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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
Oenomaüs, 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
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
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 therefore from the land
"O monstrous! Such deeds we barbarians never do. And now what dost thou
"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
"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 guard 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 his 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 the sailors being
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 further--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 harbour 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 drave 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 Athené, 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.
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