The House of Atreus

This house is the symbol of the most dysfunctional family in all of Greek mythology. The royal dynasty of Atreus, father of Agamemnon and Menelaus (husband of Helen), inherits the proclivity towards uncontrollable evil. In the previous generation, Thyestes and his brother Atreus engage in a feud after Thyestes commits adultery with Atreus's wife, Aerope. Under the pretense of reconciliation, Atreus invites his unsuspecting brother to a banquet where Thyestes unknowingly dines on the flesh of his own sons. Thyestes's last son, Aegisthus, in the tradition of myth, grows up, returns, and slays his uncle Atreus, then seduces Clytemnestra (Agamemnon's wife) while Agamemnon is off fighting the Trojans, and murders Agamemnon on his return from the Trojan War. Revenge is a dish better served cold. The curse of the house continues as Orestes, Agamemnon's son, returns and slays Aegisthus and his own mother, Clytemnestra. The furies pursue Orestes to Apollo's temple at Delphi and consequently Orestes is put on trial in Aeschylus's continuation of the myth in 458 B. C. entitled the Oresteia, a tragedy unlike other tragedies. This is then mythology as diachronic--historical linguistics over a period of time. Names become icons, a nexus point to a whole complexity of meanings--trope.

The Events at Aulis

The armada is assembled and the goddess Artemis causes the winds to die down, thus preventing the ships from embarking for Troy. When Agamemnon appeals to the gods for some clue as how to proceed, Calchas tells him that he must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. Only then do the ships set sail. The irony of the situation is powerful. The war, from the Greeks' perspective, is initiated in order to preserve the integrity of the family, and yet the war begins with Agamemnon destroying his own daughter. The effort of the Greeks is tainted from the start by irony and hypocrisy. Notice that Homer doesn't tell us about the murder of Iphigenia.