Managing public perceptions : reading success in Agamemnon's diapeira

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2016-12

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Shrout, William Clay IV

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Abstract

The success of Agamemnon’s test (diapeira) in Iliad 2 is still a matter of debate among Homeric scholars. This report not only argues that Agamemnon’s test was successful, but also will examine how skillfully Agamemnon manipulates his subordinates. Unlike his brash and shameless attempt to subordinate Achilles in Iliad 1, the Homeric poet depicts Agamemnon as conforming to more socially acceptable behavior in order to maintain his position as chief of the Achaean army. However, I argue that Agamemnon’s attempt to present a more positive public image is a shrewd ploy to subordinate both the host of laoi and the elite gerontes in the wake of Achilles’ rebellion. Agamemnon’s test unfolds gradually in four distinct narrative sections in Iliad 2. In Narrative Section 1 Zeus’ deceptive dream, in the form of Nestor, serves as a catalyst for Agamemnon’s behavioral change. This section also serves as a narrative turning point away from Agamemnon's failure to control Achilles in Iliad 1. In the Narrative Digression, a genealogy of Agamemnon’s skeptron illustrates the ease with which chiefly power can be transferred and foreshadows his temporary bestowal of his power on Odysseus. In Narrative Section 2, Agamemnon presents himself to the boule of gerontes as acting with communal cohesion in mind, but omits his intention to capitalize on the laoi’s desperation and thus to force the gerontes to support his position as chief. Finally, in Narrative Section 3 Odysseus reveals to the gerontes that Agamemnon has deceived them and successfully carries out Agamemnon's plan to ensure the loyalty of of both elites and non-elites through two different rhetorical strategies.

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