Tales of Iphigenia – before and after her sacrifice at Aulis
Throughout the Iliad and other stories of Greek Mythology concerning the
Trojan War, the stories of the final fate of the eldest daughter of King
Agamemnon of Mycenae, Iphigenia, varies. One fact is central. She was
in some way ‘dedicated’, or more to the point, sacrificed to the goddess
Several versions concerning the reason which brought about her
subsequent sacrifice have survived down through antiquity, giving
readers a strange view of the beginnings of the Trojan War. Whereas her
death was not the cause of the Trojan War, it couldn’t have occurred
without her sacrifice to the warrior / huntress goddess. The Greek fleet
couldn’t have sailed to Troy from Athens because the wind was blowing
from the North, or against them, and there was a reason for this. The
sacrifice of Agamemnon’s innocent daughter was in payment to pacify
Artemis so she would allow the winds to change and the Greek fleet could
sail to Troy.
Common believe is the war started over Helen, the most beautiful woman
on earth, running off with the younger son of King Piram of Troy and this
is so but there is more to it. Actually it started on Mount Olympus at the
wedding of King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis where a less liked
goddess “Discord” was slighted and not invited to the wedding feast.
Angered at the slight she thought to get her revenge on the other goddess
and tossed a beautiful golden apple in their midst during the feast, a note
attached which read;
"For the Fairest"
Each of the goddess immediately claimed the apple and the ensuing
argument erupted was set directly at Zeus’ feet. Zeus, being the wise
Lord he was, wouldn’t get in the middle of such an argument between his
wife Hera, the goddess of Love Aphrodite and the beautiful Pallas
Athena. Instead he gave the task to one of the Princes of Troy, Paris,
known to be a great connoisseur of feminine beauty who seduced every
lovely pair of breasts, thrusting hips with a fair face he saw.
The three goddess’ approached the young Prince beguilingly and with
gifts. Their beauty contest quickly turned to bribery. Each offered a
different prize but Aphrodite offered what Paris couldn’t resist and she
knew it. She offered the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Sparta.
It didn't matter to her that Helen was the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta.
Paris chose Aphrodite to award the golden apple to, and she whisked
Helen away from Sparta and gave her as his ‘prize’ to Paris. Helen wasn’t
upset about the arrangement, she didn’t love Menelaus, he was a brutish
man, a callous warrior who had paraded her naked before the other
princes and kings of Greece’s city-states at their wedding feast. This after
the male guests had all agreed to defend Menelaus against any of the
others who might cuckold Menelaus with Helen.
Paris, instantly in love with Helen, accepted her not caring or knowing,
the others were now honor bond to go against Troy to retrieve the errant
Still, Aphrodite now was the owner of “The Apple of Discord” which was
a good name for it. Paris’ judgment, based more on the prize, than beauty,
caused great animosity between the three high goddess’ and cause so
much chaos on Mount Olympus, Zeus had his hand full keeping order.
On Earth it was worse. All out war was a singed hair’s breadth of hot air
from breaking out. Helen’s husband, Menelaus – brother of King
Agamemnon, was, as to be expected furiously mad. He called in the
oaths all the other suitors for Helen had sworn, demanding satisfaction as
the offended husband, from the man who abducted Helen.
With a peace treaty just signed between Troy’s King Priam and Sparta’s
King Menelaus, where Paris met Helen, King Agamemnon couldn’t be
more pleased. His goal was to bring all the small city states of the Greek
peoples under one strong government, instead of a loose knit, sometimes
united, people who more often fought against each other.
Paris’ reputation as a lady’s man now provided Agamemnon with an
excellent excuse to go to war against the strong city state of Troy.
To date, Troy stood undefeated because of location, vast thick walls and
the love and protection of the sun god Apollo. With Paris’ disregard of
their moral laws it gave him an excellent reason to attack Troy. Legend
and the Iliad tell Agamemnon summoned over a thousand ships to sail for
Troy to besiege the city and return Helen.
Two warlord princes held out, not wishing to go to war over a woman.
King Odysseus of Ithaca and Achilles, the son of the sea Nymph Thetia
and King Peleus but were persuaded by Agamemnon, personally, to sale
Achilles’ mother warned him to be cautious – she had seen his death in
Troy and knew he wouldn’t return.
During this time, while the armies were gathering, a Greek soldier
offended the great goddess Artemis by killing one of her woodland
creatures, a rabbit and her young. She was so offended she called upon
Poseidon to change the winds, making sailing from Aulis to Troy
Agamemnon was informed of these recent developments by the prophet /
priest Calchas, who carried a message from the goddess herself: The
goddess Artemis could only be appeased by the virgin sacrifice of his
oldest daughter, Iphigenia on her altar at Aulis in atonement for the murder
of the rabbit and her young.
Appalled, his heart breaking, and sickened, knowing what horrible
penalties the gods heaped on such acts, Agamemnon could hear his
battle trained and hardened troops insisting he do as Artemis demanded;
It broke men’s hearts,
Spared not ship nor cable,
The time dragged,
Doubling itself in passing
So anxious were the troops to go to war against Troy, they cared not for
the life or death of an innocent young girl. Only that the winds continued
to blow day after day – from the North against the direction they would sail.
To calm the waters and to sale safely to Troy, the blood of a royal maiden
must be sacrificed, Iphigenia, the eldest, fairest daughter of
Agamemnon and dearest to his heart.
If I must slay
The joy of my house, my daughter.
A father’ hands
Stained dark with streams flowing
From blood of a girl
Slaughtered before an altar
Agamemnon yielded, his reputation with the army was at stake. His
ambition to conqueror Troy and exalt Greece in danger of not coming to
He dared the deed,
Slaying the child to help a war
He sent home for her, writing his wife he had arranged a great marriage
for her, to Achilles, who had already shown himself the best and greatest
of all his chieftains. But when she came to her wedding she was carried
to her the altar to be killed.
And all her prayers – cries of Father, Father,
Her maidens life,
These they held as nothing.
The savage warriors, battle-mad.
NOTE: Here stories vary – some say Artemis, not wishing her altar defiled
with human blood provided at the last moment a stag to replace Iphigenia
and spirited her away to serve as a priestess in her temple in a far away
land. ALSO: Achilles was born to King Peleus and Thetis before the
Trojan War - so its easy to say there was already some -time slips-
present in Mythology or it took a good many years for Agamemnon to
gather his fleet.
Some accounts say this is where the animosity between Achilles and
Agamemnon began but not where it ended. Achilles, being truly in love
with Iphigenia grew quickly to hate Agamemnon, swearing to avenge her
death. Other stories hint she was rescued by Artemis’ orders and
However for the story of TROY – LOVERS IN THE MISTS – Iphigenia was
sacrificed, innocently on her wedding day with Achilles looking on in
horror vowing to avenge her death. As in the painting shown on this
web site page.
Most of this information was taken from MYTHOLOGY by Edith Hamilton
Published by Little / Brown Press copyright 1942
The poetry is from the Iliad itself.
For some of the finest, condensed and enjoyable tales of Greek and
Roman Mythology Edith Hamilton is wonderful. She also covers the more
popular myths of the Celtic and some other cultures. Her books are used
as texts in many schools and as references.
mythology ~ Old and new
As a way of connecting with my Time Slip book - Troy - Lovers In
The Mists by Whiskey Creek Press - I've chosen the first myth
about the main characters in that book. So those who've never
read the story of Iphigenia, Achilles and Agamemnon will come to
understand the connection to the characters reincarnated in the
book. Realizing there are several different versions of this "myth"
I have chosen to "tell" the story by combing several of the
versions that focus on my main characters Iphigenia, Achilles and
Agamemnon. Remember, there are many versions, some have
Iphigenia sacrificed as a child, some as a young woman, some
saved by the goddess at the last moment and some taken after
death to mount Olympus.
NOTE; Achilles is drawing his sword to defend
"THE ANGER OF ACHILLES"
A TALE AFTER THE TROJAN WAR -