THE KING OF MEN by Olivia Coolidge


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The author has done many excellent recreations of ancient life, and this book, like Greek Myths and The Trojan War, is derived from a combination of historical research, Greek mythology, and the author's own, very convincing invention. It deals with Agamemnon during his early, forgotten years before the tragic events of the Iliad and the Oresteia.. The narration switches easily between the casual banter of the gods and the life and death matters of the humans their whims control. The story begins with the controversy between Agamemnon's father, King Atreus, and his brother, Thyestes, which culminated in both their deaths after Thyestes' son was offered in a sacrifice instead of Agamemnon. Agamemnon's first years of rule were weak, until Odysseus came to encourage him and the two traveled together to Sparta, where he met his betrothed, Clytemnestra, and fell in love with her sister Helen. The book ends happily. Agamemnon assumes power over Mycenae, and he is shown on his wedding night promising to Clytemnestra a daughter, Iphigenia and a son (but not Electra), and only the comments of the gods indicate the coming of the Trojan War and the fact that Agamemnon still owes them his life. For those who already are familiar with the whole Agamemnon story, this book offers a fresh and interesting slant, but for others, many of the references will seem obscure and without a prior understanding of what happened later the significance is not clear.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1966
Publisher: Houthton Mifflin