Asteroid Files: Agamemnon

Helios on Agamemnon– Have you had one of those days where everything goes wrong and none of it is your fault? And then you burn down an entire city just because your brother’s father’s uncle’s cousin’s former roomate was mad about it too? Well, you might have a friend in this asshat of an asteroid hero…

The Astronomy– 911 Agamemnon is a large Jupiter trojan and a suspected binary asteroid from the Greek camp, approximately 168 kilometers (100 miles) in diameter. It was discovered on 19 March 1919, by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth at the Heidelberg Observatory in southwest Germany. The dark D-type asteroid is one of the largest Jupiter trojans and has a rotation period of 6.6 hours. It is named after the Greek King Agamemnon, a main character of the Iliad. It orbits the Sun at a distance of 4.9–5.6 AU once every 12 years and 1 month (4,427 days; semi-major axis of 5.28 AU). Its orbit has an eccentricity of 0.07 and an inclination of 22° with respect to the ecliptic.

The Myth– Agamemnon was a king of Mycenae- the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra and the father of Iphigenia, Electra or Laodike, Orestes and Chrysothemis. Agamemnon’s family history had been tarnished by murder, incest, and treachery, consequences of the heinous crime perpetrated by his ancestor, Tantalus, and then of a curse placed upon Pelops, son of Tantalus, by Myrtilus, whom he had murdered. Thus misfortune hounded successive generations of the House of Atreus, until atoned by Orestes in a court of justice held jointly by humans and gods.

When Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was taken to Troy by Paris, Agamemnon commanded the united Greek armed forces in the ensuing Trojan War. Preparing to depart for Troy, Agamemnon’s army incurred the wrath of the goddess Artemis. Misfortunes, including a plague and a lack of wind, prevented the army from sailing. Finally, the prophet Calchas announced that the wrath of the goddess could only be propitiated by the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia. Classical dramatizations differ on how willing either father or daughter was to this fate; some include such trickery as claiming she was to be married to Achilles, but Agamemnon did eventually sacrifice Iphigenia. Her death appeased Artemis, and the Greek army set out for Troy. Several alternatives to the human sacrifice have been presented in Greek mythology. Other sources, such as Iphigenia at Aulis, say that Agamemnon was prepared to kill his daughter, but that Artemis accepted a deer in her place, and whisked her away. Hesiod said she became the goddess Hecate.

Agamemnon was the commander-in-chief of the Greeks during the Trojan War. During the fighting, Agamemnon killed Antiphus and fifteen other Trojan soldiers, according to one source. But in the “Iliad” itself, he’s shown to slaughter hundreds more in Book 11 during his “aristea” loosely translated to “day of glory” which is the most similar to Achilles‘ “aristea” in Book 21 (they both are compared to lions and destructive fires in battle, their hands are described as “splattered with gore” and “invincible,” the Trojans flee to the walls, they both are appealed to by one of their victims, they are both avoided by Hector, they both get wounded in the arm or hand, and they both kill the one who wounded them). Even before his “aristea,” Agamemnon was considered to be one of the three best warriors on the Greek side as proven when Hector challenges any champion of the Greek side to fight him in Book 7, and Agamemnon (along with Diomedes and Big Aias) is one of the three most wished for to face him out of the nine strongest Greek warriors who volunteered. And after they reconciled, even Achilles admits in Book 23 that Agamemnon is “the best in strength and in throwing the spear.” That claim is further proven by the fact that Agamemnon was the only major warrior on either side to never need the gods’ direct intervention to increase his strength or give him any unfair advantages in battle and yet he still caused incredible destruction almost on the scale of Achilles.

The Iliad tells the story about the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles in the final year of the war. Following one of the Achaean Army’s raids, Chryseis, daughter of Chryses, one of Apollo’s priests, was taken as a war prize by Agamemnon. Chryses pleaded with Agamemnon to free his daughter but was met with little success. Chryses then prayed to Apollo for the safe return of his daughter, which Apollo responded to by unleashing a plague over the Greek Army. After learning from the Prophet Calchas that the plague could be dispelled by returning Chryseis to her father, Agamemnon reluctantly agreed, (but first berated Calchas for previously forcing Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter (Iphigenia) and released his prize. However, as compensation for his lost prize, Agamemnon demanded a new prize. As a result, Agamemnon stole an attractive slave called Briseis, one of the spoils of war, from Achilles. Achilles, the greatest warrior of the age, withdrew from battle in response to Agamemnon’s action and put the Greek armies at risk of losing the war. Agamemnon, having realized Achilles’s importance in winning the war against the Trojan Army, sent ambassadors begging for Achilles to return, offering him riches and the hand of his daughter in marriage, but Achilles refused, only being spurred back into action when his husband closest friend, Patroclus, was killed in battle.

Although not the equal of Achilles in bravery, Agamemnon was a representative of “kingly authority”. As commander-in-chief, he summoned the princes to the council and led the army in battle. His chief fault was his overwhelming haughtiness; an over-exalted opinion of his position that led him to insult Chryses and Achilles, thereby bringing great disaster upon the Greeks. After the capture of Troy, Cassandra, the doomed prophetess and daughter of Priam, fell to Agamemnon’s lot in the distribution of the prizes of war. After a stormy voyage, Agamemnon and Cassandra either landed in Argolis, or were blown off course and landed in Aegisthus’ country. Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife, had taken Aegisthus, son of Thyestes, as a lover. When Agamemnon came home he was slain by either Aegisthus (in the oldest versions of the story) or Clytemnestra. According to the accounts given by Pindar and the tragedians, Agamemnon was slain in a bath by his wife alone, a blanket of cloth or a net having first been thrown over him to prevent resistance. Clytemnestra also killed Cassandra. Her jealousy of Cassandra, and her wrath at the sacrifice of Iphigenia and at Agamemnon’s having gone to war over Helen of Troy, are said to have been the motives for her crime.

Why He Matters– Where do I even begin with this one… Okay, so before I get too deep into this, let me just preface this by telling you all that the Iliad and the Odyssey were my damn bedtime stories growing up (along with all the other Greek tales of myth and godly buffoonery). As a child I always FUCKING HATED AGAMEMNON. Thought he was a whiny, brash, spolied child. As an adult I still do. So there’s some bias here.

Now. what do we do with this hero of heroes? What role does he play in the chart? For starters, lets just call a spade a spade and give him anger issues, rage, the like. More than that, I kind of feel bad for the guy, he was cursed way before he was born (fucking Tantalus….)  so there’s an element of the whole “Sins of the father” trope- but his actions with Iphigenia and at Troy are his own, not his fate. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Agamemnon is a point in which you can defy fate, and overcome anything through sheer force of will alone (that whole bit about not needing divine intervention and still outperforming Achilles, my second favorite Hero…. Very impressive). So there’s something good, I guess. Trouble is, he’s also indicative of where you lose EVERYTHING you care about, and your “overcoming” becomes a Pyrrhic victory at best. Agamemnon is where you have to sacrifice what you are fighting for to win the battle. The question of “You can win, but at what cost?”. He’s a straight up savage, and not in a good way (at least not anymore). Another thing, this asteroid is a point in your chart where you are ALWAYS going to be fighting an uphill battle to be noticed and for recognition for your accomplishments. Beyond that, he’s just an insufferable, cocky asshole (“and petty!”, Achilles shouts from a distance in my subconscious). Wherever you have Agamemnon you will NOT have a happy ending, and its going to be your own damn fault at the end of the day.

To find out where he shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 911, for Agamemnon. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Agamemnon affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!

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