On the Second-Hand

"Sovereign Nestor, I thank you for your words and I respect your choice to tell of what you yourself know for fact," said Telemakhe.

"If you wish," said Nestor, "I can relate to you some of the news I have had passed on to me: how the spearfighting Myrmidons returned to their homes under Achilles; how Philoktetes, Poias' heroic son, made it home to his father; how Agamemnon was killed by that snake, Aigisthos."

Telemakhe shook her head, "It is a wonder to me that Aigisthos could have gotten away with his evil when Agamemnon was such a seasoned warrior. Menelaus must have been lost still in his journey home, for if he were nearby I couldn't imagine Aigisthos having the nerve to follow through in his plans."

"Oh my, he certainly was a piece of work from all I hear," said Nestor. He waved at his servants to begin serving Kahlua coffees and Turkish delight. "No doubt Menelaus would have seen to it that his testicles were pulled up over his head, if he had found Aigisthos making hay with his brother Agamemnon's wife and Helen's half sister. Not that anyone was surprised it happened. We were more surprised that Agamemnon had left Queen Klytaimnestra simply in the care of the court poet, without the added security of a chastity belt. He must have either been incapable of imagining her wanting to stray from him, or he genuinely held a few tender feelings for the woman."

Nestor reached across to his wife, Eurydike, and softly touched her cheek. "Given the long years waiting, not knowing from day to day whether we were alive or dead, how hard the Trojan wars were upon the spouses at home. Perhaps it is a greater wonder that more of our partners didn't stray. It is indeed fortunate that many of us left children behind to remind our spouses of their beloveds at war, and to remind those of us at war how much we have to come home to. However, in Agamemnon's case it just made the situation bloodier still.

"Aigisthos evidently lured the poor old poet out to an island where he left him to have the seabirds peck at his bones. He and Klytaimnestra then returned together to the palace and to her bedchambers. I'm not certain that she intended any real harm to Agamemnon when she helped Aigisthos in his deception at her husband's return. However, he had murdered her previous husband and taken her as his prize. Aigisthos at least cared enough to seduce her. At a welcoming banquet Aigisthos arranged for assasins to take the homecoming hero by surprise. Aigisthos would have killed their son as well, had Klytaimnestra not urged her daughter Electra to spirit Orestes away to his uncle, King Strophius.

"For seven years Aigisthos ruled Mykenai with Klytaimnestra by his side. On the eighth year Orestes, now a young man, returned and murdered both his mother and her lover. Though Aigisthos undoubtedly deserved his fate, I am not surprised the Erinyes came after Orestes for the death of Klytaimnestra. She was not without guilt, but she was also a victim of circumstances."

"Where, then, was Menelaus in all of this?" asked Telemakhe.

Walk Like an Egyptian.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps