Tauris, the ancient Greeks called the modern Crimea. There lived Taurians – a Scythian tribe that honored the goddess-virgo and brought her human sacrifices, which in Greece had long since emerged from custom. The Greeks believed that this goddess-maiden – not who else, like their Artemis-hunter. They had a myth, at the outset and at the denouement of which stood Artemis, and both times – with human sacrifice, – true, imaginary, not accomplished. The outset of this myth was on the Greek coast, in Aulis, and the denouement on the Scythian coast, in Tavrida. And between the outset and denouement stretched out one of the bloodiest and cruelest stories of Greek mythology.
The great Argos king Agamemnon, the chief leader of the Greek army in the Trojan War, was the wife of Clytemnestra and had three children from her: the eldest daughter of Iphigenia, the middle daughter of Elektra and the youngest son of Orestes. When the Greek army sailed for a trip to Troy,
the goddess Artemis demanded that Agamemnon sacrifice her daughter Iphigenia. Agamemnon did this; as it happened, Euripides showed in the tragedy “Iphigenia in Aulis”. In the last moment, Artemis took pity on the victim, replaced the girl on the altar with a fallow deer, and Iphigenia slipped away on a cloud to far Tauris. There was a temple of Artemis, and in the temple there was a wooden statue of the goddess, as if fallen from heaven. In this temple, Iphigenia became a priestess.
Of the people no one saw or knew that Iphigenia had escaped: everyone thought that she had perished on the altar. Her mother, Clytemnestra, held her mortal hatred for her husband-child killer. And when Agamemnon returned victorious from the Trojan War, she, revenge for her daughter, killed him with her own hand. After that, her son Orestes, with the help of her Electra sister, revenge for her father, killed his own mother. After this, the goddess of blood revenge Erinnia, after revenge for Clytemnestra, was sent to Orestes madness and persecuted him in agony throughout Greece, until he was rescued by the god Apollo and the
goddess Athena. In Athens there was a trial between Erinniy and Orest, and Orestes was acquitted. All this was told in detail by Aeschylus in his trilogy “Oresteia”.
He did not tell only one thing. In redemption of guilt, Orestes had to perform the feat: to get an idol of Artemis in faraway Tavrida and bring him to the Athenian land. Assistant to him was his inseparable friend Pilad, who married his sister Electra. How did Orest and Pylad do their work, and how did Orest find his sister Iphigenia, whom he considered to be long dead, about which Euripides wrote the tragedy “Iphigenia in Tauris”.
The action is in Tauris in front of the temple of Artemis. Iphigenia goes to the audience and tells them who she is, how she was saved in Aulis and how she now serves Artemis in this Scythian kingdom. The service is heavy: all the foreigners that the sea will bring here, Artemis is sacrificed here, and she, Iphigenia, must prepare them for death. That she does not know with her father, mother, brother. And now she had a prophetic dream: the Argos palace collapsed, among the ruins there is only one column, and she dresses this column as they arrange the strangers here before the victim. Of course, this column is Orestes; and the dying rite only means that he has died. She wants to mourn him and leaves to call for this her servants.
While the scene is empty, Orest and Pilad come out to her. Orestes is alive, and he is in Tauris; they are appointed to kidnap an idol from this temple, and they look at how to penetrate there. They will do this at night, and the day will wait in a cave by the sea, where their ship is hidden. They go there, and Iphigenia returns to the stage with a choir of servants; Together with them she mourns and Orestes, and the evil fate of her ancestors, and her bitter share in a foreign land.
The messenger interrupts their crying. Just on the seashore the shepherds seized two strangers; one of them fought in a fit and conjured the pursuers Erinny, and the other tried to help him and protect him from the shepherds. Both were taken to the king, and the king ordered the usual order to sacrifice them to Artemis: let Iphigenia prepare for the prescribed rite. Iphigenia in confusion. Usually this service with a bloody victim is a burden to her; but now, when the dream told her that Orestes was dead, her heart was hardened and she almost rejoices at their future execution. Oh, why did not you bring the Trojan war heroes here – Elena and Menelaus! The choir grieves about a distant homeland.
Enter the captives. They are young, she pities them. “What’s your name?” she asks Oresta. He is gloomy silent. “Where are you from?” “From Argos.” – “Is Troy the Palau?” Did the culprit Elena survive, and Menelaus? And Odysseus, and Achilles, and Agamemnon, how did he die from his wife, and she from her son, and the son, is Orest alive? ” – “Live, but in exile – everywhere and nowhere.” “Happiness, my dream turned out to be false.” “Yes, even gods are deceitful and deceitful,” says Orestes, thinking about how they sent him for salvation, and brought to death.
“If you are from Argos, I have a request to you,” says Iphigenia, “I have a letter to my homeland, I will spare and release one of you, and he will give the letter to whom I will tell.” And she leaves for the letter. Orestes and Pilad begin a noble argument about which of them will survive: Orestes orders to save Pilad, Pilad-Orestes. Orestes overpowers in a dispute: “I ruined my mother, should I really ruin another friend?” “Live, remember me and do not believe the deceitful gods.” “Do not anger the gods,” says Pylad, “death is near, but has not yet come.” Iphigenia takes writing plaques. “Who will carry them?” “I,” says Pylad, “but to whom?” “Oreste,” Iphigenia replies, “let him know that his sister Iphigenia did not perish in Aulis, but serves Artemis Tavricheskiy, let him come and save me from this grievous service.” Orestes does not believe his ears. “Do I have to deliver this letter to Orestes?” Asked Pylad. – and he hands writing pens to a friend. Iphigenia does not believe in her eyes. “Yes, I am your brother Orestes!” Shouted Orestes, “I remember the veil wrapped by you, where you painted an eclipse of the sun, and the strand of hair that you left your mother with, and the great-grandfather spear that was standing in your tent!” Iphigenia rushes into his arms – to think only, she almost became the murderer of her brother! Singing songs are celebrated with recognition.
Unexpected, but the main thing remained: how can Orest get and take away the idol of Artemis from the Tauride temple? The temple is guarded, and the guards can not help it. “I invented,” says Iphigenia, “I will deceive the king by cunning, and for this I will tell him the truth.” I will say that you, Orestes, killed your mother, and you, Pilad, helped him, so both of you are unclean and your touch polluted and above you and above the statue you need to make a purification – a bath in the sea water. Thank you and I and the statue will go out to the sea – to your ship. ” Decision is made; the choir sings a song in honor of Artemis, rejoicing at Iphigenia and envying her: she will return to her homeland, and they, the servants, still need long to be in a foreign country.
Iphigenia comes out of the temple with a wooden statue of the goddess in her arms, towards her – the king. Serving Artemis – a woman’s business, the king does not know its subtleties and obediently believes Iphigenia. Purification of the idol is a sacrament, let the guard leave, and the inhabitants do not leave the houses, and the king himself will fumigate the temple so that the goddess has a clean abode. The king enters the temple, Iphigenia with prayer Artemis follows to the sea, followed by Orestes and Pilada. The choir sings a song in honor of the prophetic Apollo, the instructor Orestes: yes, there are false dreams, but there are no false gods!
There comes the denouement. The messenger runs in, summons the king: the captives fled, and with them – the priestess, and with her – the idol of the goddess! They, the guards, stood for a long time to turn away so as not to see the sacraments, but then turned and saw a ship on the shore, and on the ship of fugitives; the guards rushed to them, but it was too late; rather on ships to intercept criminals! However, here, as often happens in interchanges with Euripides, there is a “god out of the car”: above the stage appears the goddess Athena. “Stop, king: the case of the fugitives is pleasing to the gods, leave them alone and let them go after these women from the choir.” And you boldly, Orestes: turn to the Athenian land and there on the shore raise the shrine to Artemis, no more human sacrifices, but in memory of Tauris on the main holiday of her idol will be sprinkled with blood. And you, Iphigenia, will become the first priestess in this temple, and the descendants there will honor your grave. And I’m hurrying after you to my Athens. Way, a fair wind! “Athena disappears, the Taurian king remains kneeling, tragedy is over.