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Iphigenia.

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

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And Iphigenia doubted much how this thing might be done. But at the last she said, "I have a device whereby I shall compass the matter. I will say that thou art come hither, having murdered thy mother, and that thou canst not be offered for a sacrifice till thou art purified with the water of the sea. Also that thou hast touched the image, and that this also must be purified in like manner. And the image I myself will bear to the sea; for, indeed, I only may touch it with my hands. And of this Pylades also I will say that he is polluted in like manner with thee. So shall we three win our way to the ship. And that this be ready it will be thy care to provide." And when she had so said, she prayed to Artemis: "Great goddess, that didst bring me safe in days past from Aulis, bring me now also, and these that are with me, safe to the land of Greece, so that men may count thy brother Apollo to be a true prophet. Nor shouldst thou be unwilling to depart from this barbarous land and to dwell in the fair city of Athens." After this came King Thoas, inquiring whether they had offered the strangers for sacrifice and had duly burnt their bodies with fire. To him Iphigenia made answer, "These were unclean sacrifices that thou broughtest to me, O King." "How didst thou learn this?" "The image of the goddess turned upon her place of her own accord and covered also her face with her hands." "What wickedness, then, had these strangers wrought?" "They slew their mother and had been banished therefor from the land of Greece."



"O monstrous! Such deeds we barbarians never do. And now what dost thou purpose?" "We must purify these strangers before we offer them for a sacrifice." "With water from the river, or in the sea?" "In the sea. The sea cleanseth away all that is evil among men." "Well, thou hast it here, by the very walls of the temple." "Aye, but I must seek a place apart from men." "So be it; go where thou wilt; I would not look on things forbidden." "The image also must be purified." "Surely, if the pollution from these murderers of their mother hath touched it. This is well thought of in thee." Then she instructed the king that he should bring the strangers out of the temple, having first bound them and veiled their heads. Also that certain of his guards should go with her, but that all the people of the city should be straitly commanded to stay within doors, that so they might not be defiled; and that he himself should abide in the temple and purify it with fire, covering his head with his garments when the strangers should pass by. "And be not troubled," she said, "if I seem to be long doing these things." "Take what time thou wilt," he said, "so that thou do all things in order."



So certain of the king's guards brought the two young men from out of the temple, and Iphigenia led them towards the place where the ship of Orestes lay at anchor. But when they were come near to the shore, she bade them halt nor come over-near, for that she had that to do in which they must have no part. And she took the chain wherewith the young men were bound in her hands and set up a strange song as of one that sought enchantments. And after that the guards sat where she bade them for a long time, they began to fear lest the strangers should have slain the priestess and so fled. Yet they moved not, fearing to see that which was forbidden. But at the last with one consent they rose up. And when they were come to the sea, they saw the ship trimmed to set forth, and fifty sailors on the benches having oars in their hands ready for rowing; and the two young men were standing unbound upon the shore near to the stern. And other sailors were dragging the ship by the cable to the shore that the young men might embark. Then the guards laid hold of the rudder and sought to take it from its place, crying, "Who are ye that carry away priestesses and the images of our gods?" Then Orestes said, "I am Orestes, and I carry away my sister." But the guards laid hold of Iphigenia; and when the sailors saw this they leapt from the ship; and neither the one nor the other had swords in their hands, but they fought with their fists and their feet also.



And as the sailors were strong and skilful, the king's men were driven back sorely bruised and wounded. And when they fled to a bank that was hard by and cast stones at the ship, the archers standing on the stern shot at them with arrows. Then--for his sister feared to come farther--Orestes leapt into the sea and raised her upon his shoulder and so lifted her into the ship, and the image of the goddess with her. And Pylades cried, "Lay hold of your oars, ye sailors, and smite the sea, for we have that for the which we came to this land." So the sailors rowed with all their might; and while the ship was in the harbor it went well with them, but when it was come to the open sea a great wave took it, for a violent wind blew against it and drove it backwards to the shore. And one of the guards when he saw this ran to King Thoas and told him, and the king made haste and sent messengers mounted upon horses, to call the men of the land that they might do battle with Orestes and his comrade. But while he was yet sending them, there appeared in the air above his head the goddess Athene, who spake, saying, "Cease, King Thoas, from pursuing this man and his companions; for he hath come hither on this errand by the command of Apollo; and I have persuaded Poseidon that he make the sea smooth for him to depart." And King Thoas answered, "It shall be as thou wilt, O goddess; and though Orestes hath borne away his sister and the image, I dismiss my anger, for who can fight against the gods?" So Orestes departed and came to his own country and dwelt in peace, being set free from his madness, according to the word of Apollo.

       



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