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THE STORY OF IPHIGENIA AMONG THE TAURIANS.
It has been told in the story of King Agamemnon that the Goddess
Artemis, being wroth with him because he had slain a hart which she
loved, suffered not the ships of the Greeks to sail till he had offered
his daughter Iphigenia for a sacrifice. But when the King consented, and
all things had been made ready for slaying the maiden, the goddess would
not that her blood should be shed, but put a fair hind in her place, and
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
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 he 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 there 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 counselled 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.
[Illustration: ORESTES AND THE FURIES.]
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
"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
"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?"
[Illustration: IPHIGENIA AND ORESTES.]
"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 more."
"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
honour 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
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
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 sware 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
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