Brauron (Vravrona), near Loutsa, is by the coast east of Athens, and there is a sanctuary there dedicated to Artemis. It is there, legend says, that Iphigenia (or Iphigeneia) is buried. In 1998, I sat there by her grave, a pilgrimage of sorts, and a few days later I visited Mycenae where she lived.
There’s another legend that says that the Greek armies gathered at the port of Brauron, not at Aulis. As usual with Greek legends, it’s impossible to know which (if indeed any) of them is true. The grave of Iphigenia has been dated to a much later period than the Trojan War.
I can’t recall when it was that I fell in love with Iphigenia. Was it before or after I learned Victoria Warshawski’s middle name? I really can’t say. There’s so much that I’ve read over the years that I have forgotten. For example, I think this is true: As a young princess, Iphigenia would have served in the temple of Artemis…
She was the eldest child of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, and Clytemnestra, sister of Helen. Agamemnon killed a stag that was sacred to Artemis (or he killed a stag and boasted that Artemis herself could not have done so). The goddess was so angry with him, that when the armies of Greece gathered to set sail to Troy, she denied them favourable winds and demanded the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Agamemnon sent for his virgin daughter to be brought to him, so that she could be married to Achilles, and when she arrived she was led to the altar and sacrificed.
As once at Aulis, the elected chiefs,
Foremost of heroes, Danaan counsellors,
Defiled Diana’s altar, virgin queen,
With Agamemnon’s daughter, foully slain.
She felt the chaplet round her maiden locks
And fillets, fluttering down on either cheek,
And at the altar marked her grieving sire,
The priests beside him who concealed the knife,
And all the folk in tears at sight of her.
With a dumb terror and a sinking knee
She dropped; nor might avail her now that first
‘Twas she who gave the king a father’s name.
They raised her up, they bore the trembling girl
On to the altar—hither led not now
With solemn rites and hymeneal choir,
But sinless woman, sinfully foredone,
A parent felled her on her bridal day,
Making his child a sacrificial beast
To give the ships auspicious winds for Troy:
OF THE NATURE OF THINGS, By Titus Lucretius Carus:
Or was she? One legend has it that the goddess took pity on the girl. At the last moment, Artemis substituted a deer for Iphigenia, and the princess was taken to Tauris to serve the goddess as a priestess. She returned to Greece later with her brother Orestes.