An overview of the geographical, historical and archaeological aspects of Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris shows how the setting of the play, on the Crimean coast of the Ukraine in the Northern Black Sea, combined with the archetypal ‘quest’ motif in the story of the Greeks' theft of the ancient statue of Artemis, has brought the play into cultural prominence whenever the Crimea itself has been in the news: during the Crimean war (1853-6) and especially during the period before and after the Russian annexation of the peninsula in 1783. One of the main reasons for the play's near-disappearance from the cultural radar in the second half of the twentieth century, at least in the west, was the secrecy surrounding the Soviet naval base at Sevastopol, the city Catherine the Great had built on the site of the ancient city of Tauric Chersonesos. But the excavation of an ancient theatre there by Russian archaeologists in the 1950s revealed that the Greeks of historical ‘Tauris’ had a theatrical culture of their own.
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