision and not a simple one.

First understand the situation of women. Women were often somehow bound to the property on which they were found. To get the property you had to win the woman. If the woman was unmarried you might woo her and have her father give you the woman and the property as a dowry. Or you might simply seize her
and carry her off, in which case the property was sort of a ransom. If she was married you had to fight her husband and kill him. You would only be tried for murder if there was a king to whom this man owed allegiance. But if this man was a king then you became king.

So when Agamemnon killed the husband of Clytemnestra, he took possession of her by law. Then he gained her property. This would not have been why Castor and Pollux attacked him.

Question: wouldn’t Cltemnestra have already hated Agamemnon for having not only killed her 1st born to Tantalus, but also her 1st born to Agamemnon? Therefore, is it really true to say that Aegisthus ‘corrupted’ her?

Answer: There is the notion that women are brainless and passive slaves who only wait to perform their husband’s bidding. Under this view it is true that she was corrupted by Aegisthus. But if you regard the struggles of Hera, who could hardly be regarded as brainless, as typical of what women had to do to get along, then you can understand Clytemnestra as being extremely calculating and manipulative. But you should reconsider attributing her actions to hate rather than to some intellectual calculus. The fact is that she was playing a tough game against so very tough characters and her very survival was always on the line. It is very possible that she killed
Agamemnon simply to save her own life and not out of any idea of retribution for past acts.

Question: why is clytemnestra considered a heroine by euripides?

Answer: I am not sure he did.

Question: is what clytemenstra do justice?

Answer: No. In order for there to be justice the facts must be weighed against the law objectively and the punishment must fit the crime. It is unlikely that an individual will be able to administer justice in a capital crime.

Question: what was Agamemnon’s husband’s name

Answer: Agamemnon was the second husband of Clytemnestra.

Question: is there a picture that i can find on agamennon

Answer: Agamemnon

Question: did clytemnestra have a fourth child, Christemos by Agamemnon

Answer: Her fourth child was Chrysothemis.

Question: didn’t Cltemnestra have four children by Agamemnon

Answer: Yes. Electra, Orestes, Iphigenia, and Chrysothemis.

Question: what do you think that this story suggests about ancient Greek mythic understandings of relationships between deities, heroes and mortals and where does clytemnestra fit into the wider frameworks of greek mythology?

Answer: The Greek myths were told and retold in a number of contexts and the meaning of the myth may change with each context. The story of Clytemnestra is very complex and so it is hard to do her justice in any short space. But there are a number of themes that seem worth noting:

  • It seems that in the past property and resources were passed down through the female. It seems like the behavior of Clytemnestra makes that into a bad idea.
  • It seems that Agamemnon treats women as objects, means to his own ends, secondary to his goals. Clytemnestra makes this seem like a bad idea.
  • Destiny seemed to side with Agamemnon, the ultimate victor in the Trojan war. But even with destiny on his side he made a number of small decisions which could have been avoided, but did him in. In some respects Clytemnestra was only the tool of the divine in putting in his place a man who might have thought he was as the divine after the victory.

Question: how is clytemnestra potrayed in libation bearers by aeschylus, electra by sophocles, electra by euripidies to be ‘different’ from men (physically, socially, mentally)? where does her power lie- and where can it lie? coes her representation in the plays tell us anything about the society of men who produced women like clytemnestra?

Answer: This is an interesting paper topic. There is also the question of the society of women and their effect.

Question: Does Clyemnestra have a name link to the present as in Ajax was a strong and powerful god and Ajax is a strong and powerful cleaning produces, is there any links?


Question: What happened to Orestes after he murdered his own mother and step father?

Answer: Quite a bit:

  • pursued by the Furies, he goes to Athens and is tried and acquitted in the Areopagus
  • tried at Areopagus
  • he has a fit of madness
  • bites off a finger
  • healed of madness at Ace
  • sacrifices to Eumenides
  • cuts off his hair
  • healed of madness on unwrought stone at Gythium
  • with Iphigenia steals image of Artemis from Tauric land
  • goes to the land of the Taurians, finds his sister, and flees with her, carrying the wooden image of Tauropolus
  • driven by a storm to Rhodes, dedicates the image (of Tauropolus)
  • comes to Mycenae
  • purified at Troezen
  • his booth at Troezen
  • takes possession of Argos
  • adds part of Arcadia to his domains
  • marries Hermione, daughter of Menelaus
  • robbed of his wife Hermione by Neoptolemus
  • slays Neoptolemus at Delphi
  • father of Tisamenus and Penthilus
  • succeeds to crown of Sparta
  • king of Achaia
  • gives his sister Electra in marriage to Pylades
  • migrates to Arcadia
  • founds sanctuary of Eumenides at Cerynea
  • killed by a snake at Oresteum

Question: are there any 19th century translations of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon

Answer: A research library may be able to help you with this.

Question: how does the role of clytemnesrta give insight into the theme and concerns of the drama

Answer: Read the drama to answer this.

Question: Examples of clytemnestr displaying the heart of a man?

Answer: When she murdered Agamemnon and Cassandra.

Question: Seeking help on contrasting Clytemnestra and Helen


  • Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world and Clytemnestra was her half sister.
  • Helen traveled to many lands and Clytemnestra stayed at home.
  • Clytemnestra murdered her husband and was murdered by her son. Helen did not murder anybody but is blamed for the deaths of the Trojan War. She may have been murdered for this reason.

Question: Do you think it is possible for greek women(esp Antigone,
Medea, Clytmenstra) to be both strong and successful

Answer: The terms that you use, ‘strong’ and ‘successful’ more
properly apply to men. The ancient Greeks did not like applying
them to women. Women could be strong, but they were not admired. Amazons and Clytemnestra were in this category. Antigone was strong-willed, but the point of her play is that even a weak girl who is strong-willed can have a powerful effect. Penelope was in fact both strong and successful, but she had to achieve this very deviously, with lots of tears shed along the way.

Question: Love turns to hate in these three stories. Analyze the relationship of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Oedipus and Jocasta, and Medea and Jason. Be sure to do outside historical research on this one to ensure that your answers are correct according to the era in which they lived. I don’t want a twenty-first century analysis, and I don’t want a summary. Tell me why, not what.

Answer: You cannot be serious. Love between Agamemnon and Clytemnestra? Where is it? He won her by killing her husband. He connived and her daughter died. He bedded women tribute. Sorry but I cannot find any. It is true that Medea loved Jason but he seemed more interested in the quest and she certainly was helpful. But when did he demonstrate his love? Oedipus was given Jocasta. She had no choice in the matter. But she was a simple person and she enjoyed family life. She thought her husband was acting stupid and told him so. This was not really hate. But she felt he was going to ruin everything and he did. It was not hate that drove her to suicide. It was bitter disappointment. For the rest of the material for this paper see the articles on the wives. It would not hurt to read a few plays either.

Question: Helena and Clytemnestra are sisters, and even twin sisters, as they were born from the same swan egg. But I can’t really find much or any information about their relationship. Did they grow up together, even though they weren’t raised in the same family? Wasn’t Helena raised by Zeus and Clytemnestra by Leda? But did they live close together? They were twin sisters, and that makes their relationship very special and close. But WAS it in reality? On most websites I read that Iphigenia was Clytemnestra’s daughter. But on many others I’ve read that she was in fact Helena’s daughter, born out of a rape. And that Clytemnestra raised Iphigenia. That must mean Clytemnestra must have been very close to Helena, otherwise she would have never asked her to look after her daughter. So when Ighigenia was killed, they both lost a daughter, in a way. When Helena was in Troy and later in Egypt, Clytemnestra was at home; wasn’t she? So they hadn’t seen eachother in about 17 years when Helena finally returned home. I wonder what happened to their relationship, because of that long period of being not together?

I’ve got another question. Someone else asked it too, but you didn’t answer that. Clytemnestra is a very old name, and it sounds very Greek. What would be a more modern name nowadays, derived from that name? Something like Claire?

Answer: The second question is easier than the first. The name”Clytemnestra’ seems to have been given to her because of what she did later in life. It seems to mean that she was famous for murdering her husband. Because the second part references a cutter (knife) it has a masculine connotation. A similar but better name would be Κλυμένης — Clymene — ‘famous for ability’ from Greek ‘κλειυός’,’famous’ and ‘μένος’, ‘might, force’ from Indo-European ‘kleu’ to hear and ‘magh-1’, ‘To be able, have power’. This might even mean ‘famous for magic. Most female names have a positive idea. Clytemnestra is faily negative while Styx is perhaps the most negative. Styx seems to mean ‘hateful’ from Indo-European ‘steu-‘, ‘To push, stick, knock, beat’ and possibly ‘gwou-‘, ‘ox, bull, cow’ . There is an American Indian chief named Wilma Mankiller. Her surname is similar to ‘Clytemnestra.’

The first question that you ask is complicated by the differences in the many sources that differ in their data. There really is no information about the relation of Clytemnestra and Helen. The fact that Clytemnestra had a mortal father and that Helen had an immortal one may have been the cause. They are not treated as twin sisters even though Castor and Pollux were born under similar circumstances. There is also no information about what happened to Leda during the childhood of Clytemnestra. It is possible that Clytemnestra was given over to Tantalus when she was quite young. When her husband was killed she became the prize of the man who killed her. This resulted in her marriage to Agamemnon and she became the most powerful woman in Greece. Clytemnestra seems to have been out of the family home quite a whlile when Helen’s marriage was arranged. Clytemnestra is said to have had a sister Phoebe, about whom very little is known. One possibility is that Phoebe and Clytemnestra were really the same person and that the name was changed to reflect her notorierty

When Helen was young, about the time Clytemnestra was married, she was raped by Theseus. Some would contend that Iphigenia was the result of this rape and that Iphigenia was sent to Clytemnestra to be raised. Both Helen and Clytemnestra would have been about 13 at this time but Clytemestra was already married and in a different house. If Agamemnon was the father of Iphigenia she would have to be a little older perhaps by 5 years. Helen was raped by Paris when she was about 18. But then it was ten long years before the start of the trojan war. Helen and Clytemnestra would have been 28 at the start of the Trojan war. Iphigenia would have been about 11 or 16 depending upon who her father was. One reason for suggesting Agamemnon was not her father was because at 16 she would be a better match for Achilles. If Iphigenia was not the daughter of Agamemnon then her sacrifice at Aulis loses some of its force. But she was dead only as far as Helen and Clytemnestra were concerned. To the children of Clytemnestra she was their sister and later she was brought together with them.

Ten years passed before the Trojan war started and the war took 10 years. Agamemnon ruled Mycenae, and his wife, Clytemnestra ruled in his absence. When the war was over Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon. It took another 8 years for Menelaus to bring Helen back to Sparta. In the span of 28 years many in Sparta had died and Orestes had murdered his mother, Clytemnestra.. It is not clear who ruled Sparta in the absence of 18 years by Menelaus. When Menelaus died Orestes, Clytemnestra’s son, took over Sparta by marrying Hermione, Helen’s daughter by Menelaus.

The following speech by Electra in the drama Electra by Euripides is interesting in the context of your questions.

"Then will I speak, and this shall be the prelude of my speech:
Ah, mother mine! would thou hadst had a better heart; for though thy
beauty and Helen's win you praises well deserved, yet are ye akin
in nature, pair of wantons, unworthy of Castor. She was carried off,
'tis true, but her fall was voluntary: and thou hast slain the bravest
soul in Hellas, excusing thyself on the ground that thou didst kill
a husband to avenge a daughter; the world does not know thee so well
as I do, thou who before ever thy daughter's death was decided, yea,
soon as thy lord had started from his home, wert combing thy golden
tresses at thy mirror. That wife who, when her lord is gone from home,
sets to beautifying herself, strike off from virtue's list; for she
has no need to carry her beauty abroad, save she is seeking some mischief.
Of all the wives in Hellas thou wert the only one I know who wert
overjoyed when Troy's star was in the ascendant, while, if it set,
thy brow was clouded, since thou hadst no wish that Agamemnon should
return from Troy. And yet thou couldst have played a virtuous part
to thy own glory. The husband thou hadst was no whit inferior to Aegisthus,
for he it was whom Hellas chose to be her captain. And when thy sister
Helen wrought that deed of shame, thou couldst have won thyself great
glory, for vice is a warning and calls attention to virtue. If, as
thou allegest, my father slew thy daughter, what is the wrong I and
my brother have done thee? How was it thou didst not bestow on us
our father's halls after thy husband's death, instead of bartering
them to buy a paramour? Again, thy husband is not exiled for thy son's
sake, nor is he slain to avenge my death, although by him this life
is quenched twice as much as e'er my sister's was; so if murder is
to succeed murder in requital, I and thy son Orestes must slay thee
to avenge our father; if that was just, why so is this. Whoso fixes
his gaze on wealth or noble birth and weds a wicked woman, is a fool;
better is a humble partner in his home, if she be virtuous, than a
proud one. "

The suggestion here is that Clytemnestra does not seem to have been very interested in family matters.

Question: It doesn’t seem like Clytemnestra had much interest indeed in family matters. On the other hand, it also sounds like she was pretty much heart broken when she thought her other daughter was dead. Or at least, that she never returned home. That suggests she was quite close to Iphegenia. And even though Electra was willing to kill her mother, it doesn’t sound like there was no love between them. She even defends her at some point. Can’t it be that Clytemnestra was a very loving mom and loving wife before Iphegenia disappeared? That it changed her, and that it led to the circumstances that put her in a bad light afterwards?

True, she wasn’t honest to her husband. She cheated on him when he was away. But 10 years is a very long time, even more in those days when people didn’t live as long as they do now. And she might have cheated on him, and that’s not a virtue. But what he did to her (and to Iphegenia even more of course) was countlessly more worse. She wasn’t faithful, but he killed their daughter. He willingly sacrificed her, even though Artemis (wasn’t it Artemis?) saved her in the end. But he couldn’t have known that. He DID sacrifice a human life of a child. Or a young woman, as she was in her teens, and by then a lot of girls were already married. So I don’t really understand why Clytemnestra is portrayed like such an weak, jealous, mean and unloving woman in the literature. But I guess that was the fate of more women in those days (and much more days to come after that). She was unfaithful, yes, true. She killed her husband, true. Which is wrong. Don’t understand me wrong: I do think it was very wrong to kill him. But somehow I can understand her position a bit too. Her life changed a lot because of that Trojan war. First she lost her daughter (and apparantly she loved Iphegenia dearly), which was bad enough as it is. Losing a child can’t have been easier to cope with for a parent back then than now. She must have been heartbroken. But that daughter was sacrificed by her own husband. That loss with the betrayal and treason could have changed her outlook on life. It might have changed her personality. Can’t that be true? It sounds plausable to me.

But still. It is sad that her role is so negative in literature. What about “poor Agamemnon”, who was killed in the bath? He killed his own daughter, and I think he killed Clytemnestra’s first husband too. And I read too that he killed her baby. And then, after those two murders, he married her. Why? Did she had a say in it? Who arranged that/ Why wasn’t he punished for those two murders? Anyway, I don’t think Clytemnestra was very happy about her second marriage to Agamemnon, as it wasn’t that voluntary, and he killed her first child and her first husband. So maybe Clytemnestra never loved Agamemnon? And then he sacrificed Iphegenia. Let’s assume that girl WAS Helen’s daughter. In that case Clytemnestra did quite an extraorinary thing to raise her; to take her into her own home. Clytemnestra was only 13 years old and she already lost a husband, lost her firstborn, and was married to the man who commited those murders. Then her twin sister was raped, and got a baby too. Apparantly Clytemnestra wasn’t such an unloving woman after all, if she agreed to raise the little girl Iphegenia, in order to give Helena some peace. I think that definately says something about the bond between the two sisters.

Anyway, Agamemnon commited many more murders than Clytemnestra did. And his victims were vulnerable and totally innocent. He should have a negative reputation; not Clytemnestra! I feel a bit sorry for her. It seems not fair. She lost so many children because of him, so isn’t it understandable she was raged by him? Maybe she totally lost her mind…. who knows.

I still have a question about that name. So it seems like Clytemnestra wasn’t her real name. That is was more like a nickname. So it means something like “famous for cutting with a knife”? Well, that can’t be a coincidence. That can’t be her birthname. But maybe her real name did have that first part in it: Clyte. I’ve been thinking. I looked for other Greek names with that meaning, and I think Claire or Clare means the same. It means “famed” or “famous” too. And it also starts with “Cl”. Can’t that have been her name? Why do you think it might have been Clymene? Because it starts the same, and because it has a positive sound? Her name before that fateful event of killing her husband can’t have been negative too, so Clymene sounds reasonable, but Claire and Clare also. Are there no written words on this? Who wrote about the births of Helena and Clytemnestra? Didn’t that author mention her real name?

Answer: Yes Clytemnestra gets a bad rap. Her life was very difficult. In her response to it she was a bit too forceful for a women and that seems to have been her undoing. Before her time women seem to have been allowed to be more forceful. Much has been written about early cultures that were dominated by women. The Minoan Culture may have been such a culture. Clytemnestra’s experience may be a reaction to women who are powerful. In fact Agamemnon may have married Clytemenestra because of a rule of matriarchy. In her time women were attached to domains. They did not actually rule them but they were attached to them. When Jocasta’s husband was killed and Oedipus became king he married her because she went along with the domain. When Odysseus did not return the suitors wanted to marry Penelope so they would be king of her domain. Likewise Clytemnestra was attached to the domain of Mycenae when she married Tantalus at a quite young age. When Agamemnon killed Tantalus he had to marry Clytemnestra because she was attached to that domain. Because Agamemnon killed her husband I would assume that she would have a hard time adjusting to Agamemnon. And compared to Jocasta and Penelope, Clytemnestra was much more involved with the control of her domain.

At the time of Clytemnestra the assumtion was that the woman was attached to the domain but that her husband would rule. Both Oedipus and Ulysses seem to be ruling their domains. But there is precedence for the rule of domains by women. The goddesses have such domains. The major goddesses have spirtual domains, but Circe and Calypso are goddesses with physical domains. And both of these goddesses have servants who are lesser goddesses (nymphs) who have lesser, but still physical domains, that are typically springs. Neither Circe or Calypso toil but their servants do probably. But they do command. We do not see them holding court but clearly they have to because the major goddesses must do this. Within their realm they make the laws and enforce them. We do not see Clytemnestra legislating either, but she clearly is active in her domain and her second husband, Aegisthus is passive. Orestes decides to kill her for killing his father. Now the question becomes whether Orestes can be freed of guilt for murder because he commited matricide. In The Eumenides by Aeschylus Athena does this when she says:

"No mother gave me birth. Therefore the fathers's claim 
And male supremacy in all things, save to give 
Myself in marriage, wins my whole heart's loyalty. 
Therefore a woman's death, who killed her husband, is, 
I judge, outweighed in grievousness by his."

With this decision by Athena all vestigaes of matriachy in the mortal realm are gone. But they remain in the divine realm of the Greek Pantheon. When the Greek religion was overthrown by Christianity even that was greatly weakened.

About her name you seem to be on the wrong track. Women were often called by a feminine version of their father’s name. Thus the daughter of Chryses was Chryseis. The daughter of Briseus was Briseis. These are patronymic names. There would be a similar name for Clytemnestra as the daughter of Tyndareus. Tyndaris is perhaps this name but I am not able to translate it. The ‘cly’ part of her name is related to Indo-European ‘kleu-1’, ‘to hear’ and was applied to her only after she became famous. An interesting name that might have been applied to Clytemnestra when she was young is Alphesiboea (Ἀλφεσιβοίας). This means ‘bring many hides’ from Greek ‘ἀλφάίνω’, ‘fetch’ and ‘βοῦς’ ‘bovine’ From Indo-European perhaps ‘albho-‘, ‘white, ‘sel-3’, ‘To take’ and ‘gwou-‘, ‘ox, bull, cow’. This references a Maiden who can yield many ox hides from her suitors. The people of ancient Greece saw value in a daughter for this reason. Clytemnestra was probably in this category when she was a maiden.

My involvement with ancient Greek women began with a page that I wrote on the Amazons. What I have is a web site that expands on this topic. I have spent a lot of time with the Minoan culture because it seemed to be a source of the Amazons. Now it seems more likely that the Amazons came from the source of the Mycenaean culture, the Indo-European culture. But neither source is certain. Originally when I got involved with the web I thought that programming was important and that I could use my programming background. But I found that the content was more important and I have spent a lot of time reading about ancient Greek women. I continue this because it seems like an important topic. The ancient Greek women were not totally free to choose their way of life, but they were a lot freer than almost anyone else. And even though the Classical Greeks put women in a subservient role, still they were given opportunities to educate themselves. In Sparta the wives of the Spartans were amongst the freest because their only role was the rearing of their children. Today women need to think of other roles besides child-rearing. Many countries are burdened by too many children that the women have raised because that is their only role. Society needs to change, both men and women. The study of ancient Greek women may help this. Your study of these women may help with this too.


  1. It’s really too bad Clytemnestra has such a bad repuatation. Because it’s something that can never be changed. It’s just too long ago. It’s hard enough to loose a reputation in modern days, let alone a reputation that lasted for over 3200 years. But it seems so unfair, and so women unfriendly. I’m not really the feminist-type of woman; not at all. But this situation Clytemnestra was in screams for a more womkan-friendly view. It was really Agamemnon who was the bad type in my opinion. Ruthless, he was. It’s odd. He was Menelaus’ brother. Menelaus was kind and loving, it seems. And Helena was very much in love with him, I think. And I don’t believe at all she willingly left him fort Paris. Paris abducted her. Maybe he was “given” Helena’s love by Aphrodite, but it’s not possible to give someone’s love away, if that person doesn’t even know it’s discussed. So Aphrodite could never have given Paris Helena’s love. And I don’t really believe in love potions. Not now, and not then. So if Helena wasn’t in love, then she couldn’t have been forced to love Paris by Aphrodite. I know the myth does say it (at least some versions of the myth does), but I don’t believe it. I personally think Paris abducted her in the true sense of the word.
  2. Anyway, I think Helena loved Menelaus and I think Menelaus was a good husband. So how come his brother Agamemnon was such a bad man? What happened to him that he turned out to be so evil? Because someone who willingly murders a newborn baby, is pretty evil in my opinion. Killing something in a war or in a battle is another thing. That happens, and in those days it happened a lot. Even killing someone in a rage or out of frustration or jealousy or sorrow is something I can understand. I’m not saying I think it’s the right thing to do; of course not. But it can be understandable in some cases. But murdering children? I think there’s never an excuse or reason for that. And Agamemnon had no excuse either to kill Clytemnestra’s baby. By the way, is it known what her baby boy from Tantalus was called? I read about this baby everywhere on websites about Clytemnestra, but I didn’t find a name anywhere.
  3. And do you know how old Clytemnestra was when she married Tantalus? And why did she marry him at such an early age? I read somewhere that Tantalus was an old man? How old was he? Was she in love with him? She can’t have been older than about 11 or 12. Isn’t it unbelievable that people in those days though a girl was mature enough to marry and have children at just 11 years old? Or do you think they WERE mature enough? That an 11 year old girl from 2009 could never be compared to a 11-year old girl in Greece 1200 BC?
  4. Is there anything known about their youths? Of Helena, Clytemnestra and their twin brothers? And there was another sister Phoebe? I can’t find any real information about her. Just that she existed. Was she older or younger than the 4 hatchlings from the swan eggs? And you mention another sister. You also said they both died young. So you DO know something about these two sisters. So it was a father and a mother and 6 children in that household? Four girls and two boys? I like reading about the myths. But I would like it much, much more if somewhere there would be some info about their real lives. You know, the daily routine. What their youth was like. What kind of things they did when they were just teens, but already had babies. Did they care for their children themselves? Were they rich? Do you know anything about their youths and teen years?
  5. I have another question. More about your personal opinion, as you couldn’t give me “the truth”, I think. As nobody knows what the truth is; it’s too long ago. But what do you think? When I read about that Greek era, there are lots of mythical aspects. There were Gods, and godesses, and titans, and all other sorts of divine figures. There was mount Olympus, and the Gods and Godesses were immortal, and they had special powers. When you look at the lives of Clytemnestra and Helena, it already starts at their beginning. Zeus changed into a swan and raped Leda, and there were two eggs. Helena and Clytemnestra in one egg, and the boys in the other. Leda’s real husband was the father of two of them, but even that is not a 100% certainty. So these “normal” women like Helena and Clytemnestra were born out of an egg. And their father turned into a swan… But that’s just not possible! I don’t really care, because I think the myth and the “unbelievable” aspects of these stories are very charismatic and fantastic.
  6. And by the way, I’m not the kind of person anyway who believes just that what can be proven, either by science or my mediacal studies. I can believe in many things that can’t be proven, because they don’t HAVE to be proven. Faith is about that, isn’t it? Believing something and not needing proof? The same with this. I think miracles can happen. Why not? If you believe in God, and I do, then no miracle is totally unbelievable or unpossible. But even then. That whole Greek myth system is a lot to digest, even if you do believe in miracles. If it all happened just like that, then the world was a very different world then we now know. Well, who knows; maybe it was.
  7. But what do you believe? Did these strange things really happen like it is told? Are the myths for real? Are they just called “myths” because there is no historical proof in the form of written words or existing buildings or sculptures or art, or are they called “myths” also because it isn’t the truth? That’s two very different views. People like Homerus and Eudipidus and others wrote about these figures. About this era. So there is written history in a way. But these were authors, poets. Don’t authors and poets have the freedom to tell it like they desire to? So if they wanted to make it nicer or more fantastic, that they mixed fiction with reality? They could have, and they probably did. But why? And can we be sure?
  8. Frederick, do you know of any author of that time that didn’t try to write literature, but who just tried to write down history? Someone who didn’t try to make it look more fantastic? Someone who didn’t alter stories and added aspects that Greek or Latin authors of that time were used to add? Because I think men like Homerus wrote stories in a very beautiful way (even back then they must have agreed about that), but he also probably wrote it like it was custom to do. Didn’t he? Isn’t there any author who wrote about other things? About boring daily life things, and not so much about the tragedy’s and heroic things? Because that would be much more interesting in my view. I love reading about the myths; we all do. But I think it’s much more interesting what they really thought, what their dreams were, what their emotions were like. What their characters were like. Things like that.
  9. Now a last question. You say daughters used to get the feminine form of their father’s name. But that needn’t to be the case with Clytemnestra. The other sisters weren’t all called Tandaris either. They were called Helena, Phoebe and what-was-her-name? So they were given their own names too. So there’s no indication in that sense that Clytemnestra’s real name would have been Tandaris. But aren’t there any poets or authors who wrote about her real name? Nobody knows?


  1. Paragraph 1 — It’s really too bad —
    The good thing about Homeric heroes is that they have so many human traits as they have been recorded. They have real qualities. By studying the available literature you will realize that Agamamnon was not as bad as you think, nor was Meneleus as good. It turns out your belief in love potions is not that important. What is important is the beliefs of the people that use them.
  2. Paragraph 2 — Anyway, I think —
    The main value of the Iliad and the Odyssey is the discussion of ethics. Some people believe every action can be judged by rules. Some believe each action must be judged in context. To decide you will have to carefully judge each each action in context. The good thing about the ancient Greeks is that they provide lots of material for this. Name of the child Clytemnestra and Tantalus — According to Timothy Gantz (p. 549) the only reference is “in Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Aulis” (1149-52), where she says that she was originally married to one Tantalos, and that Agamemnon killed both him and their child. She ads that Agamemnon then married her by force, and the implication is thus that his motive for the murders was to obtain her, although the test does not actually say that. Apollodorus repeats the story,(ApE2.16)…and Pausanius agrees with the geneology and the marriage, although he omits the child(2.18.2) “
  3. Paragraph 3 — And do you know —
    Many people agree Clytemestra was 12. Girls were married young so the husband’s family could train them to the husband’s way. In general a man would be living in his family’s compound. He would be part of a larger family group ruled by his father or grandfather. When the wife came into the group she would be ruled more by her mother-in-law than by her husband. The husband and wife might sleep together but that is all. During the day the men would go outside the home to work and the women would work together inside the home. The new wife might be taught weaving, sewing and similar domestic skills. She might cook, but this is not documented. She would have a specialized function in a larger group of women. Slaves would do the water fetching and cleaning. In the evening there would be a social time involving a meal. Even then it was common for the man and women to be separate. The woman slaves would wait on the men while the women had their own event.
  4. Paragraph 4 — Is there anything known —
    Though little can be stated with certainly there are valuable conjectures that can be made. Euripides seems to think that not much had changed in Sparta from his time to the time of the Trojan war. So your can study what has been written about Sparta to get an idea about the life of the youth. Some reasonable conclusions that can be drawn include: The were raised by wet nurses; they remained naked until they were five, their education consisted of sports contests,etc., they were not taught reading and writing as that was not done until perhaps 800 BCE. The one thing we know about was that Helen was abducted by Theseus when she was twelve. He may have impregnated her. This may have not been that rare at that time. What was rare is that Helen’s brother’s, also 12, were powerful enough to get her back. Another fact is that Helen was dancing in the temple of Artemis Orthia when she was abducted. She knew how to dance and she participated in religious ceremonies. Helen’s parents were a king and queen of Laecedamon. We know from archaeology that they were mainly into raising sheep and making cloth from those sheep. This was exported to great distance. They were so wealthy that they built great palaces of stone. The only work Helen might have done was weaving. While she was weaving her brothers would be out hunting. Unlike most people she slept in her own room but she was not alone. A slave maid slept at the foot of her bed and another slept outside her door. Each palace was a village unto itself with most of the people having the status of a slave. Robert E. Bell says “The childhood of these four (the ones from the eggs) must have been full of uncommon happenings. Their interrelationships could only have been provocative since two of them were immortal, thinking and reacting accordingly.” Though I think it is better to think of Helen as mortal. But at this point it is hard to distinguish between the mortality or immortality of Helen. Polydeuces is the only immortal in the group. But this is strange because an immortal needs no childhood.
  5. Paragraph 5 — I have another question —
    The writing about the ancient Greek deities is a test of your religious tolerance. One man’s faith is another man’s myth. I consider that these stories about the ancient Greek religion to be about the same thing as the Christian Bible. And both of these things relate to each person’s personal experience. It is nice to know the causes of things but many things happen that are not possible of explanation and one must resolve yourself to them. They myths provide understanding of things that could not otherwise be known. Even today the Greek myths can do that for you. Today the Greek myths are used to personify things and this is meaningful. Another approach is to compare Christian values with the values of the ancient Greek. This can provide a better understanding of both. Instead of rejecting the myths as false considering what is true about them can be very meaningful.
  6. Paragraph 6 — And by the way —
    The world was very different then. But what happened then is not irrelevant. Studying what happened then can give new insight into different things that are happening now. Particularly though life was short and in most case miserable the ancient Greeks seemed to have an extremely rich life. In some cases their lives were richer than are own. We might be able to learn from them how to accomplish life enrichment.
  7. Paragraph 7 — But what do your believe — Things did happen and some of them were strange. The myths are for real. But even Aristotle knew that they did not describe physical reality. So he referred to some facts as “from the poets”. The poets tried to tell the truth. But their task was not to relay historical or physical facts. In fact they really did not understand history or science. One aspect is that what they related was very personal. Many things happen that are neither historical nor physical but are personal. Yet the individual must deal with these things especially when they have personal impact. The myths have value when they relate facts that are useful. But the usefulness may mainly be for one’s personal life. If the myths can reduce your anxiety or inspire you then they may have accomplished their mission. The ancient Greek deities are just as much alive today as they were then. But their realm is spiritual rather than physical. For the ancient Greeks the deities provided explanations that helped them. They were part of a causal chain that explained things. In their search for causes they realized that the deities played less and less of a part. Aristotle reduced deities to a prime mover. He also wrote about topics that were clearly to him outside of the physical. These topics are collected in his Metaphysics. It is interesting in Homer that physical events are explained by deities that behave like human beings. These explanations are more revealing of human behavior than they are good explanations of physical reality. The abstract nature of those deities inpired great art. But underneath the myths and stories of Greek deities is a system of law which became very important. The idea that reality can be interpreted by laws, whether divine or not, allowed Greek religion to lay the foundation for modern science.
  8. Paragraph 8 — Frederick, do you know —
    Herodotus is the father of history. Thucydides followed in his footsteps. Aristotle began natural history. The science and knowledge foundation of our culture owes much to these historians. The ancient Greeks did not consider daily life boring. You can find many details if you look. There is much in their literature. The ancient Greek vases are rich in their illustration of daily life.
  9. Paragraph 9 — Now a last question —
    Names of Leda’s children — Helen, the twins Castor and Polydeuces, Clytemnestra, Philonoe or Phylonoe, Timandra, and Phoebe. But one possibility is that some may be the same person called by different names. Only the thre daughters Helen, Clytemnestra, and Timandra seem to have survived long enough to be married. It is not known wheter Timandra was older or younger than Helen.

Question: do you think that clytemenstra is in the right. Is she a sympathetic character. Were her action justified. Should we applaud her or condemn her for the murder

Answer: Clytemnestra is interesting because she is ambiguous. Her situation stimulates thought. Her murder of Agamemnon is easily justified. He killed her first husband and won her as a wife. He killed her youngest daughter. He intended to get rid of her and live with his mistress (sex slave) Cassandra. She could get no satisfaction for these crimes in the civil court because Agamemnon was king and would decide all such cases. But she also killed Cassandra and her two children. This was a murderous act committed on an innocent person. In ancient Greece if a man’s wife is seduced by anoter man he had the right to kill him. But it is not clear if the reverse were true.

The ambiguity is somewhat clarified by the fact that Orestes was told by Apollo to kill his mother Clytemnestra as vengeance for her act. He did this but was tormented by the furies because a child was not allowed o kill either of his parents. Finally Orestes got a trial for his murder. It was a jury of his peers. But it turned out to be hung. So Athena cast the deciding vote and he was absolved. Her reasons are important for the case of Clytemnestra.

Aeschylus, Eumenides line 735: “For there was no mother who gave me birth; and in all things, except for marriage, whole-heartedly I am for the male and entirely on the father’s side. Therefore, I will not award greater honor to the death of a woman who killed her husband, the master of the house.”

The best sense that can be made of this statement is that Athena is rejecting the matriarchy of the old religion in favor of the patriarchy of Zeus. Athena admits to the Furies that their law was a good one in the past. But now they would have to submit to the will of Zeus. Today we may not want to submit to the will of Zeus and our sympathy might be more with Clytemnestra. But we would want her to submit to the rule of law and not act in such a violent way.