The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Iphigenia

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IPHIGENIA, in Greek legend, a daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra (according to some an illegitimate daughter of Theseus and Helen), who was to have been sacrificed to Artemis (Diana) at the advice of the prophet Calchas, when the goddess, enraged with Agamemnon, detained the Greek fleet in Aulis by a calm. Under pretense that she was to be married to Achilles, Iphigenia was led to the altar. But in the moment when the priest was about to give the death-blow Iphigenia disappeared, and in her stead a beautiful hind was substituted, whose blood gushed out on the altar. Artemis had relented, and conveyed her in a cloud to Tauris, where she became the priestess of the goddess. Conformably with the law of the country, she was obliged to sacrifice every Greek that landed there. While serving as priestess her brother Orestes came to take away the image of Artemis, as he had been advised by an oracle to do, that he might get rid of the madness to which he had been subject since the murder of his mother. Iphigenia having recognized him as her brother, the two contrived a means of escape, and carried off with them the image. The story is first told in the ‘Cypria,’ a Greek poem describing the events preceding the Iliad, and is depicted on vases, sarcophagi and wall paintings. The story of Iphigenia was dramatized by Euripides who composed two plays upon the subject—‘Iphigenia in Aulis’ and ‘Iphigenia in Tauris’; by Goethe (1789) under the title ‘Iphigenie auf Tauris,’ and by Racine as ‘Iphigénie’ (1674). It is also the subject of two operas by Gluck, ‘Iphigenie en Aulide’ (1774); and ‘Iphigénie en Tauride’ (1779). Consult Gayley, C. M., ‘The Classic Myths in English Literature and Art’ (2d ed., Boston 1911); Hall, F. A., ‘Iphigenia in Literature’ (Saint Louis 1911).