Iphigenia | Greek Princess

Iphigenia Greek Mythology

Iphigenia (European Portuguese) or Iphigenia (Brazilian Portuguese) (in classical Greek: Ἰφιγένεια), also Ifigenia, in Greek mythology, was the eldest daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, sister of Orestes and Electra and niece of Menelaus and Helen.

Princess of Mycenae and symbol of female self-sacrifice. Her name means "strong from birth." Euripides died without completing the plays, so several versions exist in an attempt to complete it following the author's original intentions. It is believed that Euripides, the young man, son or nephew of Euripides, completed the play and performed it 400 BC where he won first place for the work.


Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had a son, Orestes, and three daughters, Chrysotemis, Iphigenia, and Electra. Agamemnon and Menelaus were sons of Atreus, their mother being Aérope. Or, according to other versions, sons of Plistene, son of Atreus.

Clytemnestra was the daughter of Tyndareus and Leda; Leda had a son and daughter by Zeus, Pollux and Helen, and a son and daughter by Tyndareus, Castor and Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra had been married to Tantalus, son of Tiestes; both Tantalus and the couple's newborn son were murdered by Agamemnon, who had then betrothed Clytemnestra.

The feud between the descendants of Atreus and his brother Tiestes began with the adultery of Aérope, Atreus' wife, with Tiestes. Atreus then murdered Tiestes' children, and gave him to eat his children, revealing in the end who he was eating.

Tiestes got his own daughter pregnant, with whom he had a son, Aegistus; Aegistus killed Atreus and handed Mycenae to Tiestes. Tyndareus removed Tiestes from the throne of Mycenae, handing the city to Agamemnon, and marrying his two daughters Clytemnestra and Helen, respectively, to Agamemnon and Menelaus.

Iphigenia in Aulis

According to Euripides, before leaving for Troy, Agamemnon angered Artemis by hunting a deer in a sacred forest and bragging about being the best hunter. As punishment the winds in the port of Aulis stopped and Agamemnon was to sacrifice his daughter on an altar to Artemis, so that the goddess would blow good winds for the departure of the Greek armies to Troy.

Agamemnon sends a letter to his wife, Clytemnestra, to bring his daughter with the promise that she would marry Achilles. Then he regrets it and tries to send a new letter, which is read by Menelaus who fights with his brother. But it is too late and Clytemnestra, Orestes and Iphigenia had already arrived in Aulis. 

Agamemnon tries to convince Clytemnestra to return to Mycenae but she refuses not to attend her daughter's wedding. When he meets Achilles, who is unaware of the plot, they both discover the truth about the cruel fate awaiting their daughter, and that she had been deceived by her husband.

The army is revolted by the delay, but Achilles defends Iphigenia even from the rage of the Myrmidons. Iphigenia decides to sacrifice herself to prevent the revolt from continuing, so that Achilles will not be wounded in vain, and to help the Greeks on their way to Troy.

To Achilles' amazement, she makes her way to the altar, ignoring the pleas of her mother who despairs at her cruel fate. At the last moment, Artemis replaces the princess with a doe, and makes her her high priestess, taking her to Taurida. In another version she is actually sacrificed but her soul is rescued and immortalized by the gods.

Orestes and the Furies

Clytemnestra would not admit Agamemnon sacrificing her own daughter, and so she killed him while he was in the palace pool. Seven years later, when Orestes, Iphigenia's brother, returns to Mycenae and finds out what had happened, under pressure from Electra, his younger sister, he kills his mother and her lover in an attempt to avenge his father's death.

For committing matricide he is punished by the furies with lashes and torches until he goes mad. His best friend since childhood, Pilades, accompanies him trying to keep him sane.

Iphigenia in Thaurida

Orestes went to the Oracle at Delphi to find out how to get rid of the lashes of the Furies. The oracle revealed that he would only be freed if he managed to get hold of a statue of Artemis in Tháurida. His friend Pilades accompanies him on this journey and both are protected by Athena for their courage.

When they arrive, Orestes has a fit of madness and tries to kill the peasants' calves believing them to be the Furies that torment him. Both are captured and taken to be sacrificed by the high virgin priestess in the temple of Artemis.

Iphigenia and Orestes do not immediately recognize each other, but during the pre-sacrifice rites, upon discovering that he is from Mycenae, she questions him if Orestes is still alive.

He says yes, so she proposes that she will spare his life if he delivers a letter to Orestes. Orestes asks his friend to return to Mycenae to deliver the letter, leaving him there to be sacrificed alone, but Orestes refuses and reveals Orestes' identity.

After clarification, Iphigenia plans an escape with her wit and deceives the other priests by saying that the foreigner is not fit for sacrifice because he is a matricide and his friend is an accomplice, and that she should now take the tainted statue to be purified at sea.

With Athens' help, the three of them manage to escape back to Mycenae and defeat whoever was chasing them. When they arrive at the palace, Electra meets Iphigenia who tells them what happened.

When she mentions that she should sacrifice her brother Electra threatens to kill her sister, but Orestes reveals himself and saves her from the misunderstanding. Orestes regains his sanity and becomes king, marrying his cousin Hermione. Iphigenia marries Pilades and goes on as priestess of Artemis where they live in peace.

The fate of the statue of Artemis is still disputed by more than five different cities. It is reported that for many years various rituals where young men were whipped until the statue was covered in blood were performed in front of these statues in an attempt to please the goddess.