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The Iliad of Homer concerns the tenth and final year of the Trojan War. Throughout this tale, Helen regrets her part in causing the war and longs to return to her husband and daughter, Hermione. The other Trojans scorn her, with the city elders saying:
We cannot blame the Trojans or the well-grieved Achaians,
For enduring pain all this time for the sake of such a woman,
For she looks mightily like an immortal goddess in beauty.
But even so, let her board one of their ships,
So she is not left here, a punishment for us and our children.
(Homer, Iliad 3.156-60)
Exemplifying this point, in Vergil’s Aeneid, the protagonist Aeneas calls her “the nightmare of both Troy and her homeland” and he considers killing her (Vergil, Aeneid 2.567-88).
The Trojan king Priam, however, treats Helen kindly. As they look out over the city walls together, Priam points to Agamemnon, Odysseus, Ajax, and other warriors, while Helen describes them as she knew them. Although she wishes to go home, Helen nevertheless gives useful and honest information about her former allies to the Trojans.
Since the war is rooted in the conflict between Paris and Menelaus, the two warriors agree to hand to hand combat. Paris, the inferior warrior, is choked by his helmet strap and almost killed, until the goddess Aphrodite magically transports him to the safety of his palace, since she still favors him for choosing her in the contest with the apple. But when Paris returns to the palace, Helen is not pleased with his cowardice. She tells Aphrodite to marry Paris herself and take on the shame of being the wife of a coward. She then says to Paris:
You’ve come back from battle, but you should have died there,
Beaten by a stronger man, he who was my husband before you.
(Homer, Iliad 3.428-9)
Helen’s shame over Paris’ cowardice highlights an important belief of this age, that a man’s worth lies in his arete, which means bravery, especially as estimated by other men. Both Hector and Achilles exemplify this trait and are widely considered valiant. Paris is contrarian, having eschewed Athena’s promises of valor in war in favor of the love offered by Aphrodite.
As the war wages on, Paris kills Achilles with an arrow, before he too is killed. While Paris is dying, the Trojans appeal to his first wife, Oenone, who has the gift of healing. But, still heartbroken, Oenone lets Paris die, killing herself shortly after.
Death of Achilles by Peter Paul Rubens, 1630-1632. Image source .
The war ends when the Greeks pretend to sail away and leave behind a huge hollow horse as an offering to the gods. The best Greek warriors hide inside the horse and the Trojans bring it inside. To test whether there is anyone hiding within, but without damaging the gift for the gods, the Trojans have Helen walk around it, imitating the wives of those within. Clever Odysseus keeps them from falling for the trick and shouting out in response. Again we see Helen aiding the Trojans, making her true allegiance at this time hard to determine.
“The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy” by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1773). Image Source .
That night, the Greeks break out of the horse and raze Troy to the ground. Since Paris’ death, Helen had been married to his brother Deiphobus. Helen leads Menelaus and Odysseus to Deiphobus and they cut off his arms, ears, and nose, killing him.
When the war is won, the Trojan women become slaves to the conquering Greeks. In Euripides Trojan Women , Queen Hecuba, the wife of Priam, mother of Hector and Paris, blames Helen for her dead children and her fate as a slave. The play’s chorus agrees:
Poor Troy! You have lost countless men
All for one woman and her hateful bed!
(Euripides, Trojan Women 780-1)
In this version of the story, Helen’s fate is to be killed by her husband Menelaus. In, Homer’s Odyssey, however, the two sail home together, reunited as husband and wife. The next time we see them, they are celebrating the wedding of their daughter Hermione to Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles.
The couple also hosts Telemachus while he searches for his father Odysseus, who never returned after the Trojan War. They all weep as Menelaus speaks of Odysseus’ many toils and the fact that he has not returned home.
Helen in her grief puts a drug in her wine that eases suffering and keeps one from crying, the properties of which she learned from the Egyptians. She then tells the story of the Greeks conquering Troy:
The other Trojan women wailed aloud, but my heart rejoiced!
For in my heart I had already hoped to return home.
And I lamented the madness Aphrodite gave me,
When she led me there from my beloved native land,
When I turned my back on my daughter, my home, and my husband,
A man lacking nothing in wisdom or beauty.
(Homer, Odyssey 4.259-64)
Euripides provides another version of the end of Helen’s life in his play Orestes. Pursued by her bloodthirsty nephew, Helen is rescued by the god Apollo and carried off to Olympus to reunite with her brothers, the Dioscuri, who have become the constellation Gemini. There, she is made an immortal goddess.
The character Helen is alternately victim and criminal, loyal wife and heartless adulteress. As each poet and playwright added to her legend over centuries, the character grew in complexity, yielding the layered woman we know as Helen of Troy.
Featured image: Triumphant Achilles. Image source .
Euripides Helen; Trojan Women; Orestes
Herodotus, The Histories
Homer, Iliad; Odyssey
Lucian, Judgment of Paris
Ovid, Heroides V, XVI, XVII
By Miriam Kamil
Helen Of Troy
. 1. WHY DOES PROTAGONIST (Helen of Troy) considered main cause of Trojan War? In Greek legend, the Trojan War was fought between the Greeks and the city of Troy. The direct cause of this war was the beauty of Helen of Troy, daughter of the Greek god Zeus and Leda, the Queen of Sparta. Helen was much coveted by all of the men in Troy, so when she chose a husband, the King of Sparta made all men swear that they would accept Helen's choice of a husband and that they would also defend her if anyone tried to take her away from that man. The ten year conflict, known forever as the Trojan War, began when three goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite asken the Trojan prince, PAris, to chose the most beautiful goddess between the three. Each goddess tried to influence the prince, and in the end, he chose Aphrodite because she promised him his choice of the most beautiful women. Paris then travelled to Sparta, where he stayed with Helen and her husband, King Menelaus of Sparta. Helen, the most beautiful woman known to man was Paris's object of desire and he asked Aphrodite for her. helen, soon fell under the influence of Aphrodite and agreed to elope with Paris to Troy. Menelaus, extremely angered by the course of actions called upon the Greeks to help him return his wife back to Sparta, since the Trojans refused to return.
Helen of Troy Essay
. honest, you really cannot see any good portion of character development. The larger story is literally involved with the rise and fall of people around her. She even displayed very little emotions and was sort of unaffected by the war outcome. Still I like her Helen of Troy, or Helen or Sparta, one of the most controversial female characters in literature, has been the literary and mythic symbol of beauty and illicit love. She was the most beautiful woman in Greece best known for being the cause of the Trojan War. A wholewar which lasted for ten years. Helen, was flesh and blood certainly, but she was also immortal, since her father was none other than Zeus. Her mother was the beautiful Leda, queen of Sparta, who was ravished by the father of the gods in the form of a swan. Leda’s husband was Tyndareus, who later the same night, unaware of his feathered predecessor, also impregnated his wife. She produced two eggs, one of which yielded Helen and Polydeuces and the other of which contained Castor andClytemnestra. Helen was a beauty as a child therefore, Theseus kidnapped her, so that she would be his wife one day. Her twin brothers came to her rescue and brought her back to their mother. When it was time for Helen to marry, many Greek kings and princes came to seek her hand or sent emissaries to do so on their behalf. Among the candidates were Odysseus, Menestheus, and.
Essay on Helen of Troy
. Helen of Troy has always been looked upon as the classic beauty in Greek mythology. She is “the face that launched a thousand ships”( Roman and Greek Mythology A to Z ). Helen is the daughter of Zeus and Leda , Zeus came to Leda and mated with her disguised as a swan and Helen was born from an egg. She was the sister of Castor, Polydeuces and Clytemnestra Wife of Menelaus lover to Paris and the reason of the Trojan War. It is noted that Helen is the daughter of Tyndareus and Zeus because Leda was believed to have had intercourse with Tyndareus and Zeus the night Helen was conceived. When Helen was around seven years of age , Athenians Thesus and Pirithous thought that since they were both sons of gods they both should have divine wives. They pledged to help each other abduct the two daughters of Zeus. “ Thesus chose Helen and took her and left her with his mother, Aretha. Helen's abduction caused an invasion of Athens by Castor and Pollux, who captured Aethra in revenge, and brought back their sister to Sparta. “ ( Wikipedia.com) Later in life “when it was time for Helen to marry, many kings and princes from around the world came to ask for her hand. Bringing rich gifts with them, or sent Brothers or emissaries to do so for them” During the contest, Castor and Pollux had a prominent role in dealing with the suitors, although the final.
Helen of Troy Movie Analysis Essay
. Title of the Movie: Helen of Troy Directed By: John Kent Harrison Produced By: Ted Kurdyla Written By: Ronni Kern Starring: Sienna Guillory as Helen Matthew Marsden as Paris John Rhys-Davies as King Priam of Troy Emilia Fox as Cassandra, Princess of Troy Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus Joe Montana as Achilles Katie Blake as Clytemnestra Craig Kelly as Pollux Manuel Cauchi as Paris’ Father Kristina Paris as Iphigenia Music By: Joel Goldsmith Cinematography: Edward J. Pai Editing By: Michael D. Ornstein Distributed By: Universal Home Entertainment Release Date: April 20, 2003 Running Time: 177 minutes Country: Canada Language: English Movie Classification: Miniseries Prologue: Helen of Troy is a 2003 television miniseries based upon Homer's story of the Trojan War, as recounted in the epic poem, Iliad. This TV miniseries also shares the name with a 1956 movie starring Stanley Baker. It stars Sienna Guillory as Helen, Matthew Marsden as Paris, Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon, James Callis as Menelaus, John Rhys-Davies as Priam, Mary am d'Abo as Hecuba, and Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus. The series was entirely shot on location in the islands of Malta. The film is placed in the early classical period rather than the correct late Bronze Age the Greeks are shown with Iron Age classical hoplite.
Helen of Troy Essay
. Helen of Sparta was perhaps the most inspired character in all literature, ancient or modern. A whole war, one which lasted for ten years, was fought over her. Not only that, nearly all the myths of the heroic age were threaded together in such a way that this most idealized of all wars was the culmination of various exploits, including the Argonaut, the Theban wars, and the Calydonian boar hunt. It is as though this event was in the destiny of every dynasty formed from the beginning of things. Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships, was a tantalizing enigma from the very first. She was flesh and blood certainly, but she was also immortal, since her father was none other than Zeus. Her mother was the beautiful Leda, queen of Sparta, who was ravished by the father of the gods in the form of a swan. Leda's husband was Tyndarecus, who later the same night, unaware of his feathered predecessor, also impregnated his wife. She produced two eggs, one of which yielded Helen and Polydeuces and the other of which contained Castor and Clytemnestra. While a swan's egg can be accepted for the sake of myth, it has never made much sense that the part of her pregnancy initiated by Tyndareus should produce an egg as well. This most curious of births has been subjected to all manner of combinations over the years. As delicious as the story of Leda was, some commentators even went so far as to suggest that Helen and the.
Film Review of Helen of Troy Essay
. gods and goddesses. I.B. Place of Action: Troy (Asia Minor), also Ilium (ancient Ilion), famous city of Greek legend, on the northwestern corner of Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey. Anatolia is west of Greece (across the Aegean Sea) and north of Egypt (across the Mediterranean Sea). II. Characters and Description of Characters Sienna Guillory as Helen- The most beautiful woman in Greece, daughter of the god Zeus and of Leda. She was abducted in childhood by the hero Theseus, who hoped in time to marry her, but she was rescued by her brothers, Castor and Polydeuces (also known as Pollux). Because Helen was courted by so many prominent heroes, her stepfather Tyndareus made all of them swear to abide by Helen's choice of a husband, and to defend that husband's rights should anyone attempt to take Helen away by force. Matthew Marsden as Paris- Trojan who took Helen from Menelaus. Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon- The leader of the Achaean expedition to Troy, he was the King of Mycenae. On his return from Troy he was murdered by his wife Clytemnestra, and her lover Aegisthus. The lover was the son of Thyestes, the brother and enemy of Atreus, Agamemnon’s father. When Odysseus voyages to Hades he meets with Agamemnon’s ghost. Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus- The person who abducted Helen and hoped in time to marry her, but was then killed by Polydeuces.
Helen of Troy Essay
. Troy(2004) Reaction Paper This is a review/reaction paper for the movie Troy released in 2004, directed by Wolfgang Petersen and screenplay by David Benioff. Cast of characters: Achilles – Brad Pitt Hector – Eric Bana Helen of Troy – Diane Kruger Paris – Orlando Bloom King Priam – Peter O’Toole Menelaus – Brendan Gleeson Agamemnon – Brian Cox Patroclus – Garrett Hedlund Odysseus – Sean Bean Briseis – Rose Byrne Troy is a film adaptation of the epic Iliad. It is a good movie for its entertainment value but not for its likeness to the narrative by Homer. It s a movie made to entertain the audience, not to tell the story of the events that happened in Iliad. There are many inconsistencies between Iliad and the movie Troy. One of them that stands out is the absence of gods in the film. As we all know, the setting of Iliad is inhabited by gods that interfere directly with humans and there are many instances in Iliad where the gods interacted with the humans. Thetis, the mother of Achilles is the only deity seen in the movie. More important divine occurrences like the Judgment of Paris (the cause of the Trojan War) and the priest killed by Poseidon’s serpents (as seen in The Odyssey) were left out. This major discrepancy itself takes the film away from being a true adaptation of Iliad. A mythological story without the gods is like a play without the supporting.
Helen of Troy Essay
. HELEN OF TROY In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the most beautiful woman in the world. A daughter of the god Zeus*, she is best known for the part she played in causing the Trojan War*, a story told by Homer in the Iliad] and the Odyssey]. Some scholars suggest that Helen was also a very ancient goddess associated with trees and birds. Birth and Early Life. Some myths say that Helen's mother was Leda, the wife of King Tyndareus of Sparta*. Others name Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, as her mother. Helen had a sister Clytemnestra, who later became the wife of King Agamemnon* of Mycenae, and twin brothers Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri. Stories claiming Leda as Helen's mother tell how Zeus disguised himself as a swan and raped the Spartan queen. Leda then produced two eggs. From one came Helen and her brother Pollux. Clytemnestra and Castor emerged from the other. Other versions of the myth say that Zeus seduced Nemesis, and she laid the two eggs. A shepherd discovered them and gave them to Queen Leda, who tended the eggs until they hatched and raised the children as her own. In some variations of this legend, Helen and Pollux were the children of Zeus, but Clytemnestra and Castor were actually the children of Tyndareus. When Helen was only 12 years old, the Greek hero Theseus* kidnapped her and planned to make her his wife. He took.
Helen of Troy
Perhaps the most famous woman in the mythology of ancient Greece was Helen of Troy. Regarded as the most beautiful woman in the world, she has been portrayed in stories as both an innocent victim of the gods and a deceitful wife. She is probably best known as the indirect cause of the Trojan War.
According to Greek legend Helen was the daughter of the god Zeus. Stunningly beautiful, she had many suitors interested in marrying her. To avoid problems, her earthly father, Tyndareus, made these suitors promise not to fight with whomever was chosen to marry Helen. In addition, the suitors agreed to defend Helen and her husband should anyone try to break them apart. Once Tyndareus had the word of the suitors, he chose Menelaus, the king of Sparta, to marry Helen. Her sister Clytemnestra married Agamemnon, the older brother of Menelaus.
Helen’s involvement in the Trojan War began with a contest between the goddesses Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. Paris, a Trojan prince, had to decide which of the three goddesses was the fairest. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, convinced Paris to choose her. She promised him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. He agreed. Some stories say that Aphrodite put a spell on Helen to make her fall in love with Paris, while others say she loved him without the goddess’ help. Regardless, Helen left her home with Paris while Menelaus was away at a funeral. Several versions of the myth claim she took some of Menelaus’ riches with her. After leaving Sparta, Helen and Paris were married and went to the city of Troy.
When Menelaus returned home to discover his wife gone, he immediately went to Troy to ask for Helen back. However, Priam, Paris’ father, refused. Menelaus then called on Helen’s former suitors to keep their promise and help get Helen back. This resulted in the 10-year conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans known as the Trojan War. Agamemnon, Menelaus’ brother, led the Greek army. Hector, Paris’ brother, was the leader of the Trojans.
When Paris was killed in the war, Helen married his brother Deïphobus. Most stories indicate that she was forced to marry Deïphobus, and when the Greeks finally captured Troy, she betrayed him to Menelaus. Menelaus had meant to kill Helen because she had deserted him. When he saw her again, however, he was overcome by her beauty and forgave her. After the Greek victory Menelaus and Helen returned to Sparta, where they lived happily until their deaths.
After the war
One version of Helen’s story says that after Menelaus died, Helen was driven out of Sparta by her stepsons. She fled to the Greek island of Rhodes, where the queen, Polyxo, hanged her in revenge for the loss of her husband, Tlepolemus, in the Trojan War. After Helen’s death she was celebrated as Dendritis, a tree goddess, on Rhodes.
Many writers and poets have created stories about Helen. The epic poet Homer narrates the story of Helen and the Trojan War in the Iliad. She also appears in Homer’s other famous epic, the Odyssey. The ancient Greek playwright Euripides used a different version of the legend in his play Helen.
In the early 1600s the famous English playwright William Shakespeare described Helen in his play Troilus and Cressida. Shakespeare portrayed her as a shallow woman who does not deserve to represent the ideal of beauty.
History in her own words: Eleanor Antin’s Conversations with Stalin
Without much exaggeration Eleanor Antin could be called the King of conceptual and performance art. Working mainly in film, video, and performance Antin is often cited as one of the first artists to reintroduce autobiography, confession and performance to the art world during the 60’s and 70’s. In 1972 Antin created her male alter-ego with the photographic and video series “The King of Solana Beach,” in which an apprehensive king is shown reconstructing his own past by collecting pieces of his broken kingdom. Her video “The King” (1972) stands as a journal entry of the King’s evolving identity as well as showing Antin’s striking transformation from her male persona to own herself, and is on view in the exhibition Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
For Antin art is not necessarily an object or something that can be historically defined, but something close to her own individuality, or a memoir of history retold in her own words.
Early on in her career Antin made her name as a conceptual artist by creating works that successfully diverted traditional means of art making and artist representation. For instance her work 100 Boots (1971) used the US Postal Service to distribute photographs of 100 boots Antin had placed in various Southern California locations. The scenes were printed onto postcards and sent to artists, writers, dancers, art institutions and libraries at 3 to 5 week time intervals to create a puzzling visual narrative. The boots became travelers and characters in a two and a half year journey that finally culminated in a solo exhibition at the Modern Museum of Art in New York in May of 1973.
Her recent photographic series attempts to re-enact and modernize historical narratives by placing them under the context of contemporary American life.Helen’s Odyssey (2007), inspired by the Greek legend Helen of Troy, recasts Helen as two individual roles to exemplify polar sides of her personality. Antin shows both Helens in various scenes reacting differently to scenarios based on the Greek myths of Homer, who the beautiful and vengeful Helen eventually murders. History is here recast to portray the two Helen’s as contemporary versions of their ancient characters carrying large totes and wearing thick rimmed sunglasses.
Her recent memoir, titled Conversations with Stalin: Confessions of a Red Diaper Baby (2010), is a black comedy detailing Antin’s life growing up in New York in a family of first generation Jewish, communist immigrants in the age of Stalin. Join Antin for a performative reading of her new book this Saturday at Seattle Art Museum.
Throughout time, sapphires have been revered for their beauty, their strength and durability, and the perceived powers of wellness and protection. In a celebration of the special cultural relevance of sapphires, we have gathered together some of our favorite stories to share of historical sapphires through all cultures.
Helen of Troy painting by Evelyn de Morgan (1898).
Helen of Troy – 12 th century B.C.
According to legend, Helen of Troy owned a large star sapphire, which was believed to hold the key to her desirability. According to Apollodorus, she had at least thirty suitors vying for her hand. Although she married King Menelaus of Sparta, she was abducted by Paris, an act that led to the Trojan War. Perhaps the beauty that “launched a thousand ships” owed it all to the allure of sapphires.
It is not often that star sapphires are seen at the center of such a legend, but their beauty and mystical appeal is unmatched. The stones are said to impart deep spiritual enlightenment and inner peace on those they touch. It is no wonder that if Helen of Troy was in possession of such a stone that it would be seen as incredibly powerful.
King Solomon – 1000 B.C.
The Queen of Sheba Meeting with Solomon in a Piero della Francesca painting.
In Medieval Jewish, Islamic, and Christian legends, King Solomon had a magical ring known as the “Seal of Solomon.” According to legend, it was an inscribed sapphire, which gave him the power to command demons and speak to animals.
Although it was purportedly inscribed with a hexagram or “Star of David,” it is not hard to imagine that it may have also been a magical six-pointed star sapphire. King Solomon is said to have used the magic of sapphires from the island of Sri Lanka to seduce the Queen of Sheba.
Charlemagne – 747-814 A.D.
A portrait of Charlemagne painted by Albrecht Dürer several centuries after Charlemagne’s death. The coat of arms above him shows the German eagle and the French Fleur-de-lis. Charlemagne is also depicted wearing the Crown of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charlemagne, the founding father of France and Germany and the first ruler of the Western European Empire after the fall of the Roman Empire, was an intensely religious man. To Charlemagne and his contemporaries, sapphires symbolized heaven and the promise of eternal salvation.
Charlemagne owned a sacred amulet in which a relic of the True Cross was placed between two sapphires. The amulet was buried with Charlemagne in 814, but exhumed about 200 years later by Otto III. Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon, wore it at her coronation in 1804. Later it passed to Napoleon III, and on his death, his widow gave it to the Archbishop of Rheims.
Pope Innocent III’s Gifts to the Kings of England – Beginning 13 th Century
Painting of Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 1198 until his death in 1216. He is primarily remembered for reasserting and extending the prestige and power of the papacy. He is also known for giving four rings containing precious gemstones to Richard the Lionhearted, King of England (d. 1199). According to Kuntz (1917):
“With the rings, the pope sent a letter from St. Peter’s in Rome, dated May 28, 1198, in which he wrote that the four stones were symbolical. The verdant hue of the emerald signified how we should believe the celestial purity of the sapphire, how we should hope, the warm color of the garnet, how we should love and the clear transparency of the topaz, how we should act.”
A drawing of Richard I from a 13th century manuscript.
According to some sources, Innocent III also gifted four gemstone rings to Richard’s successor, King John of England, at the end of their long power feud. Apparently after many years of squabbling, the two reached an acceptable compromise: power was yielded to the former and tribute or service money granted to the latter.
As part of the truce, Pope Innocent III forwarded a gift of four gemstone rings, each containing a single emerald, sapphire, ruby, or opal. Although the rings do not survive, the letter that accompanied the gift does. In it, the Pope instructed the King to allow the inherent “virtues” of the stones to guide him in his daily life, as they represented faith, hope, charity, and good works, respectively.
Ivan the Terrible – 1530–1584
A painting with the likeness of Ivan the Terrible.
Although he is not remembered for his gentler pursuits, the fearsome Tsar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible, was known to be an avid sapphire lover. Sir Jerome Horsey, envoy for Queen Elizabeth of England, quotes Ivan the Terrible as saying, once translated to modern English:
The sapphire I greatly delight in, it preserves and increases courage, gives the heart joy, is pleasing to all the vital senses, and it is precious and sovereign for the eyes: it clears the sight, takes away bloodshot and strengthens the muscles and strings of it.
There are a number of rumors surrounding Ivan’s demise, including death by mercury poisoning—which does not say much for sapphire’s legendary ability to neutralize poison.
Rudolf II – 1552–1612
The court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II was filled with alchemists, lapidaries, and artists who wielded considerable power. Although Rudolf II was not a good leader, he was reportedly a decent painter and lapidary.
He was also taken with mysticism and assembled a league of astrologers and physicians to counsel him on the healing and occult powers of gemstones . His extensive collection of gemstones and exotica included mermaid teeth, unicorn horns, phoenix feathers, and nails from Noah’s Ark.
Gemmarum et Lapidum historia by Anselmus de Boodt.
Rudolf II’s collection was maintained by a famous mineralogist and physician, Anselmus Boetius de Boodt. De Boodt authored one of the most influential mineralogy texts ever written, the “Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia.” In this major opus, de Boodt described about 600 minerals, and provided information on their properties, imitations, and medical applications. As for Rudolf II, De Boodt tells us:
“The emperor loves precious stones not as a means of enhancing his own dignity and majesty, whose greatness requires no external support, but to contemplate the greatness and ineffable power of God in the stones, which unite the beauty of the whole world in such tiny bodies.”
Shah Jahan – 1592–1666
Shah Jahan standing on the globe of the world.
The name of this Mughal Emperor means “King of the World” in Persian. He, like many of the other Mughal emperors, was an avid gemstone collector. He is perhaps best known for building the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
He is less well known for commissioning the famous Peacock Throne described by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1676) in his travels to India. According to Tavernier, the marvelous throne was everything legend declared it would be.
The Peacock Throne featuring jewel-encrusted peacocks.
It required some seven years to construct, and derived its name from two enormous peacocks that stood behind it, tails spread and encrusted with blue sapphires, emeralds, rubies, pearls, and other precious stones. The famous Koh-i-noor diamond was originally placed in the throne, which was shaped like a bed or dais.
When Nadir Shah conquered Delhi in 1739, the throne was spirited to Persia and later destroyed although other Persian thrones, and the Iranian Monarchy itself, are often referred to as the “Peacock Throne.”
Catherine the Great and the Romanoff Jewels – 1729–1796
Catherine II of Russia was known as an enlightened despot. She became Empress after a bloodless coup deposed her husband, the eccentric Peter III. Under her rule, the Russian Empire grew by some 200,000 square miles.
A portrait of Catherine the Great.
Like her predecessors, Ivan the Terrible (see above) and Peter the Great, she had a great love for gemstones. She was fond of decorating entire rooms with stones such as agate, jasper, marble, malachite, and porphyry.
An admirer gave her a magnificent 337-carat sapphire, which remained among the Romanoff jewels until it was sold by Nicholas II to finance a hospital during World War I. “Catherine the Great’s Sapphire” later became part of Harry Winston’s celebrated “Court of Jewels,” but it is now owned by a private party.
Joséphine, Empress of the French and Wife of Napoleon Bonaparte – 1763–1814
A painting of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Joséphine was a widow and mistress to several prominent political figures in France until she met Napoléon and their tempestuous love affair began. Soon after their wedding in 1796, Napoléon left to lead the French army in Italy, where he became a collector on a truly imperial scale. So much art, sculpture, and jewelry were looted from the Italians that they gave him yet another title, Il Gran Ladrone (The Great Thief).
It is said that Napoléon lavished Josephine with jewels–many of which were the spoils of his military campaigns–but others believe he was a reluctant provider, as he frequently and bitterly complained about her excessive spending habits.
We do know that both the Emperor and Empress maintained fabulous collections of gemstones. One of Joséphine’s favorites was the parure of Queen Marie Antoinette, a seven-piece jewelry set containing approximately 29 sapphires—many larger than 20 carats.
The Parure of Queen Marie Antoinette.
King Mindon 1808–1878 and King Thibaw 1859–1916 of Burma
A portrait of King Mindon.
The penultimate ruler of Burma (now Myanmar), King Mindon, was considered an able and just ruler, but he was also obsessed with rubies and sapphires from the legendary Mogôk Valley. When King Mindon moved his capital to Mandalay in 1859, it is said that he buried a trove of precious sapphires and rubies under the foundations of his new palace to appease malevolent spirits called nats.
Such was his obsession that King Mindon ordered samples of gem gravel shipped from the Mogôk sapphire mines hundreds of miles away so he could personally sort the material in the palace courtyard, eyes peeled for rough sapphires and rubies.
A selection of rough sapphire crystal such that King Mindon would have inspected.
He taxed the gem trade by confiscating stones over a certain size and quality. He also taxed sales at the Royal Gem Bourse in Mandalay after it was established in 1866. Any miners caught smuggling or otherwise cheating the crown out of its “royal stones,” could pay with their lives.
After the death of King Mindon, King Thibaw, the last ruler of the Konbaung Dynasty came to power amid great scandal and intrigue—including two ghastly massacres that eliminated all other contenders for the throne, their allies, and their families.
A photograph of King Thibaw wearing some of his gem-encrusted regalia.
At ceremonial affairs and in a number of photographs King Thibaw wore splendid gem-incrusted regalia including a “sapphire ring worth a monarch’s ransom.”King Thibaw was a profligate spender who incurred great debt despite Burma’s enormous natural bounty. Under King Thibaw’s reign, conditions in the Mogôk region deteriorated as the miners were increasingly taxed and repressed.
When the British invaded Mandalay in 1885 and forced him into exile, the royal treasury and countless jewels mysteriously disappeared, despite the fact that they were entrusted to the British Chief Political Officer, Col. E.B. Sladen. Today, we can only imagine the tantalizing items described in the official inventory.
No comprehensive coverage of famous and historical sapphires would be complete without a discussion of British royalty. We explore that history next in The British Crown Jewels and Queen Elizabeth II | British Royalty’s Love of Sapphires.
Helen Poem Comparison Poe vs Doolittle example essay topic
Literature as a whole can be seen as having many subsets. Of the many divisions, there is poetry which is a type of literature that tends to present abstract things in the form of imagery. When analyzing a poem, one must look to many characteristics that make up the work. Word choice, voice, and the use of figurative language all contribute to understanding the way the main theme happens to develop.
Both Edgar Allen Poe and Hilda Doolittle wrote a poem based on the same figure of history: Helen of Troy. Poe's poem was published in 1831 and Doolittle's poem was published in 1924. Helen was a woman who can be said to have started the ten year Trojan War. Doolittle takes a different approach when describing Helen compared to Poe however, both poems discuss her place in the world and her physical beauty. In contrast, Poe and Doolittle both have different opinions on the Helen as a person. "To Helen" and "Helen" possess many similarities between the two but both authors have different outlooks on Helen and her role in society.
When comparing both poems, one might notice similarities in the word choices. Although both do not come right out and say it, they describe Helen in such a way as though she is as beautiful as a God. Perhaps it is because she is a God. They both use the word 'beauty' to describe her. Poe says "Helen, thy beauty is to me like those Nice an barks of yore" (Poe, p 837 line 2) Poe speaks of her in such a manner as if he worships her. He comments on her "hyacinth hair" and "classic face" and it is all in good thought.
Whereas Doolittle makes reference to Helen's eyes, hands, feet, knees and face but she accompanies all of that with the hate that all of Greece feels for her. This is made apparent when Doolittle says "All Greece hates", (Doolittle, p 686 line 1) and "All Greece reviles" (Doolittle, p 686 line 6) She also uses Greece as a generalization of all the people as oppose to just herself. In comparison, Poe refers to Helen as though he himself is infatuated with her instead of all of Greece as seen with Doolittle. A word that is seen often throughout Doolittle's poem is the colour 'white'.
"White" signals the final result of Greece's unmoving hatred, becoming the colour of death: (Hurt, web) "white ash amid funeral cypresses". (Doolittle, p 686 line 17) Both poems also mention that she is the daughter of Zeus. Doolittle says "God's daughter, born of love", (Doolittle, p 686 line 13) and Poe says, "The weary, way-worn wanderer bore" (Poe, p 837 line 4). It is mainly the word choice in both poems that help contribute to the similarities in the poems. The tones of each poem are both very different from each other. Doolittle has a very bitter feeling and dwells mostly on Greece rejecting Helen.
The first line of the stanza, "All Greece hates" sets the tone for the rest of the poem about the country's reaction to Helen at the end of the war with Troy. (Hurt, web ) The final stanza, "Greece sees, unmoved", paints a picture of people whose hatred and revulsion are cold and unforgiving. (Hurt, web) It seems as though Helen will not be forgiven by the Greece people until she has died. She is too much of a painful reminder to everyone of what they lost in the war. Doolittle displays Helen as a victim of her beauty in the sense that everyone worshiped her until she was taken away which led to Greece hating her. Poe's tone of voice throughout the poem is kinder towards Helen.
He praises her beauty and regards her as a Goddess and worships her. When he says "How statue-like I see thee stand! The agate lamp within they hand", (Poe, p 837 line 12-13) he is describing Helen as a sort of glorious beacon, shining through the night. The agate lamp represents clarity and purity. (G moser, web) Each poem gives the reader a different outlook on Helen. After reading Doolittle's take on her, one might have a hatred towards Helen but on the other hand, Poe has a way that makes it seem as though she was a wonderful woman and all should praise and worship her the way he does.
Aside from the text itself, both poems follow different rhyming patterns. Poe has an end rhyme scheme where the ends of most of his lines are where he puts his emphasis. He follows an A BABB form but then later switches to an ABABA pattern. Doolittle on the other hand, does not really have a pattern.
Instead she takes a general perspective which forces one to read the full poem to fully understand the concept. Her poem is more of a free verse. Although their rhyme schemes differ from one another, they both manage to convey their point in their own logical pattern. The story of Helen of Troy can be controversial in the sense that some people believe she started the war whereas others do not.
Having been taken away and fought over gave Helen the title of "the face that launched a thousand ships" which relates back to her beauty. As a result, it is no wonder that both Poe and Doolittle both have different opinions on Helen. The obvious similarity is that both poems are about Helen of Troy but it appears as though there are more differences then similarities. Their use of words and description add to the tone and voice of the poem and although their tones may be different, their word choice do somewhat coincide with each other. The use of imagery is apparent in both poems as well especially with Doolittle's use of the colour "white" The main theme however of both poems is the fact that they discuss how beautiful she was. Both poets approach the subject in a different manner and see her beauty in opposite ways.
"To Helen" and "Helen" are both very different poems yet deal with the same elements. Both poets feel strongly about Helen and their true feelings for her come out in their poems.
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1994.10.07, Austin, Helen of Troy
Standing at the center of the Trojan legend, Helen of Troy embodies a stubborn paradox: as the prize for which countless men are willing to fight and die, she is most highly valued as an adulteress, she is the source and object of deep shame. Helen is the most conspicuous instance of that perplexing, unstable union of seductiveness and treachery, of indispensability and unreliability, which the Greek imagination saw as intrinsically female. The ancient mythological tradition worried away at the problem of Helen, generating multiple characterizations of her as heartlessly evil, sympathetically chastened, or subject to forces beyond her control. One notable response was the creation of an alternative legend, according to which Helen herself never went to Troy and her place there was filled by a phantom. This story was elaborated by a diverse and distinguished series of authors comprising Stesichorus, Herodotus, and Euripides.
This ingenious variant on Helen’s story resolves the question of her moral status by dividing her contradictory qualities between the real, upright woman and the unreal, wayward phantom, but also raises other, equally challenging issues. The introduction of the phantom opens up questions about the purpose of war and about the relationship between a series of seeming opposites that the Greeks expressed as onoma and pragma or dokesis and ta onta and which modern thinkers might variously express as appearance and reality, signifier and signified, or absence and presence. It is no surprise, then, that this legend received its fullest treatment in antiquity from Euripides that it was dramatized by two modernist poets, Hofmannstahl and H.D. and that it has been explored in articles by classicists interested in literary theory and feminist criticism such as Froma Zeitlin and Karen Bassi. Now the legend of Helen’s absence from Troy has become the subject of a book-length treatment by Norman Austin.
Austin’s survey starts with the more canonical tradition, in which Helen does go to Troy, as told by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey and by Sappho, and then moves on to Stesichorus, Herodotus, and Euripides. His account includes quite full plot summaries, which should make it accessible to readers who do not already know these texts. He also offers detailed discussions of the problems associated with reconstructing Stesichorus’ fragmentary Palinode from the ancient testimonia: Did Stesichorus include the phantom, or did he just deny that Helen went to Troy? Were there two Palinodes, as a commentary by the Peripatetic Chamaeleon would have it? Was Hesiod actually the first to introduce the phantom, as a scholiast claims? Those discussions are, however, scattered through Austin’s exposition, and that may make it difficult for neophytes to piece together the overall picture.
As he contemplates this legend, Austin is not particularly interested in what each treatment can tell us about its author and how that author exploited a chance to play with the mythological tradition, but rather in Helen herself and the challenges inherent in telling her story. While he evokes the full range of issues raised by his material and sometimes seems to be groping among them for the central thread to his argument his most consistent focus is on Helen’s adultery as a serious embarrassment to Greek honor that Greek writers were collectively trying to remove. “We can imagine Greek sailors, Dorians at least, facing down the chuckles in countless harbor taverns when Helen’s name was mentioned.”
Stesichorus, Herodotus, and Euripides are seen as taking on this shared problem of impaired Hellenic honor, each improving on the solution of the other. Stesichorus got as far as establishing that Helen did not go to Troy but left open the possibility that she spent the war years unchaperoned and still out of control. Herodotus took care of that defect when he endorsed a story he heard from some Egyptian priests that she had been confiscated from Paris by a noble pharaoh who kept her in Egypt until she was collected at the end of the war by Menelaus. But a version in which all the credit belongs to an Egyptian could not really restore Greek honor, and so Euripides came up with his plot, in which Helen herself wards off the advances of the good pharaoh’s lascivious son and Menelaus is her rescuer.
It is hard to believe that most Greeks took the Helen legend as seriously as Austin would have it, and his approach tends to underrate both Helen’s fictional status and the freedom enjoyed by those authors who told her story to pursue artistic agendas of their own. If we choose to believe Plato’s account of the genesis of the Palinode, then Stesichorus did see Helen as a powerful goddess, seriously demanding reverence and a clear record, but Herodotus and Euripides seem more interested in using Helen to work out their own concerns about truth, appearances, and tradition than in serving the cause of Helen’s rehabilitation.
Furthermore, the role Austin assigns these authors does not just obscure their individual interest: it is also doomed to failure. For one of Austin’s main points is that no amount of revision could ever neutralize the original, adulterous Helen, in whom he finds a limitless appeal that transcends the conjoined rationalism and moralism that spawned the phantom story. In his evocation of Helen’s power, Austin even attributes to her a mystical capacity to disrupt textual traditions: it is because Helen is the subject that the papyrus of Sappho’s Anaktoria ode is so fragmentary that Hesiod’s Catalogue of Women becomes lacunose just where Helen might be mentioned (“… ancient texts have a tendency to wobble, and some even to dissolve clean away, when Helen’s name appears or should appear,” p. 106) and that the choral ode about the Great Mother in Euripides’Helen is so corrupt (“… the text falls to pieces, as texts are wont to do, when Helen is introduced,” p. 178).
Austin’s tendency to write about Helen as if she really existed can be linked to the markedly psychoanalytic cast of his discussion, seen, for example, in his equation of the onoma/pragma opposition with Lacan’s distinction between “Meaning/the Signifier” and “Being/the Subject.” For him, Helen is to be understood as a Jungian archetype, and this makes her, if not a literally real woman, a genuine force in human experience. She is a manifestation of the Mother, a representation of beauty that transcends moral categories as it attracts the energies of the male libido. The original Helen story, in which that amoral power remains invested in a single, enigmatic and daemonic figure, is the one that Austin finds truly compelling. “To identify the libido as such, and to weave it into a plot that is the ground of the Iliad, was a great feat of the human imagination. But when Olympus crumbled, and the gods were toppled from their thrones, the plot came to seem too naive for the more serious intellects” (p. 133). Austin is clearly out of sympathy with the rationalism that was a major force behind the phantom myth and in line with psychoanalysis’ tendency to validate desire and chip away at guilt and shame drawn to the original, Iliadic Helen. Thus he dwells on Helen as she appears in the Homeric epics and includes a detour into Sappho’s Anaktoria ode, in which Helen’s choice to leave with Paris is cited as proof of the power of what one loves.
Characteristically, Austin makes the most of the challenge to conventional morality that Helen represents in Sappho’s poem. As he puts it, Sappho “gave herself permission to read the myth in her own way” (p. 52), and used Helen to voice an indifference to men and a love for women that her culture would have found shameful. The shamefulness of Sappho’s desire for women is a dubious proposition, and Austin’s attempt to support it with an argument that lyric was confessional and therefore had to be about what was socially unsanctioned, is hardly successful. But Sappho’s pointed focus on Helen’s self-willed departure for Troy certainly highlights what was most enduringly provocative about Helen’s story. This unreconstructed Helen is Austin’s true inspiration, and his book is ultimately a tribute to her power, an ode to the figure who is unequivocally Helen of Troy.
Helen of Troy Essay Sample
In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the most beautiful woman in the world. A daughter of the god Zeus*, she is best known for the part she played in causing the Trojan War*, a story told by Homer in the Iliad] and the Odyssey]. Some scholars suggest that Helen was also a very ancient goddess associated with trees and birds. Birth and Early Life. Some myths say that Helen’s mother was Leda, the wife of King Tyndareus of Sparta*. Others name Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, as her mother. Helen had a sister Clytemnestra, who later became the wife of King Agamemnon* of Mycenae, and twin brothers Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri. Stories claiming Leda as Helen’s mother tell how Zeus disguised himself as a swan and raped the Spartan queen. Leda then produced two eggs. From one came Helen and her brother Pollux. Clytemnestra and Castor emerged from the other. Other versions of the myth say that Zeus seduced Nemesis, and she laid the two eggs.
A shepherd discovered them and gave them to Queen Leda, who tended the eggs until they hatched and raised the children as her own. In some variations of this legend, Helen and Pollux were the children of Zeus, but Clytemnestra and Castor were actually the children of Tyndareus. When Helen was only 12 years old, the Greek hero Theseus* kidnapped her and planned to make her his wife. He took her to Attica in Greece and locked her away under the care of his mother. Helen’s brothers Castor and Pollux rescued her while Theseus was away and brought her back to Sparta. According to some stories, before Helen left Attica, she had given birth to a daughter named Iphigenia. Some time after Helen returned to Sparta, King Tyndareus decided that it was time for her to marry. Suitors came from all over Greece, hoping to win the famous beauty. Many were powerful leaders. Tyndareus worried that choosing one suitor might anger the others, who could cause trouble for his kingdom. Among those seeking to marry Helen was Odysseus*, the king of Ithaca. Odysseus advised Tyndareus to have all the suitors take an oath to accept Helen’s choice and promise to support that person whenever the need should arise.
The suitors agreed, and Helen chose Menelaus, a prince of Mycenae, to be her husband. Helen’s sister Clytemnestra was already married to Menelaus’s older brother, Agamemnon. The Trojan War. For a while, Helen and Menelaus lived happily together. They had a daughter and son, and Menelaus eventually became the king of Sparta. But their life together came to a sudden end. Paris, a prince of Troy, traveled to Sparta on the advice of the goddess Aphrodite*. She had promised him the most beautiful woman in the world after he proclaimed her the “fairest” goddess. When Paris saw Helen, he knew that Aphrodite had kept her promise. While Menelaus was away in Crete, Paris took Helen back to Troy. Some stories say Helen went willingly, seduced by Paris’s charms. Others claim that Paris kidnapped her and took her by force. When Menelaus returned home and discovered Helen gone, he called on the leaders of Greece, who had sworn to support him if necessary. The Greeks organized a great expedition and set sail for Troy.
Their arrival at Troy marked the beginning of the Trojan War. During the war, Helen’s sympathies were divided. At times, she helped the Trojans by pointing out Greek leaders. At other times, however, she sympathized with the Greeks and did not betray them when opportunities to do so arose. Helen had a number of children by Paris, but none survived infancy. Paris died in the Trojan War, and Helen married his brother Deiphobus. After the Greeks won the war, she was reunited with Menelaus, and she helped him kill Deiphobus. Then Helen and Menelaus set sail for Sparta. Later Life. The couple arrived in Sparta after a journey of several years. Some stories say that the gods, angry at the trouble Helen had caused, sent storms to drive their ships off course to Egypt and other lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
When they finally arrived in Sparta, the couple lived happily, although by some accounts, Menelaus remained suspicious of Helen’s feelings and loyalty. Many stories say that Helen remained in Sparta until her death. But others say that she went to the island of Rhodes after Menelaus died, perhaps driven from Sparta by their son Nicostratus. At first she was given refuge on Rhodes by Polyxo, the widow of Tlepolemus, one of the Greek leaders who had died in the Trojan War. Later, however, Polyxo had Helen hanged to avenge the death of her husband. One very different version of Helen’s story claims that the gods sent an effigy, or dummy, of Helen to Troy but that she actually spent the war years in Egypt. Helen and stories about her inspired many ancient writers, including the Greek playwright Euripides* and the Roman poets
The etymology of Helen’s name has been a problem for scholars until the present. Georg Curtius related Helen (Ἑλένη) to the moon (Selene Σελήνη). Émile Boisacq considered Ἑλένη to derive from the noun ἑλένη meaning “torch”. It has also been suggested that the λ of Ἑλένη arose from an original ν, and thus the etymology of the name is connected with the root of Venus. Linda Lee Clader, however, says that none of the above suggestions offers much satisfaction. If the name has an Indo-European etymology, it is possibly a suffixed form of a root *wel- “to turn, roll”, or of *sel- “to flow, run”. The latter possibility would allow comparison to the Vedic Sanskrit Saraṇyū, a character who is abducted in Rigveda 10.17.2. This parallel is suggestive of a Proto-Indo-European abduction myth. Saraṇyū means “swift” and is derived from the adjectivesaraṇa (“running”, “swift”), the feminine of which is saraṇā this is in every sound cognate with Ἑλένα, the form of her name that has no initial digamma. The possible connection of Helen’s name to ἑλένη (“torch”), as noted above, may also support the relationship of her name to Vedic svaranā (“the shining one”). Prehistoric and mythological context
The origins of Helen’s myth date back to the Mycenaean age. The first record of her name appears in the poems of Homer, but scholars assume that such myths invented or received by the Mycenaean Greeks made their way to Homer. Her mythological birthplace was Sparta of the Age of Heroes, which features prominently in the canon of Greek myth: in later ancient Greek memory, the Mycenaean Bronze Age became the age of the Greek heroes. The kings, queens, and heroes of the Trojan Cycle are often related to the gods, since mythic origins gave stature to the Greeks’ heroic ancestors. The fall of Troy came to represent a fall from an illustrious heroic age, remembered for centuries in oral tradition before being written down.Recent archaeological excavations in Greece suggest that modern-day Laconia was a distinct territory in the Late Bronze Age, while the poets narrate that it was a rich kingdom. Archaeologists have unsuccessfully looked for a Mycenaean palatial complex buried beneath present-day Sparta. An important Mycenaean site at the Menelaion was destroyed by ca. 1200 BC, and most other Mycenaean sites in Lakonia also disappear. There is a shrinkage from fifty sites to fifteen in the early twelfth century, and then to fewer in the eleventh century. Life/Birth
In most sources, including the Iliad and the Odyssey, Helen is the daughter of Zeus and Leda, the wife of the Spartan king Tyndareus (no reference given for Helen as the daughter of Leda).Euripides’ play Helen, written in the late 5th century BC, is the earliest source to report the most familiar account of Helen’s birth: that, although her putative father was Tyndareus, she was actually Zeus’ daughter. In the form of a swan, the king of gods was chased by an eagle, and sought refuge with Leda. The swan gained her affection, and the two mated. Leda then produced an egg, from which Helen emerged.The First Vatican Mythographer introduces the notion that two eggs came from the union: one containing Castor and Pollux one with Helen and Clytemnestra. Nevertheless, the same author earlier states that Helen, Castor and Pollux were produced from a single egg. Pseudo-Apollodorus states that Leda had intercourse with both Zeus and Tyndareus the night she conceived Helen. On the other hand, in the Cypria, one of the Cyclic Epics, Helen was the daughter of Zeus and the goddess Nemesis. The date of the Cypria is uncertain, but it is generally thought to preserve traditions that date back to at least the 7th century BC.
In the Cypria, Nemesis did not wish to mate with Zeus. She therefore changed shape into various animals as she attempted to flee Zeus, finally becoming a goose. Zeus also transformed himself into a goose and mated with Nemesis, who produced an egg from which Helen was born.Presumably, in the Cypria, this egg was somehow transferred to Leda. Later sources state either that it was brought to Leda by a shepherd who discovered it in a grove in Attica, or that it was dropped into her lap by Hermes. Asclepiades of Tragilos and Pseudo-Eratosthenes related a similar story, except that Zeus and Nemesis became swans instead of geese. Timothy Gantz has suggested that the tradition that Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan derives from the version in which Zeus and Nemesis transformed into birds. Pausanias states that in the middle of the 2nd century AD, the remains of an egg-shell, tied up in ribbons, were still suspended from the roof of a temple on the Spartan acropolis. People believed that this was “the famous egg that legend says Leda brought forth”. Pausanias traveled to Sparta to visit the sanctuary, dedicated to Hilaeira and Phoebe, in order to see the relic for himself. Abduction by Theseus and youth
Two Athenians, Theseus and Pirithous, thought that since they were both sons of gods, both of them should have divine wives they thus pledged to help each other abduct two daughters of Zeus. Theseus chose Helen, and Pirithous vowed to marry Persephone, the wife of Hades. Theseus took Helen and left her with his mother Aethra or his associate Aphidnus at Aphidnae or Athens. Theseus and Pirithous then traveled to the underworld, the domain of Hades, to kidnap Persephone. Hades pretended to offer them hospitality and set a feast, but, as soon as the pair sat down, snakes coiled around their feet and held them there. Helen’s abduction caused an invasion of Athens by Castor and Pollux, who captured Aethra in revenge, and returned their sister to Sparta.
In most accounts of this event, Helen was quite young Hellanicus of Lesbos said she was seven years old and Diodorus makes her ten years old.On the other hand, Stesichorus said that Iphigeneia was the daughter of Theseus and Helen, which obviously implies that Helen was of childbearing age.In most sources, Iphigeneia is the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, but Duris of Samos and other writers followed Stesichorus’ account. Ovid’s Heroides give us an idea of how ancient and, in particular, Roman authors imagined Helen in her youth: she is presented as a young princess wrestling naked in the palaestra an image alluding to a part of girls’ physical education in classical (and not in Mycenaean) Sparta. Sextus Propertiusimagines Helen as a girl who practices arms and hunts with her brothers: […] or like Helen, on the sands of Eurotas, between Castor and Pollux, one to be victor in boxing, the other with horses: with naked breasts she carried weapons, they say, and did not blush with her divine brothers there.
Suitors of Helen
When it was time for Helen to marry, many kings and princes from around the world came to seek her hand, bringing rich gifts with them, or sent emissaries to do so on their behalf. During the contest, Castor and Pollux had a prominent role in dealing with the suitors, although the final decision was in the hands of Tyndareus. Menelaus, her future husband, did not attend but sent his brother, Agamemnon, to represent him. There are three available and not entirely consistent lists of suitors, compiled by Pseudo-Apollodorus (31 suitors), Hesiod (11 suitors), and Hyginus (36 suitors), for a total of 45 distinct names. There are only fragments from Hesiod’s poem, so his list would have contained more. Achilles’ absence from the lists is conspicuous, but Hesiod explains that he was too young to take part in the contest.Taken together, the list of suitors matches well with the captains in the Catalog of Ships from the Iliad however, some of the names may have been placed in the list of Helen’s suitors simply because they went to Troy. It is not unlikely that relatives of a suitor may have joined the war. Six Suitors listed in all three sources
* Ajax – Son of Telamon. Led 12 ships from Salamis to Troy. Commits suicide there. * Elephenor – Son of Chalcodon. Led 50 ships to Troy and died there * Menelaus – Son of Atreus. Led 60 ships from Sparta to Troy. He returned home to Sparta with Helen. * Menestheus – Son of Peteos. Led 50 ships from Athens to Troy. He returned to Athens after the war. * Odysseus – Son of Laertes. Led 12 ships from Ithaca to Troy. He returned home after 10 years of wandering the seas. * Protesilaus – Son of Iphicles. Led 40 ships from Phylace to Troy. He was the first Greek to die in battle at the hands of Hector. Nineteen Suitors listed by both Apollodorus and Hyginus
* Agapenor – Son of Ancaeus, King of Arcadia. Takes 60 ships of men to Troy. Returns home. * Ajax (AKA Ajax the Lesser or Locrian Ajax) – Son of Oileus. Led 40 ships to Troy, drowned on the way home when Poseidon split the rock he was on. * Amphimachus – Son of Cteatus. With Polyxenus and Thalpius, he led 40 ships from Elis to Troy. Killed by Hector. * Antilochus – Son of Nestor. Went with his father and 90 ships to Troy. Killed in battle while protecting his father from Memnon. * Ascalaphus – Son of Ares and King of Orchemenus. Led 30 ships to Troy. Killed in battle by Deiphobus. * Diomedes – Son of Tydeus. Diomedes was one of the Epigoni and King of Argos. He led 80 ships to Troy. His wife took a lover and Diomedes lost his kingdom, so after the war he settled in Italy. * Eumelus – Son of Admetus and King of Pherae. Led 11 ships to Troy. * Eurypylus – Son of Euaemon. Led 40 ships from Thessaly to Troy. * Leonteus – Son of Coronos. With Polypoetes he led 40 ships of the Lapiths to Troy. * Machaon – Son of Asclepius, brother of Podalirius. An Argonaut and physician. Led 30 ships. Killed in battle by Eurypylus (the son of Telephus). * Meges – Son of Phyleus. Led 40 ships to Troy.
* Patroclus – Son of Menoetius. His younger cousin Achilles went with him to Troy. Killed by Hector. * Peneleos – Son of Hippalcimus. An Argonaut. He went with the Boetian force of 50 ships to Troy. Killed in battle by Eurypylus (the son of Telephus). * Philoctetes – Son of Poeas. Led 7 ships from Thessaly to Troy, he was an archer and killed Paris. * Podalirius – Son of Asclepius, brother of Machaon. A physician. After the war he founded a city in Caria. * Polypoetes – Son of Pirithous. With Leonteus, he led 40 ships of the Lapiths to Troy. * Polyxenus – Son of Agasthenes. With Amphimachus, and Thalpius, he led 40 ships from Elis to Troy. * Sthenelus – Son of Capaneus. One of the Epigoni, he went with Diomedes to Troy. * Thalpius – Son of Eurytus. With Amphimachus and Polyxenus, he led 40 ships from Elis to Troy. One Suitor listed by Apollodorus and Hesiod
* Amphilochus – Son of Amphiaraus and younger brother of Alcmaeon. One Suitor listed by Hesiod and Hyginus
* Idomeneus – Son of Deucalion and King of Crete. Led 80 ships to Troy. Survived the war, but was exiled from Crete. Three Suitors listed only by Hesiod
* Alcmaeon – Son of Amphiaraus and one of the Epigoni. * Lycomedes – a Cretan.
* Podarces – The younger brother of Protesilaus. He led the troops after his brother’s death. Ten Suitors listed only by Hyginus
* Ancaeus –
* Blanirus –
* Clytius –
* Meriones – A companion of Idomeneus of Crete.
* Nireus – He led 3 ships from Syme to Troy.
* Phemius –
* Phidippus – He led 30 ships to Troy.
* Prothous – He led 40 ships from Magnetes to Troy.
* Thoas – He led 40 ships from Aetolia to Troy.
* Tlepolemus – He led 9 ships from Rhodes to Troy.
Five Suitors listed only by Apollodorus
* Epistrophus – Son of Iphitus, brother of Schedius.
* Ialmenus – Companion of Ascalaphus, who led 30 ships to Troy * Leitus – Son of Alector
* Schedius – Son of Iphitus, brother of Epistrophus. He was killed by Hector who was trying to throw a spear towards Ajax. * Teucer – The half-brother of Ajax. Survived the war.
The Oath of Tyndareus
Tyndareus was afraid to select a husband for his daughter, or send any of the suitors away, for fear of offending them and giving grounds for a quarrel. Odysseus was one of the suitors, but had brought no gifts because he believed he had little chance to win the contest. He thus promised to solve the problem, if Tyndareus in turn would support him in his courting of Penelope, the daughter of Icarius. Tyndareus readily agreed, and Odysseus proposed that, before the decision was made, all the suitors should swear a most solemn oath to defend the chosen husband against whoever should quarrel with him. After the suitors had sworn not to retaliate, Menelaus was chosen to be Helen’s husband. As a sign of the importance of the pact, Tyndareus sacrificed a horse.Helen and Menelaus became rulers of Sparta, after Tyndareus abdicated. The marriage of Helen and Menelaus marks the beginning of the end of the age of heroes. Concluding the catalog of Helen’s suitors, Hesiod reports Zeus’ plan to obliterate the race of men and the heroes in particular. The Trojan War, caused by Helen’s elopement with Paris, is going to be his means to this end. Seduction by Paris
Some years later, Paris, a Trojan prince, came to Sparta to claim Helen, in the guise of a supposed diplomatic mission. Before this journey, Paris had been appointed by Zeus to judge the most beautiful goddessHera, Athena, or Aphrodite. In order to earn his favour, Aphrodite promised Paris the most beautiful woman in the world. Swayed by Aphrodite’s offer, Paris chose her as the most beautiful of the goddesses, earning the wrath of Athena and Hera. Although Helen is sometimes depicted as being raped by Paris, Ancient Greek sources are often elliptical and contradictory. Herodotus states that Helen was abducted, but the Cypria simply mentions that, after giving Helen gifts, “Aphrodite brings the Spartan queen together with the Prince of Troy.” Sappho argues that Helen willingly left behind Menelaus and Hermione, her nine-year-old daughter, to be with Paris:
Helen in Egypt
At least three Ancient Greek authors denied that Helen ever went to Troy instead, they suggested, Helen stayed in Egypt during the duration of the Trojan War. Those three authors are Euripides, Stesichorus, and Herodotus. In the version put forth by Euripides in his play Helen, Hera fashioned a likeness of Helen (eidolon, εἴδωλον) out of clouds at Zeus’ request, Hermes took her to Egypt, and Helen never went to Troy, spending the entire war in Egypt. Eidolon is also present in Stesichorus’ account, but not in Herodotus’ rationalizing version of the myth.
Herodotus adds weight to the “Egyptian” version of events by putting forward his own evidence—he traveled to Egypt and interviewed the priests of the temple of (Foreign Aphrodite,) at Memphis. According to these priests, Helen had arrived in Egypt shortly after leaving Sparta, because strong winds had blown Paris’s ship off course. King Proteus of Egypt, appalled that Paris had seduced his host’s wife and plundered his host’s home in Sparta, disallowed Paris from taking Helen to Troy. Paris returned to Troy without a new bride, but the Greeks refused to believe that Helen was in Egypt and not within Troy’s walls. Thus, Helen waited in Memphis for ten years, while the Greek and the Trojans fought. Following the conclusion of the Trojan War, Menelaus sailed to Memphis, where Proteus reunited him with Helen. Helen in Troy
When he discovered that his wife was missing, Menelaus called upon all the other suitors to fulfill their oaths, thus beginning the Trojan War. The Greek fleet gathered in Aulis, but the ships could not sail, because there was no wind. Artemis was enraged with a sacrilegious act of the Greeks, and only the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia, could appease her. In Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis, Clytemnestra, Iphigenia’s mother and Helen’s sister, begs her husband to reconsider his decision, calling Helen a “wicked woman”. Clytemnestra (unsuccessfully) warns Agamemnon that sacrificing Iphigenia for Helen’s sake is, “buying what we most detest with what we hold most dear”. Before the opening of hostilities, the Greeks dispatched a delegation to the Trojans under Odysseus and Menelaus they endeavored to persuade Priam to hand Helen back without success. A popular theme, The Request of Helen (Helenes Apaitesis, Ἑλένης Ἀπαίτησις) was the subject of a drama by Sophocles, now lost. Homer paints a poignant, lonely picture of Helen in Troy.
She is filled with self-distaste and regret for what she has caused by the end of the war, the Trojans have come to hate her. When Hector dies, she is the third mourner at his funeral, and she says that, of all the Trojans, Hector and Priam alone were always kind to her: Wherefore I wail alike for thee and for my hapless self with grief at heart for no longer have I anyone beside in broad Troy that is gentle to me or kind but all men shudder at me. These bitter words reveal that Helen gradually realized Paris’ weaknesses, and she decided to ally herself with Hector. There is an affectionate relationship between the two of them, and Helen has harsh words to say for Paris, when she compares the two brothers: Howbeit, seeing the gods thus ordained these ills, would that I had been wife to a better man, that could feel the indignation of his fellows and their many revilings. […] But come now, enter in, and sit thee upon this chair, my brother, since above all others has trouble encompassed thy heart because of shameless me, and the folly of Alexander. During the fall of Troy, Helen’s role is ambiguous.
In Virgil’s Aeneid, Deiphobus gives an account of Helen’s treacherous stance: when the Trojan Horsewas admitted into the city, she feigned Bacchic rites, leading a chorus of Trojan women, and, holding a torch among them, she signaled to the Greeks from the city’s central tower. In Odyssey, however, Homer narrates a different story: Helen circled the Horse three times, and she imitated the voices of the Greek women left behind at home—she thus tortured the men inside (including Odysseus and Menelaus) with the memory of their loved ones, and brought them to the brink of destruction. After the death of Hector and Paris, Helen became the paramour of their younger brother, Deiphobus but when the sack of Troy began, she hid her new husband’s sword, and left him to the mercy of Menelaus and Odysseus.
In Aeneid, Aeneas meets the mutilated Deiphobus in Hades his wounds serve as a testimony to his ignominious end, abetted by Helen’s final act of treachery. However, Helen’s portraits in Troy seem to contradict each other. From one side, we read about the treacherous Helen who simulated Bacchic rites and rejoiced over the carnage of Trojans. On the other hand, there is another Helen, lonely and helpless desperate to find sanctuary, while Troy is on fire. Stesichorus narrates that both Greeks and Trojans gathered to stone her to death.When Menelaus finally found her, he raised his sword to kill her. He had demanded that only he should slay his unfaithful wife but, when he was ready to do so, she dropped her robe from her shoulders, and the sight of her beauty caused him to let the sword drop from his hand. Electra wails: Alas for my troubles! Can it be that her beauty has blunted their swords? Fate
Helen returned to Sparta and lived for a time with Menelaus, where she was encountered by Telemachus in The Odyssey. According to another version, used by Euripides in his play Orestes, Helen had long ago left the mortal world by then, having been taken up to Olympus almost immediately after Menelaus’ return. According to Pausanias the geographer (3.19.9–10): “The account of the Rhodians is different. They say that when Menelaus was dead, and Orestes still a wanderer, Helen was driven out byNicostratus and Megapenthes and came to Rhodes, where she had a friend in Polyxo, the wife of Tlepolemus. For Polyxo, they say, was an Argive by descent, and when she was already married to Tlepolemus, shared his flight to Rhodes.
At the time she was queen of the island, having been left with an orphan boy. They say that this Polyxo desired to avenge the death of Tlepolemus on Helen, now that she had her in her power. So she sent against her when she was bathing handmaidens dressed up as Furies, who seized Helen and hanged her on a tree, and for this reason the Rhodians have a sanctuary of Helen of the Tree.” Tlepolemus was a son of Heracles and Astyoche. Astyoche was a daughter of Phylas, King of Ephyra who was killed by Heracles. Tlepolemus was killed by Sarpedon on the first day of fighting in the Iliad. Nicostratus was a son of Menelaus by his concubine Pieris, an Aetolian slave. Megapenthes was a son of Menelaus by his concubine Tereis, no further origin. In Simonianism, it was taught that Helen of Troy was one of the incarnations of the Ennoia in human form.
The film begins with the birth of Paris, and Cassandra’s prophecy that he would be the cause of Troy’s destruction. Worried, his father King Priamleaves him on Mount Ida, where he is found and raised by the shepherd Agelaus. When he is an adult, he judges Aphrodite as the fairest of the three goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. After awarding her the golden apple she promises him the love of Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful woman in the world. Meanwhile in Sparta, Helen sees in a pool Paris’s judgement, and happily accepts his choice of her love. She later meets the Mycenaean King,Agamemnon, who has come to claim her sister, Clytemnestra, as his bride, but is also immediately taken by her attractiveness. During the wedding, Helen is kidnapped by two Athenians, Theseus, and his friend Pirithous. They take her to Athens, where Helen falls for Theseus, before her brother Pollux raids Athens and kills him. As he is dying, Theseus stabs Pollux. In Sparta, Helen’s father Tyndareus rages at his daughter, blaming her for losing his heir.
He presents her to the many suitors who seek her hand, bidding them to do as they wish. The suitors draw lots after swearing an oath suggested by clever Odysseus that if anyone disrespect her husband’s claims to her, they should unite and wage war against him. Odysseus rules himself and Agamemnon out of the lot, since they are both married. They agree to the oath, and Agamemnon’s brother Menelaus wins. Agamemnon is visibly jealous. Agamemnon suggests to Menelaus that he should have Helen present herself nude before the other suitors, as a way for him to demonstrate that their marriage is worth the suitors’ protection. While Helen is bathing, Clytemnestra tries to dissuade her from doing as Menelaus asks, but is unsuccessful. Before Helen leaves, she says to Clytemnestra, “They can look all they want, but they’ll never see me.” The doors open and Helen walks naked through the crowd of men, to great appreciation. She stops before Menelaus, then turns around and steps onto a dais, putting her naked body in full view of everyone in the room.
Agamemnon is clearly feasting his eyes on Helen’s body throughout her presentation. Meanwhile, Paris’ favorite bull is taken for the Trojan tribute games. Paris insists on competing, despite his father’s protests. After winning in every competition and being recognized by his sister Cassandra, Paris is welcomed by an overjoyed Priam to Troy. Cassandra and his elder brotherHector are upset at their father’s decision. Paris is sent to Sparta to draw out a peace treaty with the Atreids, Agamemnon and Menelaus. His treaty is refused and Agamemnon plots to have him murdered. While there, however, he recognizes Helen as she is standing naked on the dais. Later, he prevents her from committing suicide. He then gains her love, and she helps him flee. Together they sail to Troy. When Menelaus finds this out, he demands that his brother launch war on Troy, and the former suitors are gathered to fulfill their oath.
But the winds are not in their favor and after a month, a soothsayer reveals that Athena wants Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. Agamemnon is horrified, but nevertheless carries out the deed. Helen and Paris arrive at Troy with the Greek army at their heels. Priam is at first reluctant to allow Helen to remain at Troy, until he sees her. When the Greeks send an embassy of Menelaus and Odysseus to demand Helen’s return, Priam refuses, and the Greeks plan an attack. In the morning, the battle is joined on the beach of Troy, with Hector nearly killed by Agamemnon. The battle ends with the Trojan army’s crushing defeat and the Greeks camping on the beach. Ten years pass. Agamemnon agrees to end the war with a single combat, between Menelaus and Paris. If Menelaus wins, Helen will be returned. If Menelaus loses, the Trojans may keep her. Whatever the outcome, the Greeks have to leave Troy. Agamemnon cheats, poisoning Menelaus’ javelin without telling him.
During the duel Paris is cut and the poison disorientates him. Menelaus, however, does not take advantage of him instead, they stop fighting and make peace between each other as a fog hides them from view. As the fog lifts, Agamemnon’s cheating is exposed. Hector challenges Agamemnon to a duel that will end the war—this time, to the death. Achilles takes up the challenge, fighting for Agamemnon, but agrees to fight not for Helen but for his own honor. Achilles easily succeeds in killing Hector. That night Helen, fearing for Paris’s safety, goes to the seer Cassandra and asks to know what she can do to protect Paris. Cassandra replies that her only choice is to give herself to the Greeks. Helen agrees, presenting herself in Agamemnon’s tent and offering a trade—her for the body of Hector. Agamemnon refuses, as he does not want his daughter’s death to be in vain, and chases her around the camp, but Paris arrives in time to save her, challenging Agamemnon for the safety of Troy. Achilles charges at him, but Paris seizes a bow and shoots Achilles in the heel, killing him.
Afterwards the Greeks attack him, but he hides and is reunited with Helen. Shortly thereafter, Agamemnon finds him and stabs Paris in the chest after a quick duel. He dies in Helen’s arms, whispering the word, “goddess”. During Paris’ funeral, the Greeks are reported to have sailed away—leaving a massive wooden horse on the shore. It is taken into the city, and Troy celebrates late into the night. When they are all asleep, the Greeks come out and sack the city, slaying Priam and Hecuba. The great Agamemnon seats himself proudly on Troy’s throne as the new Emperor of the Aegean and Ruler of the World. Agamemnon has his men bring Helen to his throne and orders her to kneel at his feet. Agamemnon strokes Helen’s hair, then begins to rape her. Menelaus tries to stop him, but is held back by Agamemnon’s guards. He orders Agamemnon to leave his wife alone, but his brother pays no mind to his commands and continues to rape Helen. Odysseus is also shocked at Agamemnon’s act, but could do nothing.
The next morning, as the Greek soldiers ravage the ruins of Troy of its riches and its people as slaves, Clytemnestra arrives in the royal palace of Troy, where she ventures into the royal pool. There, she finds Agamemnon and Helen, both naked. Agamemnon relaxes in triumph, while Helen lies in a corner, not saying a word. Clytemnestra covers her sister with a robe and sends her away, leaving her (Clytemnestra) alone with Agamemnon. She tells him she comes for their daughter, Iphigenia. When Agamemnon replies that she is not here, Clytemnestra, having figured out herself, throws a net on her husband and stabs him to death. Helen wanders woefully through the ruined city, finally coming to the spot where Paris was slain. There, she sees an apparition of Paris and they embrace. Helen begs Paris to take her with him to the afterlife, and he tells her that he has prepared a place for her, but she must wait until it is her time. He disappears, and Menelaus crosses her path, sword in hand. Helen prepares for her punishment, but Menelaus can do nothing but feel sorry for her. Helen tells him she cannot love him, but she “will follow”. The two head back to the Greek ships, ready to live the rest of their lives as King and Queen of Sparta.
Did she go willingly?
The way the Greek myths have been told has disguised the joins and touched up the weirdness. Writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne in Tanglewood Tales and Charles Kingsley in The Heroes, who enthralled me when I was a child devouring the stories under the bedclothes by torchlight, patched and pieced the myths into the coherent plots that we are familiar with. Writers continue to work a ragbag of scraps into whole cloth, disentangling the threads and recomposing the patterns. Very few readers today go back to the sources, to handbooks like Apollodorus&rsquo The Library, or to the work of Quintus of Smyrna, who in the fourth century wrote a sequel to the Iliad in 14 books. When one does attempt to read these works, it&rsquos often disappointing to find how little their authors tried to shape the stories: some just set down events like clerks in a court of law tallying &lsquocelestia crimina&rsquo, heavenly crimes, as Ovid calls them.
When you look up the first known mention of this or that strand in a myth, it&rsquos hard to keep in mind that it might have been noted 700 years before the next passage was set beside it to form a consistent plot. Who remembers that Homer mentions only in passing the Judgment of Paris, when Paris&rsquo choice of Aphrodite over Hera and Athena sparked the war in heaven that set in train the Trojan War? Or that the famous episode when the Trojan Horse is smuggled into Troy does not take place in the Iliad and isn&rsquot fully dramatised in the Odyssey, but is known chiefly from the Aeneid, written centuries later by a Roman with a political agenda. Homer could assume that his audience knew the outline of the myth of Helen of Troy, and that in consequence he didn&rsquot need to lay it all out. But perhaps there never was a consistent and complete version of any myth, one that you could walk all the way around and find that everything matched and agreed from every angle.
In the 17th century, the grandest patrons like Cardinal Mazarin and Cardinal Richelieu had their classical sculptures lavishly repaired, with porphyry and gold additions to re-create a lost limb or a missing nose. This kind of mending is completely out of fashion now: restorers prefer to make their own work distinguishable and even reversible so that the original state can be recovered if wanted. But a desire for authenticity hasn&rsquot shaped the critical approach to the ruins of stories, except in studies like this one, which pays out the multiple strands in the myth of Helen of Troy.
Greek tragedy, Jean-Pierre Vernant wrote, presents its protagonists as objects of debate, not examples of good conduct or even heroes deserving of sympathy the same can be said of characters in epic, like Helen. Laurie Maguire&rsquos literary biography of Helen of Troy makes us face up to moral ambiguities as it tracks the most beautiful woman in the world across time and across media, from Homer to Hollywood, as her subtitle has it. Since historians can find no trace of the real Helen on a coin, a stone or in a factual document, the search for her leads only to dreams and fantasies. Bettany Hughes attempted an archaeological quest in her Helen of Troy (2005), but was left wistfully hoping that Helen&rsquos tomb might be discovered one day. Maguire finds traces of Helen of Troy everywhere, far beyond the poems and plays in which she is a character, but an individual Helen disappears, to emerge as the embodiment of a fundamental principle: absolute beauty.
In Homer&rsquos epics, in the Faust story taken up by Marlowe and in Goethe&rsquos long, eccentric poetic drama about the same legend, Helen of Troy makes readers and audiences think about different issues: the good of beauty, the reasons for war, eroticism and women&rsquos sexuality, responsibility and love. Maguire considers what is meant by Helen&rsquos beauty, what her history was, how much she was to blame (was she abducted by Paris or did she go willingly?), and what implications her story has for women at different times. Her book is packed with enthusiastic reading and looking, at little-known classical material (Quintus of Smyrna) and at her own academic specialism, Elizabethan literature (John Lyly gives Helen a scar on her chin &ndash the equivalent of the flaw in a Ming vase that perfects it). The book opens with the Iliad and closes with Derek Walcott&rsquos novel-like epic poem Omeros, in which Helen is a servant in the house of Major and Mrs Plunkett, colonials in the Caribbean this Helen wears a yellow dress which she has either been given by her mistress or stolen from her, a dress whose colour recalls the golden robes worn by the divine Helen of Troy, woven for her by her mother, Leda. But such continuities are only intermittent.
Maguire treats dozens of retellings: one mythographer has an immortal Helen marry Achilles in the Underworld, while Thomas Heywood describes her killing herself for her sad grey hairs. Maguire has kept her survey within bounds by setting aside the political uses of Helen of Troy, even though these flourished in the Elizabethan period she has also set aside the dramatic or performance history, though she can&rsquot resist the temptation to describe various manifestations of Helen on stage and film, including the first stark naked one (seen by the audience chastely from the back), by Maggie Wright in an RSC production of Marlowe&rsquos Dr Faustus. Such economies are prudent, but the boundaries between representations of Helen and of the politics of war keep collapsing, and it&rsquos a pity to ignore the sharp and timely elements in Helen&rsquos story that have inspired numerous recent dealings with the matter of Troy, as in Tony Harrison&rsquos Hecuba, when the chorus curses:
I pray as a small revenge
For all our dead and for Troy&rsquos burning
Helen ends up as a refugee.
Ever since Mephistopheles summoned a devil to delude Faust into believing that Helen of Troy stood before him and would make him immortal with a kiss, there has been something fugitive about her for Maguire, her beauty, being absolute, cannot be grasped, and so leaves desire famished, unappeased. Helen of Troy comes to represent, not an ideal worth dying for, but a gap in meaning, a vanishing. &lsquoThis book, like the Trojan narratives that it explores,&rsquo Maguire writes, &lsquois a study of absence, lack, gaps, ambiguity, aporia, and the narrative impulse to completion and closure.&rsquo In this respect, Maguire is setting herself against the synthesising and reparatory impulses of recent fictional or poetic interpreters of Greek myth: tellingly, she quotes another critic&rsquos remark, that the famous lines by Marlowe, usually declaimed in rapture, can be read as inflected with irony and doubt: &lsquoWas this the face that launched a thousand ships?&rsquo
One version of the myth that Maguire doesn&rsquot mention nevertheless illuminates her argument that Helen&rsquos labile and phantasmic state shapes our vision of her. According to this version, Helen never sailed to Troy with Paris, but was spirited away to Egypt, where she spent the war years as a priestess of Artemis. The Helen who went to Troy was an eidolon, which duped the Trojans and the Greeks alike. They fought over an illusion. This strand of the myth is very ancient: the poet Stesichorus, active in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, suggested it after he was blinded by the gods for defaming Helen. He retracted his accusations in a palinode that is less a chivalrous defence of Helen (and womankind) than a brilliant indictment of the folly of war &ndash and of men. Euripides then used this version of the myth in his play Helen, a kind of comic capriccio set in Egypt, where Menelaus lands and finds his wife loyal and untainted, though prey to the attentions of the local prince (Penny Downie, flinging about a great mane of red curls and loping vigorously across the stage, gave the part full soubrette relish last year at Shakespeare&rsquos Globe). Scepticism about Helen&rsquos supposed treachery continues to be felt, especially by women artists: recently the performance artist Joan Jonas reworked HD&rsquos opaque novel poem Helen in Egypt into a multimedia work called Lines in the Sand, in which &lsquoEgypt&rsquo was filmed in Las Vegas, again drawing attention to the play of deception and illusion in the making of myths.
Maguire&rsquos study does not focus only on Helen&rsquos disappearances. In a strong chapter on &lsquoBlame&rsquo, she also finds the representation of Helen fertile ground for evidence of changing ideas about sexuality. Questions are rarely asked, for example, about Menelaus&rsquo motives: Helen&rsquos chroniclers assume it is entirely natural that her husband should make war on the Trojans to get her back they explain that there was a pact, agreed at their wedding, that compelled the disappointed suitors to make common cause should she be stolen. By contrast, a vast body of literature tackles the question of her collusion: was she carried off against her will? Maguire draws admiringly on some obscure texts, such as the free retelling by Joseph of Exeter in the late 12th century she calls him a novelist manqué and claims his is &lsquothe first &ndash and only &ndash version to offer a sex scene between Helen and Paris&rsquo, with Helen &lsquolying on him&rsquo.
No doubt Joseph of Exeter meant this wantonness to point up Helen&rsquos diabolical nature, but it reads differently now. The story of Leda&rsquos rape by Zeus in the shape of a swan, from whose union Helen was born, used to be made &lsquoentirely beautiful&rsquo, in Auden&rsquos phrase, by hundreds of Renaissance artists. The attempt to capture the imagined sensation of penetration by the powerful bird proved seductive to artists like Michelangelo, who in an extraordinarily highly charged drawing renders Leda overcome and languid under the swan&rsquos nestling tensed body, coiled neck, lifted neb, unfurled erectile plumage and mighty webbed feet. A large egg lies nearby, starting to crack with a baby visible, curled inside: is this Helen?
After Yeats saw in Rome one of the marble reliefs that inspired Michelangelo&rsquos vision he condensed this scene of rape into a prophecy of war:
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
The sack of Troy leads tersely, fatefully, to the murder committed by Clytemnestra, Helen&rsquos sister, her twin. Yeats packs together the mythic logic of the sequence that joins love and war, Venus and Mars, with the female carrying the greater responsibility because she embodies the casus belli, joining public and private spheres through the energy of the desire she unleashes. For Maguire, the sexual shudder connects to the shiver of terror that accompanies the classical heroes&rsquo knowledge of their fate Helen&rsquos arrival in a story almost always carries that shiver of dread, a foreknowledge that her presence augurs catastrophic consequences, regardless of what she wants or does.
Helen is always said to have been conceived after a divine metamorphosis, but in some versions the shapeshifter is the goddess Nemesis as well as Zeus. When Zeus gives chase, Nemesis takes flight, changing herself into a fish, a bird, a cuttlefish and finally a goose, but he keeps after her, shapeshifting too, until he overcomes her. According to this version, Nemesis gives Leda the resulting eggs for safekeeping.
Doublings and repetitions are used to structure myths, as Maguire points out, and Helen&rsquos story rhymes with those of others, especially Achilles&rsquo. The rape of Nemesis matches, with some inversions, the story of Achilles&rsquo origins: it is his mother, Thetis, who is a goddess and who is assaulted by a mortal, Peleus, who holds her fast as she changes from one animal into another to escape him, but to no avail, as Ovid describes with furious intensity in Metamorphoses. The involvement of Nemesis in Helen&rsquos story fits with the subsequent tragedy of the war in Troy and the extinction of the city and all its inhabitants. Maguire sees other mirrorings in the behaviour of Helen and Achilles. The Iliad begins with the withdrawal of Achilles from the fighting, and the story of Helen is also, she writes, &lsquoa story of withdrawal &hellip even passivity (absence of agency)&rsquo. Helen also inspired avatars like Cressida, another treacherous &ndash lovely and flighty &ndash girl, who was invented in the Middle Ages, and in Chaucer and Shakespeare moves in the opposite direction to Helen, leaving Troilus, her Trojan love, for Diomedes the Greek. Robert Henryson picks up the story where Chaucer left it: in The Testament of Cresseid, he introduces into the story of punitive, divine revenge an unusual depth of tragic pity for the hussy. *
The character of Penelope also provides a counter-model and comparison with Helen, just as Odysseus&rsquo wanderings on his way home mirror Menelaus&rsquo quest to regain Helen from Troy. In the Odyssey, Homer pictures the couple tranquilly restored to their court, where Telemachus, Odysseus&rsquo son, visits them to ask for help in getting rid of his mother&rsquos unwanted suitors. In this enthralling passage, Helen is portrayed as a mistress of magic and transformation, drugging her guests&rsquo wine to dispel their melancholy and sorrow she is a powerful, exemplary consort, like Penelope at the end of the epic, when Odysseus returns home and they put each other to the test. Froma Zeitlin, in a tremendous essay about the Homeric Helen (in Playing the Other), points out the continuities between the protégée of Aphrodite &ndash who in the Iliad is weaving her own story into a tapestry as events unfold before her on the plain of Troy and in the city &ndash and the later Helen back in Sparta, who lulls the company with her magic pharmakon, given to her by a cunning Egyptian, Homer tells us. This Helen is a storyteller, who is both part of her plot and outside it, a shapeshifter and ventriloquist, a double dealer. When she meets Odysseus stealing into Troy she does not betray him to her new family and fellow citizens but keeps secret his plan for the Trojan horse. Then, with her next breath, she approaches the horse and tries to lure the hidden Greeks out by throwing her voice in perfect imitation of their wives. Only the percipience and force of Odysseus prevents them from leaping out and revealing themselves to the Trojans. No condemnation follows the relating of this episode. By impersonating other men&rsquos wives and activating their desire, she shows that she is desire incarnate, Aphrodite&rsquos agent on earth. The scene captures the mobility of Helen, who, as the ultimate femme fatale, embodies the ungovernable consequences of desire destruction is seen as beauty&rsquos chief effect, even its defining quality.
It has always been women, not men, who have most carefully examined the features of such beautiful women, of Elizabeth Taylor&rsquos Cleopatra, for example, or Hollywood&rsquos choices for the part of Helen. My first Helen was Rossana Podestà, in the 1956 Cinemascope spectacular. She wore what looked like a swimming cap of platinum curls, and played Helen as an expressionless ice maiden, except when falling into furious bouts of French kissing (as we called it) with a very campy Paris. Judging by the trailer that can be found on the web, the film is packed with carnage and marital abuse, but my only vivid memory is of the words that appeared before the titles and proclaimed: &lsquoHer name was burned into the pages of history &hellip&rsquo Podestà&rsquos small white face then appeared, her opalescent blondeness contradicting the sultry Italian aura of her name and the conflagration it was about to cause. The sentence ended with the words &lsquoin letters of Fire&rsquo, as Helen&rsquos name flashed up and literally burst into flames, continuing to burn as the ships, towers and walls of Troy came into view behind her.
It was inexpressibly exciting, and a call to power, or so I felt at the age of ten. It represents a major cultural change that little girls are no longer expected to find such powers exemplary and that, on the whole, men are not praised for fighting over women. Current ideas of the beautiful are closer to the attitude of the artist-photographer Claude Cahun, who staged a series of self-portraits in all kinds of personae, and wrote a little book of Heroines, in which Helen of Troy begins her tale: &lsquoI know I am very ugly, but I try to forget it. I play at being this beautiful young girl.&rsquo When Angela Carter reworked the myth of Helen of Troy in Nights at the Circus, she showed a similar relish for self-fashioning: her heroine, Fevvers, a huge, ambiguous giant (&lsquosix feet two in her stockinged feet and turned the scale at 14 English stone. God, she looked huge&rsquo), has wings which she dyes purple, and flaps languidly aloft in the course of her circus act. She claims that, like Helen of Troy, she was hatched. Carter relishes the oddness of the myth, and wants to take her readers somewhere unbelievable, where rational analysis must yield to the contradictoriness of fantasy.
Maguire singles out for praise a contemporary translation &ndash a very free translation &ndash of Goethe&rsquos Faust by the Scottish playwright Jo Clifford, who tracks his own history as a transsexual through the figures of Faust (female in his version) and Helen, whose determined self-immolation at the end is &lsquoan attempt to save the world&rsquo, Maguire writes, rather too strenuously. Helen, she adds, &lsquohad to wait until 2006 to be given unequivocal agency and a strong political voice&rsquo. This book went to press before Glyn Maxwell wrote Blind Eye Crying, another very free translation, which splices together Euripides&rsquo plays Hecuba and The Trojan Women. In the Greek original, while Troy is being sacked Menelaus looks for Helen, intending to kill her. Hecuba and others warn him that she will unman him, and when he finds her she lets her dress fall and the sight of her beautiful breasts weakens his purpose. She embarks with him for Sparta. Maguire discusses the different versions of this antique act of striptease, with its fetishising of the female breast. Maxwell introduces a significant change. His reworking, too, shows Helen seducing Menelaus all over again, but he ascribes her power to her tongue, letting Helen speak for herself. Borrowing from her role in the Odyssey, Helen wins her husband with a charm which is a ditty, a simple nursery-like round.
Amid all these normative uses of Helen of Troy and her changes of shape, it&rsquos easy to forget the irreducible strangeness of Greek stories. It remains an unfailing source of wonder &ndash and perplexity &ndash how brilliantly they imagined things and how ingeniously they constructed a possible reality. The egg from which Helen was hatched used to be displayed in the temple of her brothers Castor and Pollux (they came out of the second egg produced by the union of Leda and Zeus) on the island of Corfu. Pausanias tells us he travelled there and saw the shell hanging over the altar, tied up in ribbons. The only relic of Helen on earth was probably a dinosaur egg.
List of 10 popular love legends
1- Troilus and Cressida
This legend takes place during the Trojan War Troilus was a Trojan prince who fell in love with Cressida, the daughter of a Trojan priest who had defected to the Greek side. Crésida is taken to the Greek side to make a political exchange.
Despite the promise to remain faithful, Crésida yields to the advances of Diomedes (a Greek fighter). Then Troilo, disconsolate by the betrayal of his lover, is killed by Achilles.
2- Zal and Rubadeh
It is a Persian legend that speaks of Zal, who as a child was lost on the top of a mountain. When he grew up, he was given a pen with the promise that this amulet would keep him safe on the trip to reunite with his father.
During his journey, he fell in love with Rubadeh, a woman with ankle-length hair. When he finally found his father, he learned that his family was an enemy of Rubadeh, so they had to separate.
But eventually Zal searched for her and stood under her balcony, where she could climb using Rubadeh's hair. Seeing them so in love, their families could not deny their marriage and gave their blessing.
When Rubadeh was giving birth, Zal threw the pen towards the fire to protect his new family.
3- Marco Antonio and Cleopatra
One of the most interesting love legends happened in the 31st century BC, between the continents of Europe and Africa.
Marco Antonio was a Roman general who fell in love with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and left his wife Octavia. Enraged, his ex-brother-in-law began an attack against him.
In the end, the Roman invading forces defeat Marco Antonio and Cleopatra, so both commit suicide to avoid being captured by the enemy.
The legend of this couple is popular both for their passion and for their political alliance Shakespeare even wrote a historical play inspired by it.
3- Geneva and Lancelot
Geneva was the consort of the legendary King Arthur, but fell in love with Sir Lancelot, one of the Knights of the Round Table.
The two begin a passionate and brief romance that ends when Arturo discovers them. Geneva is imprisoned, while Arturo attacks Lancelot. Although the details of this legend vary, the end of this conflict marks the end of this great king.
Eventually, Geneva enters a convent while Lancelot returns to his own land to live a life of penance.
4- The Butterfly Lovers
This legend tells about the Chinese couple Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. Zhu was a beautiful and intelligent woman who had to disguise herself as a man to get a better education. In the process he meets Liang and the two develop a deep connection.
Although Liang discovers Zhu's true identity, she makes it very late when she is going to marry another man Liang dies disconsolately.
On his wedding day, Zhu visits his grave and wishes it could be opened to enter. Suddenly there is a thunder, the grave opens and Zhu throws himself at her.
Their spirits are transformed into butterflies that fly free, never to be separated again.
5- Tristan and Isolde
Isolde of Ireland is engaged to the King of Cornwall, who sends his nephew Tristan to escort her to his kingdom. During this trip the young people fell in love.
Eventually Isolda marries her fiance and Tristan does the same with Isolde de Britania. However, the two are still in love.
Later, Tristan becomes ill and calls Isolda with the hope that he will heal him. They accept that if Isolde decides to return, the sails of the ships would be white and if she refused they would be black.
The candles were white, but Isolde de Britania gets jealous and lies to Tristan telling her they were black.
Tristan dies desolate before Isolde can reach him and in the end she dies of a broken heart.
6- Song of Eternal Repentance
This legend tells that Yang Yuhuan-one of the 4 beauties of ancient China-became the consort of Emperor Xuanzong.
Xuanzong was so distracted by his beauty that he ignored his political position. As a result, there was a rebellion.
Yang was blamed for the revolt and forced to hang herself. Xuanzong was so hurt by his death that he abdicated the crown and passed it on to his son.
7- Hero and Leandro
Hero (a priestess of Aphrodite) and Leandro fell in love. Every night Leandro swam through the Hellespont to reach it Hero lit a light in the tower to guide his way.
But one night, a storm blew the lamp and Leandro got lost. Unable to bear the loss of his lover, Hero launched himself from the tower and died.
8- Paris and Helena of Troy
It is a Greek historical legend. Helen of Troy, considered the most beautiful woman in the world, is married to Menelaus, the King of Sparta. Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy, falls in love with Helena and kidnaps her to Troy.
The Greeks formed an army to recover it and destroyed Troy in the process. But thanks to this Helena can return to Sparta, where she lived happily with Menelaus the rest of her life.
9- Paolo and Francesca
This legend takes place in Italy Francesca is married to Gianciotto, who is a horrible person. Eventually Francesca falls in love with her brother-in-law, Paolo the love between them develops when both begin to read the same book.
When the lovers are discovered, Gianciotto goes into rage and murders them.
10- Robin Hood and Lady Marian
This legend tells the story of Robin Hood (a noble lord), who fell in love at first sight with Marian (who came from the aristocracy).
At first she did not like it, but eventually she could not resist her charms and fell in love with him. But before they could get married, the Sheriff of Nottingham strips Robin of his fortune.
For this reason they must separate and Robin begins his life as a bandit living in the forest. He begins to take revenge on all those who lied and hurt other people, protecting all those who could not protect themselves. Time passed and Robin formed a band of helpers, but he never stopped thinking about Marian.
Eventually Marian decided to look for Robin to protect himself in his trip he decided to disguise himself as a young gentleman.
One day Robin, who was also hiding, met Marian in the forest. The two began to fight without recognizing each other, until one of them spoke and the costumes were removed.
When they recognized themselves they cried, they embraced and laughed happiness . Robin's band declared Marian as their queen and Robin as their king. The couple lived happily in the woods.