I’ve talked before about my intense love for Greek and Roman mythology, and here it is again.
For some reason, the story of Iphigenia really stuck with me. When I took a class on Greek literature, we actually didn’t read the story of Iphigenia–we watched the Michael Cacoyannis film version, which I think is lovely in its ambiguity.
For the uninitiated, Iphigenia is the daughter of Clytemnestra and the famed hero (not my hero, just generally heroic by Greek standards) Agamemnon. Before the Trojan War can begin in earnest, the Greeks have to sail to Troy. Unfortunately, the wind isn’t blowing (or is blowing too hard, depending on which version you read). Odysseus tells Agamemnon that Artemis demands that he sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, thanks to Atreus trying to feed all the gods his son, Pelops (that Atreus family, I tell you).
Some stories say Odysseus was lying to manipulate Agamemnon, some say it was true. Whatever the case, Agamemnon sacrifices Iphigenia, the winds begin to blow (or cease blowing so hard), and the Trojan War carries on.
In some versions of the story, Iphigenia is simply dead. In Euripides’ version, Iphigenia is whisked away by the goddess Artemis herself. I like that version better.
Gaelic; a sudden burst of wind
The sea air hangs stagnant, stinking of fish. Her skin is salt-streaked, as if her body has been soaked in brine.
Madness has ridden in on false prophecy, whispered through Pheme’s clouded lips. The girl stares into the crowd, not crying, not speaking, her head high. Men speak. They argue. She watches them from atop her hill, her wrists bound.
When they drive the blade into her belly she thinks she feels strong, woman’s arms—the arms of a huntress—catch her as she falls. Her blood pools on the stones and her curls stir in a new breeze.