Reading Greek Tragedies Online: Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis

Iphigenia at Aulis, 494

“What does your daughter have to do with Helen?”

…τί δ’ ῾Ελένης παρθένωι τῆι σῆι μέτα;

Over the past few weeks we have presented readings of Euripides’ Helen and Sophocles’ Philoktetes, Euripides’ Herakles, and Bacchae (in partnership with the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre). Our basic approach is to have actors in isolation read parts with each other online, interspersed with commentary and discussion from ‘experts’ and the actors.

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This week we turn to Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, a story of the sacrifice of a daughter so armies can go to war to fight for the return of Helen. Euripides asks us to consider what is like to be Agamemnon. What pressures eventuate in the sacrifice of his daughter? This play questions of who is in charge in a crisis and ends with a dim view of the Achaean army, which is compared to a mob screaming for the sacrifice of Iphigenia and threatening to stone Achilles if he gets in the way. Irrational mobs? Agitation to sacrifice one to preserve freedom of action for the many? There’s nothing here to resonate with current events at all.


“People have different natures;
They have different ways. But acting rightly
Always stands out.
The preparation of education
points the way to virtue.
For it is a mark of wisdom to feel shame
and it brings the transformative grace
of seeing through its judgment
what is right; it is reputation that grants
an ageless glory to your life.”

διάφοροι δὲ φύσεις βροτῶν,
διάφοροι δὲ τρόποι· τὸ δ’ ὀρ-
θῶς ἐσθλὸν σαφὲς αἰεί·
τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι
μέγα φέρουσ’ ἐς τὰν ἀρετάν·
τό τε γὰρ αἰδεῖσθαι σοφία,
†τάν τ’ ἐξαλλάσσουσαν ἔχει
χάριν ὑπὸ γνώμας ἐσορᾶν†
τὸ δέον, ἔνθα δόξα φέρει

Abduction of Iphigenia by Artemis
We will be discussing the play with special guests Adam Barnard and Mat Carbon and our actors:


Iphigenia – Evvy Miller
Clytemnestra – Eunice Roberts
Agamemnon – Michael Lumsden
Menelaus – Paul O’Mahony
Achilles – Tim Delap
Chorus – Tamieka Chavis
Messenger – Richard Neale

317-334 – Agamemnon and Menelaus

413-542 – Agamemnon, Menelaus, messenger, chorus

598-750 – chorus, Clytemnestra, Iphigenia, Agamemnon

801-855 – Clytemnestra, Achilles

1211-1275 – Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Iphigenia, chorus

1338-1510 – Iphigenia, Clytemnestra, Chorus, Achilles

1613-1627 – Chorus, Clytemnestra, Agamemnon

Eur. Iph. Aul. 1250-1252

“It is light that is sweetest for humans to see
And the world below is nothing. Whoever prays for death
Is mad. Living badly is better than dying well.”

τὸ φῶς τόδ᾽ ἀνθρώποισιν ἥδιστον βλέπειν,
τὰ νέρθε δ᾽ οὐδέν: μαίνεται δ᾽ ὃς εὔχεται
θανεῖν. κακῶς ζῆν κρεῖσσον ἢ καλῶς θανεῖν.

Videos of Earlier Sessions
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th 
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Upcoming Readings


Sophocles, Women of Trachis, April 29th

Euripides, Orestes, May 6th

Aeschylus, The Persians May 13th

Euripides, Trojan Women, May 20th

Sophocles, Ajax, May 29th

Euripides, Andromache, June 3rd

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

Euripides, Ion, June 17th

Euripides, Hecuba, June 24th

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, July 1st