Iphigeneia in Aulis - Euripides
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Iphigeneia in Aulis

struggling girl carried by two men
Iphigeneia brought to the sacrifice (Pompeii, ca. 79 AD)

When Helen ran off with Paris, her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta, was very upset. He went to visit his older brother, Agamemnon (ag-a-MEM-non), the king of Mycenae. Menelaus reminded Agamemnon about the oath that all the suitors swore when they were fighting over who would marry Helen.

Menelaus insisted that his brother call together all the Greek armies from all the different cities and go fight the Trojans to get Helen back. Agamemnon objected that he had only meant that he would defend Menelaus against the other suitors, but Menelaus still said he had to get Helen back or break his oath.
So Agamemnon called all the Greek armies together at a port called Aulis (OW-liss). They got ready to sail to Troy.

But when they were ready to sail, the wind was blowing always in the wrong direction, toward the land, and the Greeks could not get to Troy. They asked their priest, Chalcas, if he knew what was wrong. Chalcas told Agamemnon that the goddess Artemis was sending the bad wind. She was angry. To put Artemis in a better mood, and get the good wind so the Greeks could sail to Troy and get Helen back, Agamemnon would have to sacrifice his oldest daughter, Iphigeneia (if-a-jen-I-ah).

man stands behind altar waving knife at a girl and a deer
Agamemnon prepares to sacrifice Iphigeneia

Naturally Agamemnon was horrified. Kill his daughter? He told Menelaus he couldn't do it. But Menelaus said then he would be breaking his oath to save Helen. In the end Agamemnon agreed to kill Iphigeneia. He got her mother (his wife), Clytemnestra, to bring Iphigeneia to Aulis by telling Clytemnestra (kly-tem-NES-tra) that Iphigeneia was going to marry the famous young hero Achilles. But when Iphigeneia got there, he tied her up, put her on an altar, and killed her. Then Artemis was happy, the wind changed, and the Greek ships sailed for Troy.

Learn by doing: debate whether Agamemnon made the right choice
More about the Trojan War

Bibliography and further reading about Iphigeneia:

The Pride of Lions: The Story of the House of Atreus, by Norma Johnston (2002, unfortunately out of print right now, but maybe your library can find it). For teens.

Iphigeneia at Aulis, by Euripides. Translated by W.S. Merwin and George Dimock. The original Greek play, translated into English.

Iphigeneia: Agamemnon's Daughter : A Study of Ancient Conceptions in Greek Myth and Literature Associated With the Atrides, by Maria Holmberg Lubeck (1993). By a specialist, for specialists.

More about the Trojan War
Ancient Greece
Quatr.us home

LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 28 April, 2017