Can Iphigenia Be Saved?

On a hunting excursion, Agamemnon, husband of Clymemnestra and father of Iphigenia, kills a sacred deer. It is just something he does, and he thinks nothing of it. Later as he prepares to set sail for the Trojan War, Artemis, protector of forest animals, expresses her disgust by stopping the winds, making it impossible for Agamemnon and his men to leave the port. In order to appease Artemis, Agamemnon is informed he must sacrifice his daughter. Like all good fathers, he at first is hesitant, but ultimately agrees. He deceives his wife and daughter, luring them to Aulis under the guise that a marriage to Achilles has been arranged for Iphigenia. When Achilles learns of the deception, he tries to prevent the sacrifice, but ultimately Iphigenia chooses to sacrifice herself.

At this point the myth diverges with two endings. In the first, Artemis allows the sacrifice, Iphigenia dies, and the winds are restored. In the second, at the moment of the sacrifice, Artemis secretly substitutes a deer in Iphigenia’s place. Iphigenia, thought dead by her family and community, then becomes a priestess to Artemis.

Can Iphigenia be saved? If Artemis allows the sacrifice, she kills off the feminine traits demonstrated by Iphigenia of receptiveness, nurturing, and willingness to put others needs ahead of hers. If Artemis rescues and protects Iphigenia, she saves feminine values from the patriarchy, yet still devalues them. Within the powerful protective goddess is a naive, trusting, vulnerable aspect which has potential for intimacy and dependency. Will she kill this part of herself in order to stay focused and driven? Or will she save this hidden facet of herself so she can grow?

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