Composers and their stage works 

Iphigenia in Aulis

(Iphigeneia é en Aulidi; Iphigenia Aulidensis, 405 B.C.).


Tragedy, believed to have been incomplete on Euripides's death and finished later, perhaps by his son.


At the start of the Trojan War, Agamemnon's ships, on the point of sailing from Aulis to Troy, lie becalmed. The prophet Calchas has informed Agamemnon that he has offended the goddess Artemis and must atone by sacrificing his eldest daughter Iphigenia. Agamemnon has instructed his wife Clytemnestra to send Iphigenia to him, ostensibly to marry the warrior Achilles. As the play opens, Agamemnon, distraught over the impending sacrifice of his daughter, sends a second message to Clytemnestra that cancels the first. But the new message is intercepted by his brother Menelaus, who is furious at Agamemnon's weakness. In a lengthy debate Agamemnon changes his brother's attitude to the point that the latter advises him to disband the army. Yet now it is Agamemnon who feels bound to proceed with the sacrifice.

The joyful Clytemnestra, arriving with Iphigenia and her infant son Orestes, meets Achilles, who is astounded at the news of his forthcoming marriage. When an aged servant discloses the real purpose of Iphigenia's presence in Aulis, Achilles, whose pride is wounded because he has been used as a lure, determines to prevent the sacrifice. The tears and pleading of Clytemnestra and Iphigenia cannot dissuade Agamemnon from doing what he now considers his duty. Achilles is about to intercede forcibly when Iphigenia herself, in a sudden mood of heroism, insists on the sacrifice. Clytemnestra and Achilles fail to dissuade her, and she is taken off to die. A later addition to the play relates, through a messenger, how Artemis places a dying deer on the altar in place of Iphigenia, who is carried away by the gods.