Depictions of the death of Iphigenia

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Amphora depicting the abduction of Iphigenia by Artemis

Iphigenia was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. According to the story, Agamemnon committed a mistake and had to sacrifice Iphigenia to Artemis to appease her.[1] There are different versions of the story. According to one side of the story, before Agamemnon could sacrifice her, Artemis saved her and replaced her with a deer on the altar. In the other version, Agamemnon actually went through with the sacrifice. The different versions aid in the different depictions of Iphigenia.

The death of Iphigenia is immortalized on many different mediums. Vases are a common base for the story, but there are mosaics, paintings, and written works from every era illustrating the myth of Iphigenia. The most common scene depicted in the different visual media of Iphigenia is when she about to be offered up to Artemis on the altar.

Descriptions of the death by Pausanias[edit]

Paisanias was a traveler who wrote the Description of Greece which depicted his accounts of what he has seen on mainland Greece.[2] He recorded a few depictions of the death of Iphigenia. He mentions that the temple of Artemis was where the sacrifice was to take place. He goes on to describe the temple of Artemis after its destruction.[3] Pausanias then gives an example of an artistic depiction of Iphigenia that was found in Catalonia. In the mosaic, Iphigenia is being led to the altar and it is seen that Artemis is in the back waiting and holding a deer to replace Iphigenia with.

Iphigenia in Art[edit]

Volute Krater of the Sacrifice[4][edit]

Volute Krater of Iphigenia's Sacrifice

There are several vases that were made and decorated with illustrations of the sacrifice of Iphigenia. The volute krater shown was made in Apulia around 370 BC-350 BC. It is in the red-figure technique. Here the sacrifice is about to take place, with the altar depicted in white. Agamemnon is also painted here with a knife in his hand, showing that he about to commit the sacrifice. Artemis and Apollo are also illustrated. Artemis is looking down upon Iphigenia and Apollo is seated on a rock to the left, looking back. Death is imminent because the offering is going to be made with an audience around.

Mosaic of Iphigenia[edit]

A mosaic depicting Iphigenia

Recently, a mosaic[5] depicting Iphigenia was found in Perge, Turkey during an excavation by archeologists. It is said to be about 1,800 years old. The mosaic shows Iphigenia during the Trojan War. It was concluded that the site was a cult area founded in the basement of a shop that could have existed during the days of Ancient Greece. In this depiction, Iphigenia is replaced by a deer, harrowingly missing death.

Iphigenia in Aulis[edit]

Iphigenia in Aulis is a play written by a Greek playwright Euripides. It revolves around Agamemnon's decision to sacrifice his daughter's life for Artemis. In this account of the story, Iphigenia actually dies. It is written through the eyes of Agamemnon.[6][7] Death is a main theme in this play because of the Iphigenia's circumstance, but also because the Trojan war is on the cusp.

Iphigenia in Tauris[edit]

Iphigenia in Tauris is another play written by Euripides. In this telling of the tale, Iphigenia is not dead, and she meets with her brother. She is made a priestess in the temple of Artemis of the Taurians She recounts her story and tells how she arrived to the place by the hands of Artemis.[8] Iphigenia conducts rites as a priestess to Artemis. Although, Iphigenia has eluded death in this play, it is still a theme and effects the tone because of it was the beginning of a domino effect for the play.

Iphigenia at the Temple of Artemis of the Taurians


  1. ^ "Ancient Literature". 
  2. ^ "Iphigenia at Aulis - Euripides - Ancient Greece - Classical Literature". Retrieved 2017-10-30. 
  3. ^ Pausanias's Description of Greece, Volume 5. University of Michigan: Macmillan and Company. 1913. pp. 73–74.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  4. ^ "volute krater". British Museum. Retrieved 2017-12-03. 
  5. ^ "1,800 year old mosaic found in ancient Greek city of Perge". The Archaeology News Network. Retrieved 2017-12-03. 
  6. ^ McClure, Laura (2016). A Companion to Euripides. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781119257516. 
  7. ^ Coleridge, E.P. (1891). "Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis". Perseus Tufts. 
  8. ^ Potter, Robert (1938). "Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris". Perseus Tufts.