An ancient port-city in central Greece, Aulis held a strategically significant position in the region of Boeotia. Located directly opposite of the island of Euboea on the Euripus Strait, Aulis was never a fully independent polis, or city-state, but instead was under the sovereignty of the cities of Thebes and Tanagra.
In Greek mythology, Aulis was the port from which the Mycenaean king Agamemnon set off on his journey to Troy. According to the events set forth in the Iliad, King Agamemnon and his troops were prevented from leaving for Troy as planned by a lack of any winds to power the Greek ships through the Mediterranean. This disruption was caused by the goddess Artemis, goddess of the hunt and wild animals, who ordered the winds to cease blowing as punishment for the indiscretion of the King.
Agamemnon, hunting in a forbidden grove sacred to Artemis, killed one of the goddess’s deer, an inexcusable crime. To add insult to injury, Agamemnon then boasted that he, a mortal, was a better hunter than the goddess herself, angering Artemis into action. As Artemis decreed, the only way to the set the winds in motion was for Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia. Agamemnon resisted, and for months, the winds refused to blow. Finally, the king relented and sacrificed his daughter to Artemis, and the wind in Aulis blew again. In some versions of the story, Iphigenia dies, while in others Artemis spares her in an act of mercy and replaces her with a deer at the moment the sacrifice. In all versions, the Greeks then leave Aulis to do battle at Troy.
Later, in 396 BC, Aulis was again the staging ground for an invasion, as the Spartan king Agesilaus II gathered his troops to travel to the battlefront in Asia. However, before Agesilaus’s army could set sail, the Thebans drove him from the city, setting the stage for a long-standing feud between the Spartans and the Thebans.
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