A Door at Aulis

by Margaret Weitzmann



Book Details

Language :
Publication Date : 31/01/2006

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 227
ISBN : 9781599268743

About the Book

Aulis’ foundation is that epic prequel to the Iliad, the rape of Helen and the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon king of Mycenae. But who is this Iphigeneia? Soldiers at the border arrest a strange dark giantess; she’s either a witch or a spy for Sparta’s enemy Argos. Neither, the priestess Klaris rules. All the same she’s dangerous, most of all to herself. Klaris orders a name change; her name, Moira, is “just a piece of a name away” from the Unnameable (Moera=Fate). The stranger rejects Klaris’ first choice, Iphigeneia -- reluctantly accepts Iphianassa: “Just a piece of a name away.”

Word of her advent reaches Helen and her sister Klytemnestra, Queen of Mycenae. The names, the signs, suggest she could be a daughter, lost, saved, miraculously returned. Daughter to which queen? Theseus of Athens fathered Helen’s lost firstborn. Klytemnestra’s daughter, born when she was married to Tantalus of Pisa, was ordered killed by Agamemnon, Pisa’s conqueror, now Klytemnestra’s husband. Which of them should claim Iphianassa?

The wise little princess Hermione decides: “Aunt Klyta. And she stays with us till she can return to her place.” But imperatives which Helen’s husband Menelaus brings back from his mission to Troy scotch that return. Iphianassa is still in Sparta when the Trojan priest Kalchas arrives, when Prince Alexandros of Troy -- Paris -- lands with an indecently large military escort. When Agamemnon, summoned by his brother Menelaus, dashes down from Mycenae.

Agamemnon weighs the implications of all Iphianassa’s possible identities and decides to take her to Mycenae. On the journey, repelled and yet attracted, he comes to see Iphianassa as personification of his own doom, bearer of the Atreid curse -- as the Unnameable Herself. To his horror he finds he loves her. Equally perverse, in horror of her own, she returns his love.

In Mycenae Agamemnon bids his daughter Elektra to companion -- i.e., guard, spy on -- this new princess. “Nothing is what it seems!” Elektra cries to sister Khrysothemis. To celebrate Iphianassa’s instatement Klytemnestra orders a Heraeum, a race for maidens in the Lady’s honor. The winner in almost a dead heat is Iphianassa. But Elektra who ran second cries foul, and Agamemnon disqualifies both princesses. Accepting their defeat, Elektra acknowledges a powerful sympathy for her rival.

That sympathy is soon severely tested. Word of Helen’s abduction reaches the court. Menelaus comes roaring up to Mycenae with Hermione, all he has left of his family. As chiefs of the Alliance gather for a council of war, Hermione gives the three princesses her confession. She’d kept a page of Iphianassa’s outlandish script, she’d begun to parse it. “And Paris -- he helped.” And confirmed that his own plot was authorized by Fate.

“It was your writing gave him leave,” Hermione moans. Iphianassa collapses. Elektra rushes the guilty text to her father -- hides and watches while Agamemnon first browbeats Iphianassa into translating it for him, then makes love to her.

Elektra takes her horror at this incest to the turncoat Trojan priest Kalchas. But Kalchas, sidelined by the chiefs -- a coat turned once can turn again -- has troubles of his own. Troy will lose the war, he knows from the Delphic oracle. But can the Achaeans win it? Their champion Achilles has gone into hiding. Commander-in-chief Agamemnon has tapped his nephew Palamedes for second in command of the Mycenean forces: by what logic? And who persuaded Agamemnon to drag Odysseus on board? Ithaka’s force is puny, Odysseus is a spoiler. Palamedes’ father Nauplius the navigator is able to convince Kalchas the young Palamedes has the necessary mettle.

Logic fails on the need to enlist Odysseus. Moreover it seems the person who urged Odysseus on Agamemnon is none other than the interloper Iphianassa.

About the Author

Born 1927 in New Brunswick NJ; two sisters, still living. School completed just as WW II ended. College, art school, marriage: 4 children, 6 grandchildren. A slew of jobs. At age 48, divorce; at 56, back to school for Library Science degree. Retired at 70. Living in Potsdam NY, 2 hips replaced, half a kidney down, no car, a whole pile of unpublished mss. -- sight beginning to slip, hearing half gone, memory playing embarrassing tricks. But hey, life is good; there’s a dance in the old girl yet.