He had often been called King of Men, Lion of Mycenae, and Iron Warrior. He commanded a fleet of over 1,000 ships and 10,000 warriors. He himself was one of the greatest of them. It was he who unified nearly all of Greece after all which no other king ever had been able to do. He raised Mycenae up from the ashes his father and uncle had left it in and transformed it almost magically into the well-renowned City of Gold. He had a tall, muscular bronze body that even a few Gods were jealous of. When in battle, he dealt death quickly and sometimes even mercilessly. His name spread terror throughout Hellas. So why did all these gifts fail him when he needed them most?
By the Gods, he loved his daughter as much as Demeter loved her Persephone! Yet, he knew all too well that men weren't supposed to love their daughters as much as their sons. He lived in a world where sons were sent off to fight wars they knew nothing of and daughters married off to some old grouch for political purposes perhaps to never see her family again. He knew the system all too well, but despite his position...he bitterly hated it. How could he not love his own flesh and blood? And in truth, he loved all his children equally...but she had been his first-born so a special place in his heart had been reserved for her.
Ye gods! What had he ever done to deserve such pain and grief? His beloved daughter...his Iphigenia... She didn't die, although she was ready to...to spare her father any further pain. At the last minute, the goddess Artemis (for whom Iphigenia was being sacrificed) spirited her away and in her place, there lay a fawn. Yet, Agamemnon knew that he would never see his first-born again.
That day caused him the greatest sorrow the world had ever known. Never had anything of that sort been asked from mortals...to offer their own child to the Gods. As soon as his daughter was whisked away, his heart changed forever and would never be the same again. He knew his wife would never forgive him, but how could he explain to her that he sooner would've killed himself and let all Greece be humiliated than to harm his child? But, if the Gods demanded it...how could he, a mortal, compete with them? Although, he no doubt would've found a way.
So there he was...sitting in his tent, brooding while all his warriors had gone to sleep. They had been there for 9 years now...there was no clear winner. Troy had surprised them all with their endurance and he knew they were not expecting the Greeks to remain for as long as they had.
He stood up, stretching his awe-inspiring muscles that had given him the name of Iron Warrior, and wandered idly to a corner of his magnificent tent where his eyes fell upon a wonderfully made tapestry that Iphigenia had given him for his birthday years before.
She had woven his entire family in the middle...his parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, his brother Menelaus and sister Anaxibia, his siblings-in-law (Castor, Polydueces, and Helen)his wife Clytemnestra, and his own children...Iphigenia, Electra Orestes, and Chrysothemis.
On the left, there was a picture of Agamemnon himself telling his children of the story of the legendary King Midas who was cursed with the gift of having whatever he touched turn to gold while Clytemnestra smiled warmly from the corner at this display of paternal love.
Then...in the right...Iphigenia wove herself, smiling up at her father, her lovely arms outstretched as if embracing him. She had her hair hung loose on her shoulders as she did when she was a child, and she wore a pretty but simple leaf-green dress since both her and her father preferred the simple things. For this was her as he knew her…not the Princess of Mycenae, not priestess of Artemis, not just another beautiful woman…it was her as herself...his precious daughter…his baby…just his Iphigenia.
He managed to give a half-hearted smile despite his sorrow, and ever so gently grazed Iphigenia's smile. He loved her smile. There was in particular that she saved for him alone. Whenever he strided into a room, she would flash him one of those. And everyone else knew that Daddy was home.
His eyes caught something else…the parchment she gave him in addition to the tapestry attached to it by her hairpin.
Happy Birthday! I know you have enough swords and spears, so I decided to weave this for you. Let this keep you warm on days when you are far from home; whether conversing in a foreign palace or fighting a war in a far away land. That way you will have your Iphigenia with you and she will not fret for lack of her father, knowing that he is embracing wool woven from her hands. You will notice I wove myself with arms spread wide…this is so you can, in some way, embrace your daughter. I also added you telling us the story of Midas since we all loved that one. And I added the whole family in the middle so you won't be alone all those nights in camp. This way at least…we're all together…even if it's just in a tapestry. I will miss you, Daddy. Please come home safely. I love you!
Your ever-loving daughter,
Heart-wrenching tears swelled up in his eyes as he lovingly fingered his daughter's letter. He bent down slowly and kissed it. Then, he shambled toward the flaps of his tent, and lingered there for a while, staring longingly at the corner of the tapestry where his daughter stood with arms wide open, welcoming her father. May all the Gods keep you safe, child. Be happy, wherever you are. Watch over your siblings. And remember that I love you too, my daughter. I always did…and I always will.
Finally, he opened up one of the flaps, blew his woven daughter a kiss over-flowing with a father's love, and left his tent.