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From Myths and Legends of all nations
Start of Story
by Logan Marshall
Age suitability 8 Plus.
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
"'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
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
Phœbus 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
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 Œnomaüs 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."