The Mask of Agamemnon

480px-MaskOfAgamemnon.jpg
The Mask of Agamemnon. Photo by: Xuan Che [CC BY 2.0] via Wikipedia
In the Archeological Museum in Athens there’s a golden funeral mask that was found by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 when he was excavating Mycenae. It goes by the name of the mask of Agamemnon. Needless to say, it’s probably not the mask of Agamemnon but I, like Schliemann, find the idea that it depicts Agamemnon, rather than somebody we never heard of, much more interesting… and easier to remember. 🙂


Schliemann is of course famous as the amateur archeologist who found Troy by bothering to take Homer’s Iliad seriously – a notion that apparently didn’t occur to anybody else.

As for Agamemnon, he’s famous as a king of Mycenae, brother of Menelaus (the husband of Helen) and commander of the Greek armies that besieged Troy…

On the way to Troy, Agamemnon offended the goddess Artemis by killing a sacred deer. As Artemis then stilled the winds and the fleet could not sail for Troy, Agamemnon had to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia in Aulis to appease the goddess. On returning from Troy, Agamemnon was killed by his wife Clytemnestra in revenge for their daughter’s death. In due course, Clytemnestra was killed by their son Orestes at the instigation of Electra (his sister) in revenge for his father’s death… (Are you still with me?)

All of which constitutes classic Greek tragedy stuff and was subject of several plays such as Iphigenia at Aulis (a play subsequently reworked by Goethe) and Electra by Euripides, Electra by Sophocles and the only surviving Ancient Greek drama trilogy, the Oresteia by Aeschylus (which won first prize at the Dionysia festival in 458 B.C.).

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7 thoughts on “The Mask of Agamemnon

    1. You flatter me… as always! 🙂 I’m glad you liked it.

      The annoying thing about posts like this is that none of the museums ever let you take a picture of their exhibits, so you’re left with having to borrow the picture of Wikipedia!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I enjoyed that – even managed to stay with you. Would “dysfunctional family” be an apt modern description of many sources of classical drama? Thank you for following my blog – hoping you enjoy the chaotic mix of photography and history ancient and modern. Des.

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  2. I’m always fascinating by the offending, and sacrificing in these stories. The Gods never seem to be willing to forgive do they? What pray tell…do they expect of the humans, and why oh why do they let their “lessers” get under their skin? Just a thought!

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