You Can Go Your Own Way
The Problems with Agamemnon's Leadership in Homer's Iliad
Welcome to the first musically-inspired module on this collection known as Beyond the Boundaries of Fantasia: An Ancient Imagining of the Future of Leadership. As the title suggests, we hope that you will not only get a better understanding of leadership, ancient and modern, but also use this understanding to imagine better leadership in the future, both in yourself and in others.
Right now we want to reflect on how hard it was to be a leader in the ancient world (yes, leadership is hard in the modern world, too). Ancient leadership is hard because many positions of leadership attracted bloodthirsty rivals. To paraphrase Jean-Michel Basquiat many ancient leaders, young and old, got their heads cut off (ask Cicero)--or were murdered with an axe in the bathtub (Agamemnon), or were bit by a poisonous asp (Cleopatra), or were stabbed dozens of times by fellow leaders (Julius Caesar), or were forced to drink hemlock (Socrates), or died in the thick of battle (Catiline), or indeed gouged their own eyes out (Oedipus). But even if you managed to survive your rivals (and yourself), leadership was hard because of its unusual emotional and psychological stresses: life was chaotic and unpredictable, power could be intoxicating, and the right thing to do or say was not always obvious or feasible.
In the following seven-hour module you will become familiar with these "hardnesses." Specifically you will engage with ancient leadership in the following ways:
- You will hone your ability to identify, frame, and ponder problems of leadership within the context of the devastating "break up" of Agamemnon and Achilles in Book One of Homer's great epic, the Iliad.
- You will come to see how problems of leadership can be specific to the culture they appear in, in this case the heroic world of Greek oral poetry in the seventh century BCE.
- You will gain practice using sources to build arguments about what those in the ancient world thought about their leaders.
- Finally, you will apply your understanding to modern leadership problems and consider the relevance of contemporary social science and psychology for understanding problems of ancient and modern leadership.