Season: 2, Episodes: 23, Faction: Survivors
Ana Lucia Cortez was a survivor of Oceanic Flight 815 and an ex-police officer who had deep-seated emotional issues, due mainly to a shooting which killed her unborn child and resulted in her distrust of people and difficulty in emotionally relating to others. She also exhibited a tendency towards violence. She turned to revenge, and killed her attacker while on duty. She went to Australia on a whim with a man after she resigned from the LAPD. She realized her emotional isolation during her time with the self-destructive Christian Shepherd and booked a seat on Oceanic Flight 815. She sat in the tail section of Flight 815 when it crashed, and became the leader of the tail section survivors. Ana Lucia and the rest of the tail section survivors were torn by trust issues after they were attacked a number of times by the Others and realized that their group had been infiltrated by a spy. Nevertheless Ana Lucia discovered and killed the spy. After Michael, Jin, and Sawyer washed up on shore after their raft was destroyed by the Others, she and her group captured and questioned them and ultimately determined that their story was true. Along with Mr. Eko, she led her party across the Island to reunite them with the rest of the passengers. After Cindy disappeared en route, they were surrounded by whispers and in the confusion, Ana Lucia shot and killed Shannon, mistaking her for an Other. This incident made it difficult for her to be accepted by the group, but she was eventually welcomed and she developed a camaraderie with Jack, as well as Sawyer, after initially butting heads. While guarding Ben, she was attacked by him during questioning, and when she later went to kill him she found she couldn’t pull the trigger.
Later, Michael made a deal with the Others to help free Linus, and Ana Lucia unwittingly handed him the gun which he murdered her with in cold blood.
In the flash-sideways, she helped Desmond, Sayid and Kate all escape from prison in exchange for money offered by Hugo Reyes. Desmond said that Ana Lucia was not ready to move on with them yet.
2×08 – Collision
Ana Lucia Cortez was born in 1975 to Teresa Cortez and an unknown father. She was raised by her mother, a police captain, and would eventually join her mother in the police force. She was raised speaking both English and Spanish, often speaking in both languages to her mother. (“Collision”)
Los Angeles Police Department
As a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, Ana Lucia was forced to take some time away from the force when she was seriously injured on the job. Pregnant with her first child, she was shot four times in the abdomen when a suspect named Jason McCormack tricked her into letting him reach for his student ID. He instead reached for his gun. Ana Lucia survived the shooting but had to deal with the loss of her unborn child, who ironically died protecting Ana. The father of this child was never revealed, though was most likely Ana Lucia’s ex-boyfriend, Danny.
After this incident, Ana Lucia took a series of counseling sessions for a total of four months in order to come to terms with what happened. During these sessions, it became clear that Danny had left her, and she told her psychologist that she was the type of person who was better off alone anyway. The psychologist eventually became convinced that Ana Lucia was fine to return to the force and her badge was returned to her.
Ana Lucia received a warm welcome back from all of her colleagues with the exception of her mother, Teresa Cortez, who also happened to be her captain. Ana Lucia was eager to get back on the streets to fight crime, and was angered when her mother purposely gave her a desk job. In Spanish, she asked her mother whether she made this decision as her captain or as her mother. Teresa’s reply to this was “both”. Ana Lucia used emotional blackmail and insisted that her mother instead put her up for a transfer, but Teresa backed down from the argument and decided to give her daughter what she wanted.
Ana Lucia was happy to be back in her element as she returned to patrol with her partner Big Mike. Instead of taking their usual route, they patrolled through Westwood, a less dangerous area of town (which was Teresa’s idea) and Ana Lucia seemed annoyed at this. Ana Lucia’s competency to be back on the job was put into question when she and Mike responded to a domestic call involving a young couple. Shawna and Travis were in the middle of a violent break-up which was disturbing their neighbors and making their baby cry. Ana Lucia, clearly still affected by her shooting, pointed her gun at Travis and got so angry she had to be restrained. It was then quite apparent that Ana Lucia had not yet overcome the loss of her unborn child.
Back at the station, Detective Raggs informed Ana that they had “got her guy,” referring to shooter Jason McCormack. When asked to identify him, Ana curiously denied that she recognized the man who had shot her. Her mother was certain Ana was lying, but eventually had no choice but to let the man go. The next week, Ana followed McCormack to his car one night and yelled to him “I was pregnant!” before shooting him six times and killing him. (“Collision”)
2×20 – Two for the Road
When Ana Lucia arrived at work the next day, she was confronted by her mother, who angrily demanded to know where she had been the night before. Ana lied and said she had been at home, so Teresa took Ana to the morgue where Jason’s body lay. When Teresa told Ana that she knew what she had done, Ana immediately turned in her badge and her career as a police officer came to an abrupt end.
As Christian’s bodyguard
Ana Lucia took a job as an Airport Security Guard, but it didn’t give her the same satisfaction she experienced as a police officer. She met Christian Shephard while taking a break at the airport bar. He told her the story of his conflict with his son and that he was flying to Sydney to try and escape him. After Ana told him she was an ex-cop, Christian asked her if she wanted to go with him as he needed some hired “protection” in Sydney. After she reluctantly agreed to go, Christian insisted that they both assume aliases. Ana Lucia decided to call him Tom and Christian called her Sarah.
Once in Sydney, Christian and Ana did little more than drink for four days, until Christian randomly knocked on Ana’s hotel door in the middle of the night.
Christian had Ana Lucia drive him to a small house in the suburbs, and told her to stay in the car. He knocked on the door and a woman answered. She seemed shocked to see him, and an argument began involving Christian wanting to see his daughter. Ana saw that the argument was getting out of control and quickly pulled Christian from the house and back into the car.
Ana soon grew tired of Christian’s endless drinking and when he made remarks about her body, it was the last straw. She stopped the car and attempted to stop Christian from entering the nearby bar, hoping that he might instead agree go back to the US with her and confront their troubled pasts. He declined her offer and opened the car door, accidentally hitting a man with it.
Later, at the check-in desk of the airport, Ana Lucia overheard a customer talking about burying his dead father. She didn’t realize that the dead man was actually the same man she had traveled to Australia and spent several days with. As Jack continued to speak with the ticket agent about the loss of his father, Ana Lucia’s guilt became too overwhelming. She pulled out her cell phone and called her mother.
While on the phone with her mother, Ana began to cry, admitting that she fled to Australia, it was a mistake and that all she wanted was come home and for everything to be alright. Teresa said that everything would be, and told her daughter to come back home to her. Wiping away her tears, Ana Lucia stated that she would be on Oceanic Flight 815. (“Two for the Road”)
1×23 – Exodus, Part 1
Later on, she talked to Jack in one of the airport bars over a drink. In the middle of their conversation, Ana Lucia’s phone began to ring. After assuring Jack that they would have the next drink on the plane, she walked off to answer it. (“Exodus, Part 1”)
On the Island (Days 1-43)
2×03 – Orientation | 2×07 – The Other 48 Days
From the plane crash, Ana Lucia could only recall a hard suitcase hitting her on the head and knocking her out. She woke up underwater and swam to the shore. (“Orientation”)
2×07 – The Other 48 Days
Like many others, Ana Lucia helped the wounded get to dry land. She notably gave one of the children CPR and promised she would get her home to her parents. During their first night on the Island the tail section survivors were attacked by the Others, and Ana became increasingly worried about the group’s situation and safety when three of their people were kidnapped.
When the Others attacked again a week later, Ana killed one of them and found a list with the names of those who had been taken on it, which included the children. Suspecting that there was a spy amongst them, Ana became the unofficial leader of the tail section passengers, making the decision to organize them, so that they could leave the beach to go inland, where they would be able to hide themselves more easily from the threat.
Ana Lucia began to grow increasingly suspicious of one of the other tail section survivors, Nathan, who would go to the toilet on his own and defy her leadership. One day, she threw him into a pit that she had dug, with premeditated plans to torture him unless he revealed where the children (along with the other kidnapped survivors) were. Goodwin, knowing that Ana would grow suspicious of his refusal to cooperate eventually, let him out and killed Nathan during the night, hiding his body from the camp. Ana believed Nathan had escaped and she feared their location had been compromised.
She moved the group further into the jungle, where they discovered the Arrow station and set up camp inside. (“The Other 48 Days”)
4×06 – The Other Woman
At some point Goodwin reported back to Ben and informed him that he was making a case for Ana Lucia to come and live in their society of the Others, something Ben seemed very skeptical about, due to her rash and violent nature. (“The Other Woman”)
2×07 – The Other 48 Days
On a walk outside of the survivors’ makeshift camp, Ana Lucia eventually realized Goodwin was not a crash survivor and began inquiring who he really was, and what he wanted with her people. After telling her that he disagreed with his leader that she was a good person, Ana got into a fight with Goodwin, eventually impaling him on a spear.
When the tail section survivors received a transmission on the radio they had found in the Arrow, Bernard communicated with the person on the receiving line, who told him he was a survivor of Oceanic Flight 815. Ana turned the radio off, assuming it was the Others trying to trick them into giving away their location. Bernard tried to argue with her, as he thought there might have been other survivors, but Ana dismissed him, saying, “This is our life now – get used to it.”
After turning off the radio, she went to a stream to cry, at the same time that Eko finally completed his 40 days of silence, and comforted her. (“The Other 48 Days”)
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca (1485 – December 2, 1547) was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers that began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
Conquest of Mexico
In July 1519, his men took over Veracruz: by this act, Cortés dismissed the authority of the Governor of Cuba to place himself directly under the orders of Charles V. In order to eliminate any ideas of retreat, Cortés scuttled his ships. In Veracruz, he met some of Moctezuma’s tributaries and asked them to arrange a meeting with Moctezuma. Moctezuma repeatedly turned down the meeting, but Cortés was determined. Leaving a hundred men in Veracruz, Cortès marched on Tenochtitlan in mid-August 1519, along with 600 men, 15 horsemen, 15 cannons, and hundreds of indigenous carriers and warriors. On the way to Tenochtitlan, Cortés made alliances with native American tribes such as the Nahuas of Tlaxcala, the Tlaxcaltec, who surrounded the Spanish and about 2,000 porters on a hilltop and the Totonacs of Cempoala. In October 1519, Cortés and his men, accompanied by about 3,000 Tlaxcalteca, marched to Cholula, the second largest city in central Mexico. Cortés, either in a pre-meditated effort to instill fear upon the Aztecs waiting for him at Tenochtitlan or (as he later claimed when under investigation) wishing to make an example when he feared native treachery, infamously massacred thousands of unarmed members of the nobility gathered at the central plaza, then partially burned the city.
Associated LOST Themes & DHARMA Stations
Decoded Family Members
Decoded Season 1 Characters
Decoded Season 2 Characters
Decoded Season 5 Characters
Key Episode(s) to Decoding the Character
(Sakhmet, Sachmet or -mis, etc.) Sekhmet, whose name means “the Powerful”, is depicted as a lioness-headed woman, often with the solar disk atop her head. A Goddess of healing and of pestilence alike, Sekhmet often bears the epithet “Eye of Re,” identifying her as the executor (irt, “eye” can also be read as ir.t, “doer” or “agent”) of the will of the sovereign solar power of the cosmos. Sekhmet and Hathor both operate as the “Eye of Re” in the myth from the Book of the Celestial Cow in which Re sends first Hathor, then Sekhmet to strike rebellious humanity. Sekhmet is to “wade in their blood as far as Herakleopolis [Hnes],” on a southward path (referring to the southward course of the sun after the summer solstice), but Re saves humanity by ordering the production of a great quantity of beer with an additive to make it red like blood, with which the Goddess is intoxicated and her destructive mission terminated, perhaps at Kom el-Hisn in the Western Delta. Sekhmet can cause as well as avert all forms of pestilence, whether natural disaster, famine or epidemic, but she is particularly associated with illness and its cure, and priests of Sekhmet played a prominent role in Egyptian medicine. Sekhmet’s consort is Ptah and she is the mother of Nefertum.
Sekhmet’s “arrows” (often specified as seven in number) are a common term for her striking power, as is her “knife” and her “flame”. Several spells exist (nos. 13-15, 20 in Borghouts) which are designed to protect against pestilence associated with the transition into the New Year (hence the title of no. 13 in Borghouts, The Book of the Last Day of the Year) which make frequent mention of Sekhmet and of the demons in her retinue, her “emissaries” (wepwety), “wanderers” (shemayu) or “murderers” (khayti), who must be placated. In many of these spells, it seems that Sekhmet’s protection is won by identifying the individual with Horus—as in no. 20: “I am your Horus, Sekhmet.” Horus is also often called “sprout of Sekhmet” in such spells, in which the word translated as ‘sprout’ is wadj—Horus is thus literally the ‘greening’ of the Goddess who is paradigmatically red with blood (note that the papyrus scepter which Sekhmet and a number of other Goddesses carry is also wadj). The relationship between Sekhmet and Horus is not one of parentage, but rather alludes to Sekhmet being one of the wrathful Goddesses charged with the protection of Horus during his vulnerable infancy in the marshes. The pharaoh is sometimes characterized as “brother [sen]/image [senen] of Nefertum, born of Sekhmet.” State rituals involving Sekhmet were particularly important at the new year, which was linked to the heliacal rising of Sirius and thus took place in late summer (northern hemisphere). The purpose of such rituals appears to have been to prevent the contamination of the new year by inimical forces emanating from the old year as well as to ensure the proper alignment of life on earth with its divine paradigms; hence two of the most important rituals involving Sekhmet at this time were known as the “union of the disk,” focusing on the physical disk of the sun, the aten, and the “conferring of the heritage.” It is important to note that the term iadet, or “pestilence,” which is associated with Sekhmet, is a very broad term, and appears to be identical to a word for “net,” which occurs repeatedly in spells from the afterlife literature to protect the soul from becoming trapped like a fish in such “nets” (e.g., Coffin Texts spells 473-481). Sekhmet can thus be regarded as having power over virtually any misfortune or “net” of circumstances which might “trap” the individual indiscriminately.
Sekhmet is often paired or juxtaposed with Wadjet, who also bears the title “Eye of Re,” as in CT spell 757, where the operator affirms, “My White Crown is Sekhmet, my Red Crown is Wadjet,” referring to the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, in accord with a tendency in Egyptian thought to identify defenders of the crown, such as Sekhmet and Wadjet, with the crown itself. In a version of the “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony (BD spell 23), the deceased, whose ka statue has been empowered, states, “I am Sekhmet-Wadjet who dwells in the west of heaven.” In a ritual for offering meat to the sacred hawk that lived at the temple of Horus at Edfu, in which we probably see an adaptation of a ritual performed originally on behalf of the king, we find the interesting invocation, “O Sekhmet of yesterday, Wadjet of today, thou hast come and hast replenished this table of the Living Falcon … even as thou didst for thy father Horus, when thou camest forth from Pe,” (Blackman, p. 60 [155, 8-9]). Sekhmet replenishes the table inasmuch as meat-offerings are identified with the flesh of royal foes, the text’s invocation of Sekhmet turning the occasion of the meal into an enactment of the destruction of the king’s enemies. The identification of Sekhmet with “yesterday” and Wadjet with “today” is unusual and harder to explain, but it perhaps invokes Sekhmet’s protection against the nonbeing of the past. In CT spell 957 Sekhmet is juxtaposed with Nekhbet, the operator affirming, “I have ascended to the upper sky, and I have fashioned Nekhbet; I have descended to the lower sky of Re, and I have fashioned Sekhmet.” Another sort of opposition is posed in the Book of the Celestial Cow, in which Hathor is sent to strike humans in the mountains or desert, while Sekhmet is sent to strike them in the Delta.
Multiplication seems in some fashion essential to Sekhmet, perhaps because power diversifies itself at its points of application; thus she is referred to as “Sekhmet of multiple appearances,” (Edfou I, 278 & IV, 116) and as “Sekhmet the great, mistress of the Sekhmets,” (Edfou VII, 14). In the Tenth Hour of the Amduat book, the healing of the wedjat, the Eye of Horus, is shown being carried out by Thoth, in baboon form, and eight forms of Sekhmet, four with lioness heads and four with human heads.
Patron of: divine retribution, vengeance, and conquest.
Appearance: a woman with the head of a lioness.
Description: Sekhmet means “The Mighty One,” and she was one of the most powerful of the gods and goddesses. She was the goddess who meted out divine punishment to the enemies of the gods and of the pharaoh. In this capacity she was called the “Eye of Ra.” She also accompanied the pharaoh into battle, launching fiery arrows into battle ahead of him. Sekhmet could also send plagues and disease against her enemies, but was sometimes invoked to avoid plague and cure disease.
Sekhmet’s capacity for destruction is well-documented. In one story, Ra sends her to punish those mortals who have forgotten him and she ends up nearly destroying the entire human race. Only the cleverness of Ra stops her rampage before it consumes every living thing.
In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet (also spelled Sachmet, Sakhet, Sekmet, Sakhmet and Sekhet; and given the Greek name, Sachmis), was originally the warrior goddess of Upper Egypt. She is depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. It was said that her breath created the desert. She was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare.
Her cult was so dominant in the culture that when the first pharaoh of the twelfth dynasty, Amenemhat I, moved the capital of Egypt to Itjtawy, the centre for her cult was moved as well. Religion, the royal lineage, and the authority to govern were intrinsically interwoven in Ancient Egypt during its approximately three thousand years of existence.
Sekhmet also is a solar deity, often considered an aspect of the goddesses Hathor and Bast. She bears the solar disk and the Uraeus which associates her with Wadjet and royalty. With these associations she can be construed as being a divine arbiter of the goddess Ma’at (Justice, or Order) in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, The Eye of Horus, and connecting her with Tefnut as well.
Upper Egypt is in the south and Lower Egypt is in the delta region in the north. As Lower Egypt had been conquered by Upper Egypt, Sekhmet (lioness) was seen as the more powerful of the two warrior goddesses, the other, Bast (cat), being the similar warrior goddess of Lower Egypt. Consequently, it was Sekhmet who was seen as the Avenger of Wrongs, and the Scarlet Lady, a reference to blood, as the one with bloodlust. She also was seen as a special goddess for women, ruling over menstruation. Unable to be eliminated completely however, Bast became a lesser deity and even was marginalized as Bastet by the priests of Amun who added a second female ending to her name that may have implied a diminutive status, becoming seen as a domestic cat at times.
Sekhmet became identified in some later cults as a daughter of the new sun god, Ra, when his cult merged with and supplanted the worship of Horus (the son of Osiris and Isis, who was one of the oldest of Egyptian deities and gave birth daily to the sun). At that time many roles of deities were changed in the Egyptian myths. Some were changed further when the Greeks established a royal line of rulers that lasted for three hundred years and some of their historians tried to create parallels between deities in the two pantheons.
Her name suits her function and means, the (one who is) powerful. She also was given titles such as the (One) Before Whom Evil Trembles, the Mistress of Dread, and the Lady of Slaughter.
Sekhmet was believed to protect the pharaoh in battle, stalking the land, and destroying the pharaoh’s enemies with arrows of fire. An early Egyptian sun deity also, her body was said to take on the bright glare of the midday sun, gaining her the title Lady of Flame. It was said that death and destruction were balm for her warrior’s heart and that the hot desert winds were believed to be her breath.
In order to placate Sekhmet’s wrath, her priestesses performed a ritual before a different statue of the goddess on each day of the year. This practice resulted in many images of the goddess being preserved. Most of her statuettes were rigidly crafted and do not exhibit any expression of movements or dynamism; this design was made to make them last a long time rather than to express any form of functions or actions she is associated with. It is estimated that more than seven hundred statues of Sekhmet once stood in one funerary temple alone, that of Amenhotep III, on the west bank of the Nile. It was said that her statues were protected from theft or vandalism by coating them with anthrax.
Sekhmet also was seen as a bringer of disease as well as the provider of cures to such ills. The name “Sekhmet” literally became synonymous with physicians and surgeons during the Middle Kingdom. In antiquity, many members of Sekhmet’s priesthood often were considered to be on the same level as physicians.
She was envisioned as a fierce lioness, and in art, was depicted as such, or as a woman with the head of a lioness, who was dressed in red, the colour of blood. Sometimes the dress she wears exhibits a rosetta pattern over each nipple, an ancient leonine motif, which can be traced to observation of the shoulder-knot hairs on lions. Occasionally, Sekhmet was also portrayed in her statuettes and engravings with minimal clothing or naked. Tame lions were kept in temples dedicated to Sekhmet at Leontopolis.
Festivals and evolution
To pacify Sekhmet, festivals were celebrated at the end of battle, so that the destruction would come to an end. During an annual festival held at the beginning of the year, a festival of intoxication, the Egyptians danced and played music to soothe the wildness of the goddess and drank great quantities of beer ritually to imitate the extreme drunkenness that stopped the wrath of the goddess—when she almost destroyed humankind. This may relate to averting excessive flooding during the inundation at the beginning of each year as well, when the Nile ran blood-red with the silt from upstream and Sekhmet had to swallow the overflow to save humankind.
In 2006, Betsy Bryan, an archaeologist with Johns Hopkins University excavating at the temple of Mut presented her findings about the festival that included illustrations of the priestesses being served to excess and its adverse effects being ministered to by temple attendants. Participation in the festival was great, including the priestesses and the population. Historical records of tens of thousands attending the festival exist. These findings were made in the temple of Mut because when Thebes rose to greater prominence, Mut absorbed the warrior goddesses as some of her aspects. First, Mut became Mut-Wadjet-Bast, then Mut-Sekhmet-Bast (Wadjet having merged into Bast), then Mut also assimilated Menhit, another lioness goddess, and her adopted son’s wife, becoming Mut-Sekhmet-Bast-Menhit, and finally becoming Mut-Nekhbet. These temple excavations at Luxor discovered a “porch of drunkenness” built onto the temple by the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, during the height of her twenty year reign.
In a later myth developed around an annual drunken Sekhmet festival, Ra (who created himeself), by then the sun god of Upper Egypt, created her from a fiery eye gained from his mother, Hathor (daughter of Ra), to destroy mortals who conspired against him (Lower Egypt). In the myth, Sekhmet’s blood-lust was not quelled at the end of battle and led to her destroying almost all of humanity, so Ra had tricked her by turning the Nile as red as blood (the Nile turns red every year when filled with silt during inundation) so that Sekhmet would drink it. The trick was, however, that the red liquid was not blood, but beer mixed with pomegranate juice so that it resembled blood, making her so drunk that she gave up slaughter and became an aspect of the gentle Hathor to some moderns.
After Sekhmet’s worship was moved to Memphis, Horus the Elder (whose eyes were the sun and the moon) and Ra had been identified as one another (or allies) under the name Ra-Horakhty (with many variant spellings) and so when the two religious systems were merged and Ra became seen as a form of Atum, known as Atum-Ra, Sekhmet (the lioness daughter of Ra), as a form of Hathor (the cow goddess and the mother of the sun who gives birth anew to it every day), was seen as Atum’s mother. She then was seen as the mother of Nefertum, the youthful form of Atum who emerged in later myths, and so was said to have Ptah, Nefertum’s father, as a husband — as were most of the goddesses when they acquired counterparts as paired deities.
Although Sekhmet again became identified as an aspect of Hathor, over time both evolved back into separate deities because the characters of the two goddesses were so vastly different. Later, as noted above, the creation goddess Mut, the great mother, gradually became absorbed into the identities of the patron goddesses, merging with Sekhmet, and also sometimes with Bast.
Sekhmet later was considered to be the mother of Maahes, a deity who appeared during the New Kingdom period. He was seen as a lion prince, the son of the goddess. The late origin of Maahes in the Egyptian pantheon may be the incorporation of a Nubian deity of ancient origin in that culture, arriving during trade and warfare or even, during a period of domination by Nubia. During the Greek occupation of Egypt, note was made of a temple for Maahes that was an auxiliary facility to a large temple to Sekhmet at Taremu in the delta region (likely a temple for Bast originally), a city which the Greeks called Leontopolis, where by that time, an enclosure was provided to house lions.
Mythological Family Members & Associated Deities
Clytemnestra or Clytaemnestra, in ancient Greek legend, was the wife of Agamemnon, king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Mycenae or Argos. In the Oresteia by Aeschylus, she was a femme fatale who murdered her husband, Agamemnon – said by Euripides to be her second husband – and the Trojan princess Cassandra, whom he had taken as war prize following the sack of Troy. However, in Homer’s Odyssey, her role in Agamemnon’s death is unclear and her character is significantly more subdued.
The name form Κλυταιμνήστρα (Klytaimnēstra) is commonly glossed as “famed for her suitors”. However, this form is a later misreading motivated by an erroneous etymological connection to the verb μναoμαι ‘woo, court’. The original name form is believed to have been Κλυταιμήστρα (Klytaimēstra), without the -mn-, and the modern form with -mn- does not occur before the middle Byzantine period. Aeschylus, in certain wordplays on her name, appears to assume an etymological link with the verb μήδoμαι, ‘scheme, contrive’.
Clytemnestra was the daughter of Tyndareus and Leda, the king and queen of Sparta. According to the myth, Zeus appeared to Leda in the form of a swan, seducing and impregnating her. Leda produced four offspring from two eggs: Castor and Clytemnestra from one egg, and Helen and Polydeuces from the other. Therefore, Castor and Clytemnestra were fathered by Tyndareus, whereas Helen and Polydeuces were fathered by Zeus.
Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus were in exile at the home of Tyndareus. In due time the brothers married Tyndareus’ two daughters: Agamemnon marrying Clytemnestra and Menelaus marrying Helen. In a late variation, Euripides’s Iphigenia at Aulis, Clytemnestra’s first husband was Tantalus, King of Pisa (in the western Peloponnese), who was slain by Agamemnon. Agamemnon also murdered her infant son. He then forcibly made Clytemnestra his wife. In another version, her first husband was King of Lydia, which was known to the Greeks for its shrine of the labrys, the double-bladed ax that some say Clytemnestra used to kill Agamemnon.
With the help of troops from his new father-in-law, Agamemnon then took the throne of Mycenae from his uncle Thyestes. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra became rulers of Mycenae, and she bore three daughters: Iphigenia, Chrysothemis, and Electra; and finally a son: Orestes (Chrysothemis is sometimes not included, and Iphigenia has several stories of who her parents are).
After Helen went (or was taken) from Sparta to Troy, her husband, Menelaus, asked his brother Agamemnon for help. Greek forces gathered at Aulis. However, consistently weak winds prevented the fleet from sailing. Through a subplot involving the gods and omens, the priest Calchas said the winds would be favorable if Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis. Agamemnon persuaded Clytemnestra to send Iphigenia by deceptively telling her that the purpose of his daughter’s visit was to marry her to Achilles. When Iphigenia arrived at Aulis, she was sacrificed, the winds turned, and the troops set sail for Troy. Clytemnestra learned of this event and grieved for her daughter.
The Trojan War lasted ten years. During this period of Agamemnon’s long absence, Clytemnestra began a love affair with Aegisthus, her husband’s cousin. Whether Clytemnestra was seduced into the affair or entered into it independently differs according to the respective author of the myth. Nevertheless, Clytemnestra, enraged by Iphigenia’s murder (and presumably the earlier murder of her first husband by Agamemnon, and her subsequent rape and forced marriage), and Aegisthus, whose father Thyestes was horribly betrayed by Agamemnon’s father Atreus, and who was conceived specifically to take revenge on that branch of the family, began plotting Agamemnon’s demise.
In old versions of the story, on returning from Troy Agamemnon is murdered by Aegisthus, the lover of his wife Clytemnestra. In some later versions Clytemnestra helps him or does the killing herself in his own home. The best known version is that of Aeschylus: having arrived at his palace with his concubine, the Trojan princess Cassandra in tow and being greeted by his wife, he entered the palace for a banquet while Cassandra remained in the chariot. Clytemnestra waited until he was in the bath, and then entangled him in a cloth net and stabbed him. Trapped in the web, Agamemnon could neither escape nor resist his murderer. In some versions Cassandra has twin sons by Agamemnon (whether Clytemnestra was jealous of Cassandra is unknown. It was quite normal at the time for men to take concubines, usually acquired as war prizes, when on campaign).
Meanwhile, Cassandra saw a vision of herself and Agamemnon being murdered. Her attempts to elicit help failed (she had been cursed by Apollo that no one would believe her prophecies). She realized she was fated to die, and resolutely walked into the palace to receive her death.
After the murders, Aegisthus replaced Agamemnon as king and ruled for seven years with Clytemnestra as his queen. In some traditions they have three children: a son Aletes, and daughters Erigone and Helen. Clytemnestra was eventually killed by her own son Orestes. The infant Helen is also killed. Aletes and Erigone grow up at Mycenae, but when Aletes comes of age, Orestes returns from Sparta, kills his half-brother, and takes the throne. Orestes and Erigone are said to have had a son, Penthilus.
Clytemnestra’s personality differs between tellings, as weak and submissive (Homer’s Clytemnestra), or ruthless and manipulative (Aeschylus’ Clytemnestra). This affects her role in the affair with Agamemnon.