Euripides’ Iphigenia: Ancient Victim, Modern Greek Heroine?

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Copyright (c) 2019 Anastasia Bakogianni This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
In his Poetics Aristotle dismisses Iphigenia’s characterisation as inconsistent. Why does the eponymous heroine of 'Iphigenia at Aulis' change her mind and decide to die willingly? This central question has preoccupied not only classical scholars, but receiving artists, too. How Iphigenia’s change of heart in portrayed on stage and screen affects the audience’s response to the character. Is Iphigenia a victim or a heroine (or a mixture of both)? The Greek-Cypriot filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis believed he enjoyed a special relationship with Euripides, but his interpretation was shaped by political events in Modern Greece and Cyprus in the 1960s and 70s. In his film Iphigenia (1977) the ancient tragic heroine was recast as a young girl who sacrifices herself for Greece. In Cacoyannis’ anti-war interpretation of Iphigenia’s choice she is both heroic, and the victim of male power games and irredentist ambition. Cacoyannis’ Iphigenia is a heroine of her time, as much as she is a refraction of her ancient predecessor.
Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, Classical Reception, Michael Cacoyannis, Modern Greece
Codex: Revista de Estudos Clássicos, 2019, 7 (2), pp. 10 - 26