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Iphigenia.

From Myths and Legends of all nations
by Logan Marshall
Age suitability 8 Plus.

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Then he turned to the queen and excused himself that he wept when he should rather have rejoiced for the marriage of his daughter. And when the queen would know of the estate of the bridegroom he told her that his name was Achilles and that he was the son of Peleus by his wife Thetis, the daughter of Nereus of the sea, and that he dwelt in Phthia. And when she inquired of the time of the marriage, he said that it should be in the same moon, on the first lucky day; and as to the place, that it must be where the bridegroom was sojourning, that is to say, in the camp. "And I," said the king, "will give the maiden to her husband." "But where," answered the queen, "is it your pleasure that I should be?" "Thou must return to Argos and care for the maidens there." "Sayest thou that I must return? Who then will hold up the torch for the bride?" "I will do that which is needful. For it is not seemly that thou shouldst be present where the whole army is gathered together." "Aye, but it is seemly that a mother should give her daughter in marriage." "But the maidens at home should not be left alone." "They are well kept in their chambers." "Be persuaded, lady." "Not so: thou shalt order that which is without the house, but I that which is within." But now came Achilles to tell the king that the army was growing impatient, saying that unless they might sail speedily to Troy they would return each man to his home. And when the queen heard his name--for he had said to the attendant, "Tell thy master that Achilles, the son of Peleus, would speak with him"--she came forth from the tent and greeted him and bade him give her his right hand. And when the young man was ashamed (for it was not counted a seemly thing that men should speak with women) she said:



"But why art thou ashamed, seeing that thou art about to marry my daughter?" And he answered, "What sayest thou, lady? I cannot speak for wonder at thy words." "Often men are ashamed when they see new friends and the talk is of marriage." "But, lady, I never was suitor for thy daughter. Nor have the sons of Atreus said aught to me of the matter." But the queen was beyond measure astonished, and cried, "Now this is shameful indeed, that I should seek a bridegroom for my daughter in such fashion." But when Achilles would have departed, to inquire of the king what this thing might mean, the old man that had at the first carried the letter came forth and bade him stay. And when he had assurance that he should receive no harm for what he should tell them, he unfolded the whole matter. And when the queen had heard it, she cried to Achilles, "O son of Thetis of the sea! help me now in this strait and help this maiden that hath been called thy bride, though this indeed be false. 'Twill be a shame to thee if such wrong be done under thy name; for it is thy name that hath undone us. Nor have I any altar to which I may flee, nor any friend but thee only in this army." Then Achilles made answer, "Lady, I learnt from Chiron, who was the most righteous of men, to be true and honest. And if the sons of Atreus govern according to right, I obey them; and if not, not. Know, then, that thy daughter, seeing that she hath been given, though but in word only, to me, shall not be slain by her father. For if she so die, then shall my name be brought to great dishonor, seeing that through it thou hast been persuaded to come with her to this place. This sword shall see right soon whether any one will dare to take this maiden from me."



And now King Agamemnon came forth, saying that all things were ready for the marriage, and that they waited for the maiden, not knowing that the whole matter had been revealed to the queen. Then she said: "Tell me now, dost thou purpose to slay thy daughter and mine?" And when he was silent, not knowing, indeed, what to say, she reproached him with many words, that she had been a loving and faithful wife to him, for which he made her an ill recompense slaying her child. And when she had made an end of speaking, the maiden came forth from the tent, holding the young child Orestes in her arms, and cast herself upon her knees before her father and besought him, saying, "I would, my father, that I had the voice of Orpheus, who made even the rocks to follow him, that I might persuade thee; but now all that I have I give, even these tears. O my father, I am thy child; slay me not before my time. This light is sweet to look upon. Drive me not from it to the land of darkness. I was the first to call thee father; and the first to whom thou didst say 'my child.' And thou wouldst say to me, 'Some day, my child, I shall see thee a happy wife in the home of a good husband.' And I would answer, 'And I will receive thee with all love when thou art old, and pay thee back for all the benefits thou hast done unto me.' This I indeed remember, but thou forgettest; for thou art ready to slay me. Do it not, I beseech thee, by Pelops thy grandsire, and Atreus thy father, and this my mother, who travailed in childbirth of me and now travaileth again in her sorrow. And thou, O my brother, though thou art but a babe, help me. Weep with me; beseech thy father that he slay not thy sister. O my father, though he be silent, yet, indeed, he beseecheth thee. For his sake, therefore, yea, and for mine own, have pity upon me and slay me not."



But the king was sore distracted, knowing not what he should say or do, for a terrible necessity was upon him, seeing that the army could not make their journey to Troy unless this deed should first be done. And while he doubted came Achilles, saying that there was a horrible tumult in the camp, the men crying out that the maiden must be sacrificed, and that when he would have stayed them from their purpose, the people had stoned him with stones, and that his own Myrmidons helped him not, but rather were the first to assail him. Nevertheless, he said that he would fight for the maiden, even to the utmost, and that there were faithful men who would stand with him and help him. But when the maiden heard these words, she stood forth and said, "Hearken to me, my mother. Be not wroth with my father, for we cannot fight against fate. Also we must take thought that this young man suffer not, for his help will avail naught and he himself will perish. Therefore I am resolved to die; for all Greece looketh to me; for without me the ships cannot make their voyage, nor the city of Troy be taken. Thou didst bear me, my mother, not for thyself only, but for this whole people. Wherefore I will give myself for them. Offer me for an offering, and let the Greeks take the city of Troy, for this shall be my memorial forever." Then said Achilles, "Lady, I should count myself most happy if the gods would grant thee to be my wife. For I love thee well when I see how noble thou art. And if thou wilt, I will carry thee to my home. And I doubt not that I shall save thee, though all the men of Greece be against me." But the maiden answered, "What I say, I say with full purpose. Nor will I that any man should die for me, but rather will I save this land of Greece." And Achilles said, "If this be thy will, lady, I cannot say nay, for it is a noble thing that thou doest."



Nor was the maiden turned from her purpose though her mother besought her with many tears. So they that were appointed led her to the grove of Artemis, where there was built an altar, and the whole army of the Greeks gathered about it. But when the king saw her going to her death he covered his face with his mantle; but she stood by him, and said, "I give my body with a willing heart to die for my country and for the whole land of Greece. I pray the gods that ye may prosper and win the victory in this war and come back safe to your homes. And now let no man touch me, for I will die with a good heart." And all men marveled to see the maiden of what a good courage she was. And all the army stood regarding the maiden and the priest and the altar. Then there befell a marvelous thing. For suddenly the maiden was not there. Whither she had gone no one knew; but in her stead there lay gasping a great hind, and all the altar was red with the blood thereof. And Calchas said, "See ye this, men of Greece, how the goddess hath provided this offering in the place of the maiden, for she would not that her altar should be defiled with innocent blood. Be of good courage, therefore, and depart every man to his ship, for this day ye shall sail across the sea to the land of Troy." Then the goddess 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 foot."

       



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