Blind Faith Exposed in The Victim of Aulis

1004 Words5 Pages
Blind Faith Exposed in The Victim of Aulis

During World War II, an entire race of people was decimated as a result of blind adherence to one charismatic ruler; the holocaust has become emblematic of the senseless horror of war and the loss of innocent lives. Perhaps influenced by World War II, the Korean War, and the questioning of complete adherence to authority, whose seeds were just breaking through the glorious façade of the 1950's suburban idyll, Dannie Abse wrote "The Victim of Aulis" in 1951-6. The poem is an accusation against the disastrous effects of blind obedience, particularly as it is manifested in religion and war. Abse anchors his critique within the safely distant realm of Greek mythology; this creates a world with which most readers are familiar and thus transfers his indictment of modern society into the images of the cultural psyche. The poet borrows a scene from Greek mythology depicting the sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter Iphigenia to Artemis at the beginning of the Trojan War, which serves as the ultimate expression of the intimate intermingling of war and religion.

The Greek gods were not only intimately involved in the action of the Trojan War, they were also the impetus for the war. Although the overt cause of the war was Paris' abduction of Helen, this act was the result of quarrelling goddesses. The Trojan prince Paris was forced to choose the fairest amongst the goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. Each goddess attempted to sway Paris with offerings, and Aphrodite's temptation was Helen; this leads to the war and the immortal alliances that overshadow its mortal activities. The story that the poem implicitly addresses is of the Achaen king Agamemnon and his daughter Iphigenia. The Achaen forces have gathered at Aulis before mounting their attack on Troy when one of Artemis' stags is killed; this, coupled with Agamemnon's boasting of the act, is why "Artemis is offended" (51). In retaliation, the goddess imprisons the troops at Aulis by preventing the wind from powering their fleet. In order to appease the goddess and begin the war, Agamemnon sacrifices his own daughter Iphigenia as "the child" who will become "the victim of Aulis." Although Artemis intervenes and makes Iphigenia one of her priestesses, only the goddess knows that Iphigenia escaped death.

More about Blind Faith Exposed in The Victim of Aulis

Open Document