Individual Abuse of Power Reflected in the Politics and Drama of Ancient Greece
The Greeks believed that too much power entrusted in one person was dangerous. They were the first democratic society in a tumultuous world of kings and emperors, and they were proud of their ideology. Considering their fervent belief in rule by many, its not surprising that many Greek dramas revolve around an individual hero or a king's fall from power because of pride or some other personality flaw. Well-known characters in some of the greatest Greek tragedians' plays illustrate this idea. In Aeschylus's Agamemnon, the title character is a returning king who behaves arrogantly and thoughtlessly. He is murdered by his wife and his kingdom falls apart. Sophocles's character Oedipus ends up killing his father, losing his kingdom and his wife and mother, and becoming a blind, wandering outcast for the rest of his life. Jason in Euripides's Medea deserts his family for a new marriage which he hopes will further his station, but his old wife kills his new wife and his children, ending his hopes for a shining future. The evolving theme of an individual's weakness and subsequent downfall supports the Greek's democratic system, where no individual becomes too powerful.
Agamemnon is a great warrior, but not a great family man. On his way to the Trojan war, he sacrificed his daughter to the gods so that his ships would be able to arrive safely and swiftly. This is an especially rotten thing to do because the war is being waged to reclaim just one woman, Helen. It is hard to justify killing one’s own daughter so that somebody else can get his wife back. However, war is what he is good at, and if he didn’t sacrifice his daughter he would be letting down an entire army. From his point of view, he doesn’t have much of a choice, and he does realize that killing his daughter was cruel. The fact that he recognizes and regrets, at least a little bit, his crime makes Agamemnon seem more like an ill-fated man than a bad man, which shows that the gods are naturally inclined to be prejudiced against those who hold power. He goes on to wage war and destroy innocent lives, angering both the people and the gods. The chorus predict his downfall: “The gods fail not to mark those who have killed many. The black Furies stalking the man fortunate beyond all right wrench back again the set of his life and drop him to darkness” (Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 461-466). He does come to a bad end in an ironic twist as Agamemnon, the sacrificer, becomes the victim when his wife Clytemnestra murders him.
Agamemnon‘s arrogance and weakness, symptoms of too much power, become obvious when he finally returns home from war. His wife greets him effusively and delightedly, but he says that her speech to him, like his absence, was too long (915- 916). Then he mocks her idea of placing rugs before him to walk on, saying that his reputation is strong enough without resorting to womanish tricks like walking...