The Story Of Iphigenia

: Myths And Legends Of All Nations.

King Agamemnon sat in his tent at Aulis, where the army of the Greeks

was gathered together, being about to sail against the great city of

Troy. And it was now past midnight; but the king slept not, for he was

careful and troubled about many things. And he had a lamp before him

and in his hand a tablet of pine wood, whereon he wrote. But he seemed

not to remain in the same mind about that which he wrote; for now he

d blot out the letters, and then would write them again; and now

he fastened the seal upon the tablet and then brake it. And as he did

this he wept and was like to a man distracted. But after a while he

called to an old man, his attendant (the man had been given in time

past by Tyndareus to his daughter, Queen Clytaemnestra) and said:

"Old man, thou knowest how Calchas the soothsayer bade me offer for a

sacrifice to Artemis, who is goddess of this place, my daughter

Iphigenia, saying that so only should the army have a prosperous

voyage from this place to Troy, and should take the city and destroy

it; and how when I heard these words I bade Talthybius the herald go

throughout the army and bid them depart, every man to his own country,

for that I would not do this thing; and how my brother, King Menelaues,

persuaded me so that I consented to it. Now, therefore, hearken to

this, for what I am about to tell thee three men only know, namely,

Calchas the soothsayer, and Menelaues, and Ulysses, king of Ithaca. I

wrote a letter to my wife the queen, that she should send her daughter

to this place, that she might be married to King Achilles; and I

magnified the man to her, saying that he would in no wise sail with us

unless I would give him my daughter in marriage. But now I have

changed my purpose and have written another letter after this fashion,

as I will now set forth to thee: '_Daughter of Leda, send not thy

child to the land of Euboea, for I will give her in marriage at

another time._'"

"Aye," said the old man, "but how wilt thou deal with King Achilles?

Will he not be wroth, hearing that he hath been cheated of his wife?"

"Not so," answered the king, "for we have indeed used his name, but he

knoweth nothing of this marriage. And now make haste. Sit not thou

down by any fountain in the woods, and suffer not thine eyes to sleep.

And beware lest the chariot bearing the queen and her daughter pass

thee where the roads divide. And see that thou keep the seal upon this

letter unbroken."

So the old man departed with the letter. But scarcely had he left the

tent when King Menelaues spied him and laid hands on him, taking the

letter and breaking the seal. And the old man cried out:

"Help, my lord; here is one hath taken thy letter!"

Then King Agamemnon came forth from his tent, saying, "What meaneth

this uproar and disputing that I hear?"

And Menelaues answered, "Seest thou this letter that I hold in my


"I see it: it is mine. Give it to me."

"I give it not till I have read that which is written therein to all

the army of the Greeks."

"Where didst thou find it?"

"I found it while I waited for thy daughter till she should come to

the camp."

"What hast thou to do with that? May I not rule my own household?"

Then Menelaues reproached his brother because he did not continue in

one mind. "For first," he said, "before thou wast chosen captain of

the host, thou wast all things to all men, greeting every man

courteously, and taking him by the hand, and talking with him, and

leaving thy doors open to any that would enter; but afterwards, being

now chosen, thou wast haughty and hard of access. And next, when this

trouble came upon the army, and thou wast sore afraid lest thou

shouldst lose thy office and so miss renown, didst thou not hearken to

Calchas the soothsayer, and promise thy daughter for sacrifice, and

send for her to the camp, making pretence of giving her in marriage to

Achilles? And now thou art gone back from thy word. Surely this is an

evil day for Greece, that is troubled because thou wantest wisdom."

Then answered King Agamemnon: "What is thy quarrel with me? Why

blamest thou me if thou couldst not rule thy wife? And now to win back

this woman, because forsooth she is fair, thou castest aside both

reason and honor. And I, if I had an ill purpose and now have changed

it for that which is wiser, dost thou charge me with folly? Let them

that sware the oath to Tyndareus go with thee on this errand. Why

should I slay my child and work for myself sorrow and remorse without

end that thou mayest have vengeance for thy wicked wife?"

Then Menelaues turned away in a rage, crying, "Betray me if thou wilt.

I will betake myself to other counsels and other friends."

But even as he spake there came a messenger, saying, "King Agamemnon,

I am come, as thou badest me, with thy daughter Iphigenia. Also her

mother, Queen Clytaemnestra, is come, bringing with her her little son

Orestes. And now they are resting themselves and their horses by the

side of a spring, for indeed the way is long and weary. And all the

army is gathered about them to see them and greet them. And men

question much wherefore they are come, saying. 'Doth the king make a

marriage for his daughter; or hath he sent for her, desiring to see

her?' But I know thy purpose, my lord; wherefore we will dance and

shout and make merry, for this is a happy day for the maiden."

But the King Agamemnon was sore dismayed when he knew that the queen

was come, and spake to himself, "Now what shall I say to my wife? For

that she is rightly come to the marriage of her daughter, who can

deny? But what will she say when she knoweth my purpose? And of the

maiden, what shall I say? Unhappy maiden whose bridegroom shall be

death! For she will cry to me, 'Wilt thou kill me, my father?' And the

little Orestes will wail, not knowing what he doeth, seeing he is but

a babe. Cursed be Paris, who hath wrought this woe!"

And now King Menelaues came back, saying that it repented him of what

he had said, "For why should thy child die for me? What hath she to do

with Helen? Let the army be scattered, so that this wrong be not


Then said King Agamemnon, "But how shall I escape from this strait?

For the whole host will compel me to this deed?"

"Not so," said King Menelaues, "if thou wilt send back the maiden to


"But what shall that profit," said the king; "for Calchas will cause

the matter to be known, or Ulysses, saying that I have failed of my

promise; and if I fly to Argos, they will come and destroy my city and

lay waste my land. Woe is me! in what a strait am I set! But take thou

care, my brother, that Clytaemnestra hear nothing of these things."

And when he had ended speaking, the queen herself came unto the tent,

riding in a chariot, having her daughter by her side. And she bade one

of the attendants take out with care the caskets which she had brought

for her daughter, and bade others help her daughter to alight and

herself also, and to a fourth she said that he should take the young

Orestes. Then Iphigenia greeted her father, saying, "Thou hast done

well to send for me, my father."

"'Tis true and yet not true, my child."

"Thou lookest not well pleased to see me, my father."

"He that is a king and commandeth a host hath many cares."

"Put away thy cares awhile and give thyself to me."

"I am glad beyond measure to see thee."

"Glad art thou? Then why dost thou weep?"

"I weep because thou must be long time absent from me."

"Perish all these fightings and troubles!"

"They will cause many to perish, and me most miserably of all."

"Art thou going a journey from me, my father?"

"Aye, and thou also hast a journey to make."

"Must I make it alone, or with my mother?"

"Alone; neither father nor mother may be with thee."

"Sendest thou me to dwell elsewhere?"

"Hold thy peace: such things are not for maidens to inquire."

"Well, my father, order matters with the Phrygians and then make haste

to return."

"I must first make a sacrifice to the gods."

"'Tis well. The gods should have due honor."

"Aye, and thou wilt stand close to the altar."

"Shall I lead the dances, my father?"

"O my child, how I envy thee, that thou knowest naught! And now go

into the tent; but first kiss me and give me thy hand, for thou shalt

be parted from thy father for many days."

And when she was gone within, he cried, "O fair bosom and very lovely

cheeks and yellow hair of my child! O city of Priam, what woe thou

bringest on me! But I must say no more."

Then he turned to the queen and excused himself that he wept when he

should rather have rejoiced for the marriage of his daughter. And when

the queen would know of the estate of the bridegroom he told her that

his name was Achilles and that he was the son of Peleus by his wife

Thetis, the daughter of Nereus of the sea, and that he dwelt in

Phthia. And when she inquired of the time of the marriage, he said

that it should be in the same moon, on the first lucky day; and as to

the place, that it must be where the bridegroom was sojourning, that

is to say, in the camp. "And I," said the king, "will give the maiden

to her husband."

"But where," answered the queen, "is it your pleasure that I should


"Thou must return to Argos and care for the maidens there."

"Sayest thou that I must return? Who then will hold up the torch for

the bride?"

"I will do that which is needful. For it is not seemly that thou

shouldst be present where the whole army is gathered together."

"Aye, but it is seemly that a mother should give her daughter in


"But the maidens at home should not be left alone."

"They are well kept in their chambers."

"Be persuaded, lady."

"Not so: thou shalt order that which is without the house, but I that

which is within."

But now came Achilles to tell the king that the army was growing

impatient, saying that unless they might sail speedily to Troy they

would return each man to his home. And when the queen heard his

name--for he had said to the attendant, "Tell thy master that

Achilles, the son of Peleus, would speak with him"--she came forth

from the tent and greeted him and bade him give her his right hand.

And when the young man was ashamed (for it was not counted a seemly

thing that men should speak with women) she said:

"But why art thou ashamed, seeing that thou art about to marry my


And he answered, "What sayest thou, lady? I cannot speak for wonder at

thy words."

"Often men are ashamed when they see new friends and the talk is of


"But, lady, I never was suitor for thy daughter. Nor have the sons of

Atreus said aught to me of the matter."

But the queen was beyond measure astonished, and cried, "Now this is

shameful indeed, that I should seek a bridegroom for my daughter in

such fashion."

But when Achilles would have departed, to inquire of the king what

this thing might mean, the old man that had at the first carried the

letter came forth and bade him stay. And when he had assurance that he

should receive no harm for what he should tell them, he unfolded the

whole matter. And when the queen had heard it, she cried to Achilles,

"O son of Thetis of the sea! help me now in this strait and help this

maiden that hath been called thy bride, though this indeed be false.

'Twill be a shame to thee if such wrong be done under thy name; for it

is thy name that hath undone us. Nor have I any altar to which I may

flee, nor any friend but thee only in this army."

Then Achilles made answer, "Lady, I learnt from Chiron, who was the

most righteous of men, to be true and honest. And if the sons of

Atreus govern according to right, I obey them; and if not, not. Know,

then, that thy daughter, seeing that she hath been given, though but

in word only, to me, shall not be slain by her father. For if she so

die, then shall my name be brought to great dishonor, seeing that

through it thou hast been persuaded to come with her to this place.

This sword shall see right soon whether any one will dare to take this

maiden from me."

And now King Agamemnon came forth, saying that all things were ready

for the marriage, and that they waited for the maiden, not knowing

that the whole matter had been revealed to the queen. Then she said:

"Tell me now, dost thou purpose to slay thy daughter and mine?" And

when he was silent, not knowing, indeed, what to say, she reproached

him with many words, that she had been a loving and faithful wife to

him, for which he made her an ill recompense slaying her child.

And when she had made an end of speaking, the maiden came forth from

the tent, holding the young child Orestes in her arms, and cast

herself upon her knees before her father and besought him, saying, "I

would, my father, that I had the voice of Orpheus, who made even the

rocks to follow him, that I might persuade thee; but now all that I

have I give, even these tears. O my father, I am thy child; slay me

not before my time. This light is sweet to look upon. Drive me not

from it to the land of darkness. I was the first to call thee father;

and the first to whom thou didst say 'my child.' And thou wouldst say

to me, 'Some day, my child, I shall see thee a happy wife in the home

of a good husband.' And I would answer, 'And I will receive thee with

all love when thou art old, and pay thee back for all the benefits

thou hast done unto me.' This I indeed remember, but thou forgettest;

for thou art ready to slay me. Do it not, I beseech thee, by Pelops

thy grandsire, and Atreus thy father, and this my mother, who

travailed in childbirth of me and now travaileth again in her sorrow.

And thou, O my brother, though thou art but a babe, help me. Weep

with me; beseech thy father that he slay not thy sister. O my father,

though he be silent, yet, indeed, he beseecheth thee. For his sake,

therefore, yea, and for mine own, have pity upon me and slay me not."

But the king was sore distracted, knowing not what he should say or

do, for a terrible necessity was upon him, seeing that the army could

not make their journey to Troy unless this deed should first be done.

And while he doubted came Achilles, saying that there was a horrible

tumult in the camp, the men crying out that the maiden must be

sacrificed, and that when he would have stayed them from their

purpose, the people had stoned him with stones, and that his own

Myrmidons helped him not, but rather were the first to assail him.

Nevertheless, he said that he would fight for the maiden, even to the

utmost, and that there were faithful men who would stand with him and

help him. But when the maiden heard these words, she stood forth and

said, "Hearken to me, my mother. Be not wroth with my father, for we

cannot fight against fate. Also we must take thought that this young

man suffer not, for his help will avail naught and he himself will

perish. Therefore I am resolved to die; for all Greece looketh to me;

for without me the ships cannot make their voyage, nor the city of

Troy be taken. Thou didst bear me, my mother, not for thyself only,

but for this whole people. Wherefore I will give myself for them.

Offer me for an offering, and let the Greeks take the city of Troy,

for this shall be my memorial forever."

Then said Achilles, "Lady, I should count myself most happy if the

gods would grant thee to be my wife. For I love thee well when I see

how noble thou art. And if thou wilt, I will carry thee to my home.

And I doubt not that I shall save thee, though all the men of Greece

be against me."

But the maiden answered, "What I say, I say with full purpose. Nor

will I that any man should die for me, but rather will I save this

land of Greece."

And Achilles said, "If this be thy will, lady, I cannot say nay, for

it is a noble thing that thou doest."

Nor was the maiden turned from her purpose though her mother besought

her with many tears. So they that were appointed led her to the grove

of Artemis, where there was built an altar, and the whole army of the

Greeks gathered about it. But when the king saw her going to her death

he covered his face with his mantle; but she stood by him, and said,

"I give my body with a willing heart to die for my country and for the

whole land of Greece. I pray the gods that ye may prosper and win the

victory in this war and come back safe to your homes. And now let no

man touch me, for I will die with a good heart."

And all men marveled to see the maiden of what a good courage she was.

And all the army stood regarding the maiden and the priest and the


Then there befell a marvelous thing. For suddenly the maiden was not

there. Whither she had gone no one knew; but in her stead there lay

gasping a great hind, and all the altar was red with the blood


And Calchas said, "See ye this, men of Greece, how the goddess hath

provided this offering in the place of the maiden, for she would not

that her altar should be defiled with innocent blood. Be of good

courage, therefore, and depart every man to his ship, for this day ye

shall sail across the sea to the land of Troy."

Then the goddess carried away the maiden to the land of the Taurians,

where she had a temple and an altar. Now on this altar the king of the

land was wont to sacrifice any stranger, being Greek by nation, who

was driven by stress of weather to the place, for none went thither

willingly. And the name of the king was Thoas, which signifieth in

the Greek tongue, "swift of foot."

Now when the maiden had been there many years she dreamed a dream. And

in the dream she seemed to have departed from the land of the Taurians

and to dwell in the city of Argos, wherein she had been born. And as

she slept in the women's chamber there befell a great earthquake, and

cast to the ground the palace of her fathers, so that there was left

one pillar only which stood upright. And as she looked on this pillar,

yellow hair seemed to grow upon it as the hair of a man, and it spake

with a man's voice. And she did to it as she was wont to do to the

strangers that were sacrificed upon the altar, purifying it with water

and weeping the while. And the interpretation of the dream she judged

to be that her brother Orestes was dead, for that male children are

the pillars of a house, and that she only was left to the house of her


Now it chanced that at this same time Orestes, with Pylades that was

his friend, came in a ship to the land of the Taurians. And the cause

of his coming was this. After that he had slain his mother, taking

vengeance for the death of King Agamemnon his father, the Furies

pursued him. Then Apollo, who had commanded him to do this deed, bade

him go to the land of Athens that he might be judged. And when he had

been judged and loosed, yet the Furies left him not. Wherefore Apollo

commanded that he should sail for the land of the Taurians and carry

thence the image of Artemis and bring it to the land of the Athenians,

and that after this he should have rest. Now when the two were come to

the place, they saw the altar that it was red with the blood of them

that had been slain thereon. And Orestes doubted how they might

accomplish the things for the which he was come, for the walls of the

temple were high and the gates not easy to be broken through.

Therefore he would have fled to the ship, but Pylades consented not,

seeing that they were not wont to go back from that to which they had

set their hand, but counseled that they should hide themselves during

the day in a cave that was hard by the seashore, not near to the ship,

lest search should be made for them, and that by night they should

creep into the temple by a space that there was between the pillars,

and carry off the image, and so depart.

So they hid themselves in a cavern by the sea. But it chanced that

certain herdsmen were feeding their oxen in pastures hard by the

shore; one of these, coming near to the cavern, spied the young men as

they sat therein, and stealing back to his fellows, said, "See ye not

them that sit yonder. Surely they are gods;" for they were exceeding

tall and fair to look upon. And some began to pray to them, thinking

that they might be the Twin Brethren or of the sons of Nereus. But

another laughed and said, "Not so; these are shipwrecked men who hide

themselves, knowing that it is our custom to sacrifice strangers to

our gods." To him the others gave consent and said that they should

take the men prisoners that they might be sacrificed to the gods.

But while they delayed, Orestes ran forth from the cave, for the

madness was come upon him, crying out, "Pylades, seest thou not that

dragon from hell; and that who would kill me with the serpents of her

mouth, and this again that breatheth out fire, holding my mother in

her arms to cast her upon me?" And first he bellowed as a bull and

then howled as a dog, for the Furies, he said, did so. But the

herdsmen, when they saw this, gathered together in great fear and sat

down. But when Orestes drew his sword and leapt, as a lion might leap,

into the midst of the herd, slaying the beasts (for he thought in his

madness that he was contending with the Furies), then the herdsmen,

blowing on shells, called to the people of the land; for they feared

the young men, so strong they seemed and valiant. And when no small

number was gathered together, they began to cast stones and javelins

at the two. And now the madness of Orestes began to abate, and Pylades

tended him carefully, wiping away the foam from his mouth and holding

his garments before him that he should not be wounded by the stones.

But when Orestes came to himself and beheld in what straits they were,

he groaned aloud and cried, "We must die, O Pylades, only let us die

as befitteth brave men. Draw thy sword and follow me." And the people

of the land dared not to stand before them; yet while some fled,

others would cast stones at them. For all that no man wounded them.

But at the last, coming about them with a great multitude, they smote

the swords out of their hands with stones, and so bound them and took

them to King Thoas. And the king commanded that they should be taken

to the temple, that the priestess might deal with them according to

the custom of the place.

So they brought the young men bound to the temple. Now the name of the

one they knew, for they had heard his companion call to him, but the

name of the other they knew not. And when Iphigenia saw them, she bade

the people loose their bonds, for that being holy to the goddess they

were free. And then--for she took the two for brothers--she asked

them, saying, "Who is your mother and your father and your sister, if

a sister you have? She will be bereaved of noble brothers this day.

And whence come ye?"

To her Orestes answered, "What meanest thou, lady, by lamenting in

this fashion over us? I hold it folly in him who must die that he

should bemoan himself. Pity us not; we know what manner of sacrifices

ye have in this land."

"Tell me now, which of ye two is called Pylades?"

"Not I, but this my companion."

"Of what city in the land of Greece are ye? And are ye brothers born

of one mother?"

"Brothers we are, but in friendship, not in blood."

"And what is thy name?"

"That I tell thee not. Thou hast power over my body, but not over my


"Wilt thou not tell me thy country?"

And when he told her that his country was Argos, she asked him many

things, as about Troy, and Helen, and Calchas the prophet, and

Ulysses; and at last she said, "And Achilles, son of Thetis of the

sea, is he yet alive?"

"He is dead and his marriage that was made at Aulis is of no effect."

"A false marriage it was, as some know full well."

"Who art thou that inquirest thus about matters in Greece?"

"I am of the land of Greece and was brought thence yet being a child.

But there was a certain Agamemnon, son of Atreus; what of him?"

"I know not. Lady, leave all talk of him."

"Say not so; but do me a pleasure and tell me."

"He is dead."

"Woe is me! How died he?"

"What meaneth thy sorrow? Art thou of his kindred?"

"'Tis a pity to think how great he was, and now he hath perished."

"He was slain in a most miserable fashion by a woman, but ask no


"Only this one thing. Is his wife yet alive?"

"Nay; for the son whom she bare slew her, taking vengeance for his


"A dreadful deed, but righteous withal."

"Righteous indeed he is, but the gods love him not."

"And did the king leave any other child behind him?"

"One daughter, Electra by name."

"And is his son yet alive?"

"He is alive, but no man more miserable."

Now when Iphigenia heard that he was alive and knew that she had been

deceived by the dreams which she had dreamt, she conceived a thought

in her heart and said to Orestes, "Hearken now, for I have somewhat to

say to thee that shall bring profit both to thee and to me. Wilt thou,

if I save thee from this death, carry tidings of me to Argos to my

friends and bear a tablet from me to them? For such a tablet I have

with me, which one who was brought captive to this place wrote for me,

pitying me, for he knew that I caused not his death, but the law of

the goddess in this place. Nor have I yet found a man who should carry

this thing to Argos. But thou, I judge, art of noble birth and knowest

the city and those with whom I would have communication. Take then

this tablet and thy life as a reward, and let this man be sacrificed

to the goddess."

Then Orestes made answer, "Thou hast said well, lady, save in one

thing only. That this man should be sacrificed in my stead pleaseth me

not at all. For I am he that brought this voyage to pass; and this man

came with me that he might help me in my troubles. Wherefore it would

be a grievous wrong that he should suffer in my stead and I escape.

Give then the tablet to him. He shall take it to the city of Argos and

thou shalt have what thou wilt. But as for me, let them slay me if

they will."

"'Tis well spoken, young man. Thou art come, I know, of a noble stock.

The gods grant that my brother--for I have a brother, though he be far

hence--may be such as thou. It shall be as thou wilt. This man shall

depart with the tablet and thou shalt die."

Then Orestes would know the manner of the death by which he must die.

And she told him that she slew not the victims with her own hand, but

that there were ministers in the temple appointed to this office, she

preparing them for sacrifice beforehand. Also she said that his body

would be burned with fire.

And when Orestes had wished that the hand of his sister might pay due

honor to him in his death, she said, "This may not be, for she is far

away from this strange land. But yet, seeing that thou art a man of

Argos, I myself will adorn thy tomb and pour oil of olives and honey

on thy ashes." Then she departed, that she might fetch the tablet from

her dwelling, bidding the attendants keep the young men fast, but

without bonds.

But when she was gone, Orestes said to Pylades, "Pylades, what

thinkest thou? Who is this maiden? She had great knowledge of things

in Troy and Argos, and of Calchas the wise soothsayer, and of Achilles

and the rest. And she made lamentation over King Agamemnon. She must

be of Argos."

And Pylades answered, "This I cannot say; all men have knowledge of

what befell the king. But hearken to this. It were shame to me to live

if thou diest. I sailed with thee and will die with thee. For

otherwise men will account lightly of me both in Argos and in Phocis,

which is my own land, thinking that I betrayed thee or basely slew

thee, that I might have thy kingdom, marrying thy sister, who shall

inherit it in thy stead. Not so: I will die with thee and my body

shall be burnt together with thine."

But Orestes answered, "I must bear my own troubles. This indeed would

be a shameful thing, that when thou seekest to help me I should

destroy thee. But as for me, seeing how the gods deal with me, it is

well that I should die. Thou, indeed, art happy, and thy house is

blessed; but my house is accursed. Go, therefore, and my sister, whom

I have given thee to wife, shall bear thee children, and the house of

my father shall not perish. And I charge thee that when thou art safe

returned to the city of Argos, thou do these things. First, thou shalt

build a tomb for me, and my sister shall make an offering there of her

hair and of her tears also. And tell her that I died, slain by a woman

of Argos that offered me as an offering to her gods; and I charge thee

that thou leave not my sister, but be faithful to her. And now

farewell, true friend and companion in my toils; for indeed I die, and

Phoebus hath lied unto me, prophesying falsely."

And Pylades swore to him that he would build him a tomb and be a true

husband to his sister. After this Iphigenia came forth, holding a

tablet in her hand. And she said, "Here is the tablet of which I

spake. But I fear lest he to whom I shall give it shall haply take no

account of it when he is returned to the land. Therefore I would fain

bind him with an oath that he will deliver it to them that should have

it in the city of Argos." And Orestes consented, saying that she also

should bind herself with an oath that she would deliver one of the two

from death. So she sware by Artemis that she would persuade the king,

and deliver Pylades from death. And Pylades sware on his part by Zeus,

the father of heaven, that he would give the tablet to those whom it

should concern. And having sworn it, he said, "But what if a storm

overtake me and the tablet be lost and I only be saved?"

"I will tell thee what hath been written in the tablet; and if it

perish, thou shalt tell them again; but if not, then thou shalt give

it as I bid thee."

"And to whom shall I give it?"

"Thou shalt give it to Orestes, son of Agamemnon. And that which is

written therein is this: '_I that was sacrificed in Aulis, even

Iphigenia, who am alive and yet dead to my own people, bid thee----_'"

But when Orestes heard this, he brake in, "Where is this Iphigenia?

Hath the dead come back among the living?"

"Thou seest her in me. But interrupt me not. '_I bid thee fetch me

before I die to Argos from a strange land, taking me from the altar

that is red with the blood of strangers, whereat I serve._' And if

Orestes ask by what means I am alive, thou shalt say that Artemis put

a hind in my stead, and that the priest, thinking that he smote me

with the knife, slew the beast, and that the goddess brought me to

this land."

Then said Pylades, "My oath is easy to keep. Orestes, take thou this

tablet from thy sister."

Then Orestes embraced his sister, crying--for she turned from him, not

knowing what she should think--"O my sister, turn not from me; for I

am thy brother whom thou didst not think to see."

And when she yet doubted, he told her of certain things by which she

might know him to be Orestes--how that she had woven a tapestry

wherein was set forth the strife between Atreus and Thyestes

concerning the golden lamb; and that she had given a lock of her hair

at Aulis to be a memorial of her; and that there was laid in her

chamber at Argos the ancient spear of Pelops, her father's grandsire,

with which he slew Oenomaues and won Hippodamia to be his wife.

And when she heard this, she knew that he was indeed Orestes, whom,

being an infant and the latest born of his mother, she had in time

past held in her arms. But when the two had talked together for a

space, rejoicing over each other and telling the things that had

befallen them, Pylades said, "Greetings of friends after long parting

are well; but we must needs consider how best we shall escape from

this land of the barbarians."

But Iphigenia answered, "Yet nothing shall hinder me from knowing how

fareth my sister Electra."

"She is married," said Orestes, "to this Pylades, whom thou seest."

"And of what country is he and who is his father?"

"His father is Strophius the Phocian; and he is a kinsman, for his

mother was the daughter of Atreus and a friend also such as none other

is to me."

Then Orestes set forth to his sister the cause of his coming to the

land of the Taurians. And he said, "Now help me in this, my sister,

that we may bear away the image of the goddess; for so doing I shall

be quit of my madness, and thou wilt be brought to thy native country

and the house of thy father shall prosper. But if we do it not, then

shall we perish altogether."

And Iphigenia doubted much how this thing might be done. But at the

last she said, "I have a device whereby I shall compass the matter. I

will say that thou art come hither, having murdered thy mother, and

that thou canst not be offered for a sacrifice till thou art purified

with the water of the sea. Also that thou hast touched the image, and

that this also must be purified in like manner. And the image I myself

will bear to the sea; for, indeed, I only may touch it with my hands.

And of this Pylades also I will say that he is polluted in like manner

with thee. So shall we three win our way to the ship. And that this be

ready it will be thy care to provide."

And when she had so said, she prayed to Artemis: "Great goddess, that

didst bring me safe in days past from Aulis, bring me now also, and

these that are with me, safe to the land of Greece, so that men may

count thy brother Apollo to be a true prophet. Nor shouldst thou be

unwilling to depart from this barbarous land and to dwell in the fair

city of Athens."

After this came King Thoas, inquiring whether they had offered the

strangers for sacrifice and had duly burnt their bodies with fire. To

him Iphigenia made answer, "These were unclean sacrifices that thou

broughtest to me, O King."

"How didst thou learn this?"

"The image of the goddess turned upon her place of her own accord and

covered also her face with her hands."

"What wickedness, then, had these strangers wrought?"

"They slew their mother and had been banished therefor from the land

of Greece."

"O monstrous! Such deeds we barbarians never do. And now what dost

thou purpose?"

"We must purify these strangers before we offer them for a sacrifice."

"With water from the river, or in the sea?"

"In the sea. The sea cleanseth away all that is evil among men."

"Well, thou hast it here, by the very walls of the temple."

"Aye, but I must seek a place apart from men."

"So be it; go where thou wilt; I would not look on things forbidden."

"The image also must be purified."

"Surely, if the pollution from these murderers of their mother hath

touched it. This is well thought of in thee."

Then she instructed the king that he should bring the strangers out of

the temple, having first bound them and veiled their heads. Also that

certain of his guards should go with her, but that all the people of

the city should be straitly commanded to stay within doors, that so

they might not be defiled; and that he himself should abide in the

temple and purify it with fire, covering his head with his garments

when the strangers should pass by. "And be not troubled," she said,

"if I seem to be long doing these things."

"Take what time thou wilt," he said, "so that thou do all things in


So certain of the king's guards brought the two young men from out of

the temple, and Iphigenia led them towards the place where the ship

of Orestes lay at anchor. But when they were come near to the shore,

she bade them halt nor come over-near, for that she had that to do in

which they must have no part. And she took the chain wherewith the

young men were bound in her hands and set up a strange song as of one

that sought enchantments. And after that the guards sat where she bade

them for a long time, they began to fear lest the strangers should

have slain the priestess and so fled. Yet they moved not, fearing to

see that which was forbidden. But at the last with one consent they

rose up. And when they were come to the sea, they saw the ship trimmed

to set forth, and fifty sailors on the benches having oars in their

hands ready for rowing; and the two young men were standing unbound

upon the shore near to the stern. And other sailors were dragging the

ship by the cable to the shore that the young men might embark. Then

the guards laid hold of the rudder and sought to take it from its

place, crying, "Who are ye that carry away priestesses and the images

of our gods?" Then Orestes said, "I am Orestes, and I carry away my

sister." But the guards laid hold of Iphigenia; and when the sailors

saw this they leapt from the ship; and neither the one nor the other

had swords in their hands, but they fought with their fists and their

feet also. And as the sailors were strong and skilful, the king's men

were driven back sorely bruised and wounded. And when they fled to a

bank that was hard by and cast stones at the ship, the archers

standing on the stern shot at them with arrows. Then--for his sister

feared to come farther--Orestes leapt into the sea and raised her upon

his shoulder and so lifted her into the ship, and the image of the

goddess with her. And Pylades cried, "Lay hold of your oars, ye

sailors, and smite the sea, for we have that for the which we came to

this land." So the sailors rowed with all their might; and while the

ship was in the harbor it went well with them, but when it was come

to the open sea a great wave took it, for a violent wind blew against

it and drove it backwards to the shore.

And one of the guards when he saw this ran to King Thoas and told him,

and the king made haste and sent messengers mounted upon horses, to

call the men of the land that they might do battle with Orestes and

his comrade. But while he was yet sending them, there appeared in the

air above his head the goddess Athene, who spake, saying, "Cease, King

Thoas, from pursuing this man and his companions; for he hath come

hither on this errand by the command of Apollo; and I have persuaded

Poseidon that he make the sea smooth for him to depart."

And King Thoas answered, "It shall be as thou wilt, O goddess; and

though Orestes hath borne away his sister and the image, I dismiss my

anger, for who can fight against the gods?"

So Orestes departed and came to his own country and dwelt in peace,

being set free from his madness, according to the word of Apollo.