Life As A Hedgepig
Friday, 13. February 2004
Clytemnestra's Autobiography

My name is Clytemnestra. My mother was Leda--you've probably heard of her. Yes, she's that Leda, the one that was seduced by Zeus while he was in the shape of a swan. She must have had a heck of a sexual appetite, or maybe she was hoping to cover up that little episode, because she seduced her husband Tyndareus that same night. She was as fertile as she was lustful; she ended up with four children out of that one night's work. Of course, the whole Zeus incident came out in the end anyway, and people are so silly, some said she laid four eggs and that my siblings and I were hatched, rather than born!

As if that whole humiliation wasn't bad enough, I ended up with Helen--Helen the beautiful, the face-who-launched-a-thousand-ships Helen, for a half sister. Try competing with that, why don't you. Of course she was beautiful--Zeus was her father. I wasn't bad looking, but you only had to look to know which of us was the god's daughter, and which the daughter of the mortal. I don't think it bothered Castor so much as it did me; he and Pollux were inseparable anyway, even though Pollux had that immortal glow to him and Castor just looked like an ordinary prince.

Tyndareus was a King, King of Sparta, so I was a Princess at least. My father first married me to a man named Tantalus--not he of the torments, of whom the poets tell tales, but a descendant of that man. I will not bore you with the whole family tree--in truth, I am not sure I am entirely clear on it myself. But Tantalus was related both to Agamemnon (I'll get to him in a moment) and to Aegisthus, my dear, loyal companion. I bore Tantalus a child, but Agamemnon of Mycenae killed them both. And still my father, that fool, allowed Agamemnon to marry me, and married off Helen, my sister, to Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon. And off I was carried to Mycenae, and when our father died, Menelaus ruled in Sparta.

Agamemnon was something of a Brute, but so many men are, aren't they? He was well enough looking, and he gave me pretty children, and he had riches and power (he shared his riches with me, but not his power, and that galled me). The palace was somewhat dreary, but with the bloody history of the place, that's no surprise. So we got on well enough, until Helen stirred up trouble again and we got dragged into it.

That Helen--a beautiful face, but not a brain in her head or a spine in her body, I swear. She makes getting abducted an absolute habit. Castor and Pollux dragged her back home after the first time. But when she let Paris seduce her (and I'd lay wagers that she went willingly enough, "abduction" story or not), it fell to her husband to go to fetch her back. If he'd had any sense, he'd have just let her go! But no, he has to go after her, and of course he asks his brother for help. And Agamemnon, warrior that he was, was quite willing to run off and kill Trojans for his brother's sake. And that was a dreary enough thought, but then things got ugly.

Agamemnon and I had had three children, Electra, Orestes, and my first born, my sweet flower, Iphigeneia. Orestes was the all-important heir, his father's favorite, and Electra always favored her father over me--or her dream of her father, she was so young when he left I would be surprised if she actually remembers him. But Iphigeneia was _my_ daughter. Just knocking on the door of womanhood when that damnable war broke out, she was lovely and loving, with quick fingers and a quicker mind, a daughter to be proud of. And when her father sent to me to bring her to the harbor at Aulis, where he was waiting to depart with his fleet, so that she might be married, I cursed the necessity, but we went. I figured that she would stay with me even after the wedding, since her bridegroom would be sailing off to war, and if we were lucky, the man might die in the war, so I need not lose my daughter at all.

But he lied to me, the thrice-cursed bastard. I brought her in fine robes, arrayed for a wedding, and he hoisted her on the altar and had her slaughtered like a lamb, to bring the winds to fill his sails. The Goddess demanded it, he said; Artemis required a virgin sacrifice. Was there no other virgin in Aulis? Why my sweet flower? Iphigeneia, my heart still grieves for you! And all to sail those ships to bring home that slut Helen. Why didn't they sacrifice her daughter, that simpering Hermione? Why did my daughter have to die? Well, I got justice for her in the end.

Agamemnon was gone for ten long years, and I nursed my hatred and resentment for every single day of them. Well…most of them, anyway. Eventually Aegisthus managed to distract me from my woes to some extent. Ten years is a long time to be without a man, and practically every man in the kingdom who wasn't an old man or a babe in arms was off to the war. Except Aegisthus. Aegisthus is a man of large appetites for many things, but fortunately enough for me, war is not one of them.So he and I satisfied each other's appetites--no need to go into that.

Aegisthus had his own bone to pick with Agamemnon; he longed for the throne as much as I did. I let him think that he would rule if Agamemnon died; I know just what kind of man Aegisthus is. Controlling him is no problem; a glimpse of flesh or a little caress at the right time, and his mind is completely distracted from the fact that it is really I who rules here!

But I get ahead of myself. When the beacons signalled that Troy had fallen, I made ready for Agamemnon's return. I welcomed him as the conquering hero; I was so good I almost convinced myself. I was almost ready to let him live. And then I saw that woman--that little bitch Cassandra! How dare he! Kill my daughter, abandon me for ten years to go off to war (and on behalf of Helen, of all people), and then bring home a concubine, and display her openly? Didn't even have the sense to have her hang to the back, but carried her in his own chariot! The man never did have an ounce of subtlety.

Well, I wasn't particularly subtle that day, either. I trapped him in the bath and cut him down like an animal, like he slaughtered my daughter, and his little Trojan whore with him. Now I rule here--with Aegisthus by my side, of course, but I am Queen. Everybody knows who really rules this kingdom, and has for the last eight years. There was a little grumbling at first, but we put the house in order, Aegisthus and I. And we are still satisfying one another's appetites, after all these years!

And even if I did not love it so, finally holding the power in my own hands, there is no-one else. Orestes I sent away for his own protection early on in the war, and he has never returned. Electra--well, she is not the ruling type. She mopes about the women's quarters wearing black, bemoaning her fate. I suppose if Menelaus was around, he might think he had a good claim to the throne, but he and Helen sailed away from Troy and haven't been heard from since. For all I know she got herself "abducted" again and Menelaus is still trying to catch up with her. Men are such fools sometimes. Menelaus is another like my Aegisthus, in this at least--easily led around by his shaft.

I don't know who will rule here when I am gone. Maybe Orestes lives and will return from his long exile. Maybe Electra will grow a backbone. I don't much care, really. Maybe the place will just fall to ruin. The whole family is cursed, anyway. Why my father ever let that man marry me, I will never know.

I have been having bad dreams lately--last night I dreamed I gave birth to a snake, of all things. Birthed it and suckled it at my breast. I think I will send Electra out with libations to her father's grave, just in case he is responsible. That will please her. She always did think the sun rose and set on him. I suppose I shouldn't have stinted on the ceremonies for the dead after I killed him.

I had better call those women to dress me and do my hair so I can get on with my day.

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