1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Iphigeneia

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IPHIGENEIA, or Iphianassa, in Greek legend, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytaem(n)estra. Agamemnon had offended Artemis, who prevented the Greek fleet from sailing for Troy, and, according to the soothsayer Calchas, could be appeased only by the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter. According to some accounts the sacrifice was completed, according to others Artemis carried away the maiden to be her priestess in the Tauric Chersonese [Crimea] and substituted for her a hind. In this new country it was her duty to sacrifice to the goddess all strangers; and as her brother Orestes came to search for her and to carry off to Attica the image of the goddess, she was about to sacrifice him, when a happy recognition took place. These legends show how closely the heroine is associated with the cult of Artemis, and with the human sacrifices which accompanied it in older times before the Hellenic spirit had modified the barbarism of this borrowed religion. Orestes and Iphigeneia fled, taking with them the image; at Delphi they met Electra, the sister of Orestes, who having heard that her brother had been sacrificed by the Tauric priestess, was about to tear out the eyes of Iphigeneia. The brother and sister returned to Mycenae; Iphigeneia deposited the image in the deme of Brauron in Attica, where she remained as priestess of Artemis Brauronia. Attica being one of the chief seats of the worship of Artemis, this explains why Iphigeneia is sometimes called a daughter of Theseus and Helen, and thereby connected with the national hero. The grave of Iphigeneia was shown at Brauron and Megara. According to other versions of the legend, when saved from sacrifice Iphigeneia was transported to the island of Leuke, where she was wedded to Achilles under the name of Orsilochia (Antoninus Liberalis 27); or she was transformed by Artemis into the goddess Hecate (Pausanias i. 43. 1). According to the Spartans, the image of Artemis was transported by Orestes and Iphigeneia to Laconia, where the goddess was worshipped as Artemis Orthia, the human sacrifices originally offered to her being abolished by Lycurgus and replaced by the flogging of youths (diamastigosis, Pausan. iii. 16). At Hermione, Artemis was worshipped under the name of Iphigeneia, thus showing the heroine in the last resort to be a form of that goddess (Pausanias ii. 35. 1). Originally, Iphigeneia, the “mighty born,” is probably merely an epithet of Artemis, in which the notion of a priestess of the goddess had its origin. Iphigeneia is a favourite subject in Greek literature. She is the heroine of two plays of Euripides, and of many other tragedies which have been lost (see also Pindar, Pythia xi. 23; Ovid, Metam. xii. 27). In ancient vase paintings she is frequently met with; and the picture by Timanthes representing Agamemnon hiding his face at her sacrifice was one of the famous works of antiquity (Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxxv. 10).

See M. Jacobson, De fabulis ad Iphigeniam pertinentibus (1888); R. Förster, Iphigenie (1898); H. W. Stoll in Roscher’s Lexikon der Mythologie; and P. Decharme in Daremberg and Saglio’s Dictionnaire des antiquités.