The sacrifice is a term purely drawn from the vocabulary of religious practice. It practically means the loss of an ‘element’ we need so much. It then became an offering in honour of the gods – or god – with purpose to request assistance, guidance and / or simply for thanksgiving. With the prayer, the sacrifice, whether a bloodless or with blood, is the main mean of communication with the divinities and is the core of every single religious liturgy.
The sacrifice apart from the practical meaning is been used also with a broader meaning: the loss of a personal expectation, happiness, or even life itself, which is been considered of an eminence value when is been offered to a common ideal. Because of the importance of the item that the individual and / or group offer, the sacrificial act has a great psychological impact. Therefore the free choice and will for the offered ‘victim’ strangles with the human morals and ‘desire of having’. As humans we need to keep our lives and in fact we do everything to survive even against our highest of common values.
Iphigenia is the virgin who will teach ancient Greeks that endurance of life is equivalent with its sacrifice for a common high value. Her myth is very old, even older than the Trojan War. On the few decorative imagery that survives dated prior of Euripides’ tragedy we see Iphigenia to be carried as a lamp into slaughter. Iphigenia became a heroine on Euripides tragedies where we can visualize and understand clearly the feelings of the victim on the face of the altar and death.
Euripides, therefore, placed into her lips the perfect and unique hymn praising life:
O father, see this speechless supplication made to thee; pity me; have mercy on my tender years! Yea, by thy beard we two fond hearts implore thy pity, the one a babe, a full-grown maid the other. By summing all my pleas in one, I will prevail in what I say. To gaze upon yon light is man's most cherished gift; that life below is nothingness, and whoso longs for death is mad. Better live a life of woe than die a death of glory!
At the crucial moment our heroine altered her will. With the interruption of Achilles, and the near bloodshed in the Greek camp, Iphigenia accepted death, because, as she claims: “it is better a man to see the light than one thousand women” (IA. A1394.
By having non to escort her, she was walking towards the altar. Her bravery is immense, a true thanksgiving for the expedition that will start soon. Free from the fear of quilt, men leave themselves open to feelings of glory and honour. It is at the time of the sacrificial knife’s blow when our heroine disappeared from the altar and in her position a deer appears. The deer, according to Euripides, scarified instead of Iphigenia. The Trojan War begins and eventually will end with the Achaean victory.
The Goddess, Artemes, placed her at the mythical land of Tauron, where she became the one who holds the sacrificial knife. She turned out to be the one that sacrificed foreigners on the Goddess’s altar.
With the arrival of her brother – killer of his mother – Orestes, Iphigenia once again self-sacrificed her duty to save her family and the honour of her homeland. With trickery and cleverness, brother and sister are free from Thoa’s will and were sailed with the Goddess’s sema back to Athens. Her brother was purified from his unclean action via his strive of protecting his sister and the Goddess ‘image’. Iphigenia was gifted by the gods with a second bright life – she was sacrifice by her own family, she was saved by her own family. Honourably she became the priestess of the Artemis Brauronia. When she died was honoured as a heroine and a custom, therefore, was established: in her name the cloths of women who died in childbirth.