BY MRS. GUY E. LLOYD
Menelaus, brother of the King of MycenŠ, had
for his wife the most beautiful woman in the
world, whose name was Helen; but she was stolen from
him by a treacherous guest, Paris, the son of Priam,
King of Troy, who carried her away with him to his
home far over the sea.
Then Menelaus, in his anger and sorrow, asked all
his friends to help him to bring back his wife, and to
punish his treacherous guest, and all the chieftains of
Greece came to his aid, for Troy was a wondrous
strong city, and its walls had been built by Neptune, the
god of the sea.
Foremost of all the chieftains was Agamemnon, King
of MycenŠ, the elder brother of Menelaus; he was chosen
to be the head of the whole array, and under him served
Ulysses, the wise king of Ithaca, and Achilles, chief of
the Myrmidons, whom no weapon could wound save in
the heel; and many more of fame throughout the whole
The fleet came together at Aulis in the land of Bœotia;
all were ready and eager to fare forth over the sea and
fight against Troy; and a goodly sight it was to see the
brass-beaked vessels and the brave warriors who crowded
thick upon them.
But day after day passed by and the fleet lay still in
harbor, for no breeze came to fill the sails. And all the
chieftains were dumfounded, for their valor was of no
avail, and their hearts were heavy within them; for they
knew not wherefore their ships lay thus becalmed,
and they feared lest the immortal gods did not will that
Troy should fall.
At last they sent for Calchas, the wise seer, and asked
if he could tell them the will of the gods.
And Calchas made answer: "The winds are withheld
from you, O chieftains, by the will of Diana, the huntress
of the woods. For King Agamemnon, once on a day,
slew a stag within her sacred grove, and ever since she
has hated him sore, and therefore she will not let you
sail till her anger is appeased by rich offerings."
Then said King Agamemnon; "Since mine is the blame,
let the expiation be mine also. Speak, Calchas: what
offering will content the goddess, that the winds may
come forth from their prison-house and our ships spread
their sails and fare over the sea to Troy?"
All hearkened eagerly, for the face of Calchas was
dark and terrible, so that every man feared to hear his
"The goddess asks of thee the best and most beautiful
of all that is thine," said the stern seer; "she asks the
life of thy daughter Iphigenia."
A shudder ran through all who heard the fearful
words. Menelaus, with a cry of sorrow and terror, came
close to his brother and laid his hand on his arm, and
Agamemnon the king stood in a tumult of agony, speaking
no word for some little space.
At length the chieftain looked round upon his comrades,
saying: "A hard fate is upon me, ye leaders of the
Greeks. For either I must shed blood that is dearer to
me than my own, or else our great array must lie here
idle till the ships are rotten or the captains desert and
leave us stranded."
Then said Menelaus to Calchas: "Is there no other
way? Cannot the great goddess be appeased without
this innocent victim?"
And Calchas made answer: "There is no other way."
Agamemnon, with bowed head, climbed slowly to his
tent upon the hillside, and the rumor ran quickly through
the camp that the wrath of Diana could only be turned
away by the death of the fair and innocent maiden
Iphigenia, the daughter of the king.
Then Agamemnon despatched a guileful message to his
wife Clytemnestra, praying her to send their daughter
Iphigenia quickly to Aulis, since Achilles, the noble chief
of the Myrmidons, had asked leave to wed the maiden,
and it must be done in haste, for the fleet was on the
point of sailing.
When Clytemnestra heard her husband's message she
was glad at heart, for the fame of Achilles was great,
and he was brave and strong and beautiful as the immortal
In haste was the maiden decked for her wedding and
sent with the messengers of Agamemnon to the camp at
And as Iphigenia was led into the camp she marveled
greatly, for all who looked upon her were filled with pity,
and cold fear touched the heart of the maiden as she
passed through the silent and sorrowful host. The warriors
were moved at the sight of her youth and innocence;
but no man strove to save her from her fate, for without
her death all their gathering together would be for
naught. Within the tent of Agamemnon the stern seer
Calchas awaited the destined victim. All was prepared
for the sacrifice, and Agamemnon and Menelaus already
stood by the altar. In haste was the maiden decked out—not
for her bridal, but for her death.
Then they led her forth into the sunshine again, and
she looked round upon the hillside and the blue sea
where lay the idle ships; and when she saw her father
standing by the altar she would have cried out to him and
begged for mercy, but those who led her laid their hands
upon her mouth. The poor child tried to win from her
father one pitying glance, but Agamemnon hid his face in
his mantle; he could not look upon the face of the child
who was to be slain to expiate his sin. So there was no
help for the beautiful and innocent maiden, and she was
led to her death. But so great was the ruth of the Greeks
that no man save the stern Calchas dared witness the terrible
deed; and because they could not bear to believe
afterwards that the maiden had indeed been slain there
upon the altar, the tale went forth that at the last moment
Diana had laid a hart upon the altar and had borne the
maiden safely away to Tauris.
But in truth the cruel sacrifice was completed, and even
as the flame leapt up on the altar the tree-tops swung
and swayed, and ripples coursed over the glassy surface
of the sea; the breeze for which the host had waited so
long had been set free, and the warriors joyfully hoisted
their sails and stood out of the harbor of Aulis on their
way to the siege of Troy.
But now was Diana well avenged for Agamemnon's
profanation of her grove. For, from the innocent blood
of Iphigenia, uprose an avenger, destined to follow King
Agamemnon and all his family till the dark deed had been
Long and grievous was the warfare before the walls of
Troy; and it was not till the tenth year after his setting
forth that tidings came that King Agamemnon was on
his way home. All through those years his wife had
nourished the hope of vengeance in her heart, both for the
death of Iphigenia and for the falsehood that had made
her send the maiden to the camp. So the king came home
only to his grave. His wife received him with gracious
words and with every sign of rejoicing; but ere night
fell Agamemnon lay slain in his bath, where the dagger
of Clytemnestra had smitten him down.
Next the Avenger of Blood put into the heart of
Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, a great
hatred for the mother who had slain his father. He was
far from home when the cruel deed was done, and it was
long ere he returned; but when at last he came he smote
his own mother and slew her.
After this deed of awe and terror the Avenger of Blood
pursued Orestes, and drove him, a branded outlaw, from
land to land. At length he fled to the sanctuary of the
great goddess Minerva, and was at last permitted to
expiate his guilt.
He had to seek a piece of land that was not made when
he killed his mother, so he went to the mouth of a river
where fresh soil was being formed by the sand that was
brought down by the rushing flood. And here he was
allowed to purify himself, and the Avenger of Blood
left him, at last, at peace.