Agamemnon and Menelaus were the sons of Atreus and Aerope and are best known for the roles they played in Greece’s ten year war with the city of Troy. Though Menelaus experienced his own share of life’s difficulties, I think it is a fair proposal to suggest that the curse of Myrtilus rested more heavily upon the shoulders of Agamemnon. I hope you will enjoy this small glimpse inside of the lives of these two famous brothers.
Helen and Clytemnestra
During the brief time of Thyestes’ rule over the kingdom of Mycenae, Agamemnon and Meneluas were driven from the city and granted sanctuary from King Tyndareus of Sparta.
While living under the protection of the royal household, the brothers were each promised to receive a daughter of the king to be their wife. Though the princess Clytemnestra was considered to be the biological daughter of Tyndareus and his wife Leda, there were rumors concerning the paternity of her sister Helen.
According to some accounts both Helen and her brother Polyduces were thought to have been conceived during a romantic tryst between their mother and the god Zeus.
It seems that the god had been paying secret visits to the queen disguised in the shape of a snow white swan. As to be expected, Leda soon found herself to be with child, however when it came time for her to give birth a most unusual event took place.
Instead of bringing forth human children, Leda went on to lay two eggs. Curiously, from the first egg hatched Castor and Clytemnestra, the two mortal children of Tyndareus. Moments later the second egg split open and out popped Helen and Polyduces, the two semi-divine children of Zeus.
Because Helen had been blessed with exceptional beauty, many rich and powerful suitors petitioned Tyndareus for her hand in marriage. They came from all parts of the world, each bearing lavish gifts and touting speeches designed to deem them the most qualified to be the maiden’s husband.
In order to avoid any hard feelings from developing between himself and the bevy of admirers, Tyndareus declared that it would only be fair and just to choose the bridegroom through the act of drawing straws.
The men greeted this suggestion with enthusiasm and gathered about the king, each ready to take his chance at the prize. Before allowing the suitors to draw their lots, Tyndareus first made each man swear a never ending allegiance to the victor, regardless of whom he shall be.
Odysseus, Patroclus, Ajax the Great and Peirithous were just a few of the contenders found standing amongst the large crowd of hopefuls who, with a silent prayer to Tyche, stepped forward and breathlessly drew forth a straw.
When all the lots were secured, the rivals carefully opened up their hands only to reveal Menelaus as the winner. In the interest of keeping peace between the two brothers, Tyndareus thought it wise to simultaneously betroth his daughter Clytemnestra to Agamemnon.
Eventually Tyndareus chose to pass the crown to his son-in-law, making Menelaus the new king of Sparta. Once established in his new position of power, Menelaus gathered up his armies and together with Agamemnon attacked Mycenae and forced Thyestes into exile. Agamemnon then took his place upon the throne, and with that allowed the house of Atreus to once again regain rulership over the kingdom.