Although many of the Greek commanders are kings in their own right, Agamemnon as commander-in-chief is king of them all, the “lord of men.” We don’t know whether he was given this position by virtue of the size or wealth of his home city, Mykenai, or because he is the powerful brother of the wronged Menelaos, or if he was voted as leader by all the other Achaians. Agamemnon’s position, however, is the key to his character. Behind his actions in his quarrel with Achilleus lies a need to protect the trappings of his office, his rank. Quite simply, the king cannot have less than his subjects; respect must be shown. Yet Agamemnon, too, is rash, and there is pride in his actions as much as in Achilleus’.

Though in battle he proves himself a strong fighter, he seems to be less sure as a leader. Several times he suggests that the Achaians give up their struggle, and an uncertainty about his position may make him too quick to jump at Achilleus. He is fast to recognize his wrong and make an apology (within the limits of his sense of rank), and shows a tender care for his brother, Menelaos. He seems to have genuine concern for his army; yet his judgment is none too sharp and he waffles.

For all his kingliness, he is somewhat more bureaucratic than noble. His arbitrariness with Achilleus brings the heroic code into question.