Ancient Athenian Drama
Euripides: Iphigenia at Aulis
5th century BC, Ancient Greek, Athens.
A deer lay bleeding on the ground beneath the altar of Artemis, a deer draining its lifeblood over the sacred stones.
What an astonishing report. The messenger has just come to inform Clytemnestra that a miracle has happened. Perhaps it was a flash of clairvoyance that led her daughter Iphigenia to declare only a few moments ago, as the poor maiden was waiting to be taken to the altar of Artemis for her throat to be cut: 'Do not mourn or shave your hair for me, mother, and do not let my sisters back in Argos wear black. I shall not lie in any tomb.'
And this prophesy has come true! As the sacrificial knife was drawn, we are told, and the horrible deed committed, suddenly, instead of the maiden Iphigenia, daughter of King Agamemnon of Mycenae, a deer lay bleeding on the ground beneath the altar of Artemis, watched by thousands of impatient Greek soldiers waiting for a fair wind to take them to Troy; a deer draining its lifeblood over the sacred stones.