Iphigenia (mothering a strong race) In Greek mythology, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra; sister of Electra, Chromythemis, and Orestes. When Agamemnon’s ships were stilled at Aulis on their way to the Trojan War, the king sacrificed Iphigenia to placate the virgin goddess Artemis after Agamemnon had killed one of her stags.
Knowing that Clytemnestra would never agree to the sacrifice, Agamemnon sent for Iphigenia under the pretext that she was to marry Achilles. In some accounts the sacrifice of Iphigenia was carried out to completion, and she died. Other ancient accounts say that while the sacrifice was being prepared, Artemis swept up Iphigenia and took her off to Tauris, where she became the goddess’s priestess.
Anyone who was shipwrecked on the island of Tauris was sacrificed to Artemis. Iphigenia’s brother Orestes, in search of the sacred image of Artemis, was shipwrecked on the island. After discovering his identify, Iphigenia fled with him, taking the image of Artemis. In Homer’s Iliad Iphigenia is called Chrysothemis. Aeschylus’s Agamemnon follows the myth that says she was sacrificed, whereas Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia in Tauris follow the story that says she was saved.
Gluck’s operas Iphigénie en Aulide and Iphigénie en Tauride are based on Euripides’ version. Racine’s Iphigénie and Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris also tell the myth.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
Iphigenia, worshipped as a goddess of death and childbirth, is most famous for the role she plays in the early stages of the Trojan War. The eldest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, her father somehow offended Artemis, who demanded (via an oracle) the sacrifice of Iphigenia as reparations. (Different myths offer different explanations of his offense. An alternative myth suggests that Iphi genia was really the daughter of Helen and Theseus raised by her mother’s twin.)
Rather than tell Clytemnestra the truth, Agamemnon informed her that he had arranged a marriage between Iphigenia and the hero Achilles. Clytemnestra was directed to prepare Iphigenia for her wedding. Purification rituals for brides may have been similar to those for victims of human sacrifice.
Iphigenia, approximately twelve years old or just slightly older, dressed in bridal finery, was led to the sacrificial altar, not the nuptial chamber. There are two versions of what happened next:
Iphigenia was killed.
At the last moment, Artemis whisked Iphigenia away, replacing her with a deer or goat.
Artemis allegedly brought Iphigenia to Tauris (now in modern Crimea) to serve as her chief priestess, presiding over human sacrifices. According to historian Herodotus, the Scythians in this region did sacrifice prisoners, but to a goddess he identified as Iphigenia. Iphigenia was also venerated alongside Artemis in Greece: Iphigenia’s cave shrine was part of the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia.
Clothing of women who died in childbirth was offered to Iphigenia. Some scholars theorize that she was originally an autonomous goddess (whether Greek or Scythian) whose functions overlapped with Artemis, and so she was eventually incorporated into Artemis’ cult, at least in Greece. Iphigenia is invoked for safety during childbirth. Her name derives from a root word indicating “strength.”
Also known as:
- Helen of Troy
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
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