Open thread for episode #945: Matt and Tracie

I (Tracie) will do a brief reading from Bulfinch’s Mythology, for a passage on the Greek tale of Agamemnon and Iphigenia, as follows:

After two years of preparation the Greek fleet and army assembled in the port of Aulis in Boeotia. Here Agamemnon in hunting killed a stag which was sacred to Diana, and the goddess in return visited the army with pestilence, and produced a calm which prevented the ships from leaving the port. Calchas, the soothsayer, thereupon announced that the wrath of the virgin goddess could only be appeased by the sacrifice of a virgin on her altar, and that none other but the daughter of the offender would be acceptable. Agamemnon, however reluctant, yielded his consent, and the maiden Iphigenia was sent for under the pretense that she was to be married to Achilles. When she was about to be sacrificed the goddess relented and snatched her away, leaving a hind in her place, and Iphigenia, enveloped in a cloud, was carried to Tauris, where Diana made her priestess of her temple.

The earliest references to Agamemnon appear to date back to the 14th C BCE. The story of Iphigneia is reminiscent of the Binding of Isaac, told in the Biblical book of Genesis, which dates back to approximately the 5th or 6th C BCE. In both tales, a god demands the human sacrifice of an adherent’s child, stays the execution, and then supplies a substitute sacrifice after the rescue. Iphigenia’s tale has alternate endings, one of which expresses the maiden is actually killed. Likewise, scholars have suggested there is evidence the story of Isaac has a similar alternate ending that likely¬†predated the modern tale in which he is ultimately rescued from death.

it is important to note that similarities in mythologies may or may not be evidence of prior cultural connections. And sometimes themes are simply “human” and follow a common thread, despite a lack of cultural connection. I have not researched connection in this case. I just read the story of Iphigenia this week, and was struck by the similarity to the Bible story from my youth. I found it interesting and wanted to share. If others would like to expand on research for either or both of these subjects in comments, I encourage you to do so.