Struggling Veteran in the Odyssey by Homer

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The Odyssey by Homer is an epic about a man’s return home after fighting in war. The protagonist of the epic is Odysseus, but interactions with and stories of his fellow veterans abound. The story of Agamemnon’s death upon returning home is retold and referred to numerous times and serves as a warning to Odysseus of the dangers that could exist for him in Ithaka. The ghost of Agamemnon is encountered by Odysseus in the land of the dead and is quite changed from the friend he knew and fought with at Troy. Despite his high place in life and exploits in war, Agamemnon demonstrates the suffering of the returning veteran.
Agamemnon survived the ten year long Trojan War, even as other great warriors such as Achilleus fell. Tales of the war are widespread and it is described by both its veterans and non-participants in glorified terms. Agamemnon is often singled out for leadership and accomplishments. Demodokos sings of the “famous actions/ of men on that venture” and “that lord of men, Agamemnon” while performing for Odysseus on Alkinoos.(VIII, 73-74, 77). Agamemnon stands out as one of “the leaders of the bronze- armored Achaians” who fought at Troy and is recognized as a major hero of the war (IV,496).
Like other heroes of the war, Agamemnon is a powerful king. He was able to raise men to follow him to Troy. He is referred to by the epithet “sheperd of people” (III, 156). In the underwold, Achilleus tells Agamemnon,
Son of Atreus, we thought that all your days you were favored beyond all other heroes by Zeus who delights in the thunder, because you were lord over numerous people, and strong ones, in the land of the Trojans, where we Achaians suffered hardships. (XXIV, 24-27)
Achilleus acknowledges Agamemnon in this c...

... middle of paper ... interactions with his wife are filled with tension and he is saddened when he reflects upon the men lost during war and the death of his brother.
The Trojan War veterans of The Odyssey succeeded in defeating their enemies on the battlefield. The end of combat did not mean relief from burdens for them. War is cruel, but in it these men see a glory they cannot find outside. Achilleus’ death in war is treated with ceremony and respect. Agamemnon, having survived that same war, dies a pitiful death and Klytaimestra “was so hard that her hands would not/ press shut [his] eyes and mouth though [he] was going to Hades” (XI, 425-426). Dying at home meant being denied even simple acts of dignity. Reflecting back on it Hades, Agamemnon characterizes the veteran’s struggles when he asks, “What pleasure was there for me when I had wound up the fighting?” (XXIV, 95).
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