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Iphigeneia on Homer’s Epics

Daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, sister of Electra, Orestes and Chrysothemis. Iphigeneia is not mentioned much in Homer‘s epics, her name is mentioned several times as Iphianassa. Although her legend is directly related to the Trojan war, Homer does not touch her adventure in Aulis or Tauris. On the contrary, tragedian writers and especially Euripides (he has two tragedies named “Iphigeneia in Aulis” and “Iphigeneia in Tauris”) brought great fame to the Iphigeneia type and as the only person directly related to the Trojan war, Iphigeneia also influenced western literature, Racine and Goethe. The legend that we will tell here will directly summarize Euripides’ two tragedies.

It is said that the Achaean army lost ten years to reach Troy. A period of this was spent in Aulis assembling various fleets to participate in the war. Aulis is a port across the Euboia peninsula. After the Achaeans gathered there, they waited for a suitable wind to blow the ships to set off. However, the place is in Sutliman, there is not the slightest breeze. When the reason for this is asked to the seer of the army, Kalkhas, his answer infuriates Agamemnon: Artemis has a grudge and anger against the goddess king Agamemnon, because he killed a sacred deer dedicated to him while hunting, thus preventing the winds from blowing. Only if the goddess Agamemnon sacrifices her daughter Iphigeneia to her will she let go of her anger and allow the fleet to set off. This news hits Agamemnon like a sledgehammer. At first, he never approached such a task, but upon the insistence of the leaders, and especially of Menelaus and Odysseus, he decided to put the public interest above his own.

The king’s family remained in Mycena, Agamemnon sent word to his wife Clytemnestra, ordered her to take Iphigeneia, and supposedly be betrothed to his daughter Achilles. Clytemnestra comes rejoicing, and when she realizes the fate awaiting her daughter and that she was brought to Aulis by deception, she breaks out, and an unquenchable resentment settles in her heart against Agamemnon. The Queen will never forget this, and this hatred will cause her to cheat on her husband with Aigisthos and to kill Agamemnon on his return to Troy. Iphigeneia went up to the altar to be sacrificed, and just as the knife was going to pierce her throat, according to rumors, Artemis took pity on the girl and lifted her up and put a deer under the sacrificial knife. Thereupon, the winds immediately begin to blow, and the fleet sets out to go to Troy. The adventure of Iphigeneia in Aulis ends here.

Tauris, that is, in the present-day Crimean peninsula, Iphigeneia was a priestess in the temple of Artemis of Tauris. The duty he has fulfilled for years is to make a kind of sacrifice in the temple: Iphigeneia always sacrifices the foreigners whose ships sank and land in the Crimea to Artemis. One day, two strangers come to the temple, these are Iphigeneia’s brother Orestes and his friend Pylades, their aim is to take the statue of Artemis in Tauris and bring it to Greece, this task was given to them by the oracle of Apollo in Delphi. Iphigeneia recognizes the foreigners and, far from sacrificing them, she joins them, taking the statue and fleeing to Greece. Orestes gives his sister to his friend Pylades. Iphigeneia is the exact opposite of her sister Elektra, a quiet, soft, pure and lovely young girl type.

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