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Iphigenia.

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

Start of Story

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 honor 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 bonds. 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 with thine." 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 Phbus hath lied unto me, prophesying falsely."



And Pylades swore 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 Iphigenia, who am alive and yet dead to my own people, bid thee----_'" But when Orestes heard this, he brake in, "Where is this Iphigenia? Hath the dead come back among the living?" "Thou seest her in me. But interrupt me not. '_I bid thee fetch me before I die to Argos from a strange land, taking me from the altar that is red 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 nomas 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 the barbarians." 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 perish altogether."

       



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