Helen – Did The Ancient Historians Get It Right or Were They Wrong?

Helen of Troy, her name has endured the test of time and to this day, people are still fascinated. Why? Is it her famous family lineage or the mystery which surrounds the myth? For me it was Homer’s story The Iliad that catapulted my fascination and desire to know more. Helen is a mystery. There is no hard evidence to suggest she existed, yet Bettany Hughes wrote a book Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore. So if a renowned historian can find enough primary and secondary sources to ‘pen’ a book, there must be some truth in the myth. Right?

Menelaus intends to strike Helen; struck by her beauty, he drops his swords. A flying Eros and Aphrodite (on the left) watch the scene.  by Menelaus Painter Louvre Museum

Menelaus intends to strike Helen; struck by her beauty, he drops his swords. A flying Eros and Aphrodite (on the left) watch the scene.
by Menelaus Painter ca. 450-440 BC
Louvre Museum

Then there is Heinrich Schliemann who, as an amateur archaeologist, was convinced Homer’s story was true, and spent his life’s fortunes proving his beliefs. He did find the site of Troy, though he did make a bit of a mess of it, and the home of Agamemnon; Mycenae. There will always be those who refute the idea that such people in the legend existed and the war never happened. I’m in the camp that believes it did. Perhaps not exactly how Homer described it, after all it is a story. In any case, myths and legends were based on some truth and taught valuable lessons.

In her words:
I am Helen, Queen of Sparta, wife to Menelaos and mother to Hermione. I know you would like to know more about the events that precipitated the war between the Greeks and Trojans, but perhaps another time.

Ancient Sparta Theatre ruins Photo by Κούμαρης Νικόλαος Wikipedia

Ancient Sparta
Theatre ruins
Photo by Κούμαρης Νικόλαος
Wikipedia

The Sparta I grew up in was nothing like in the day of Lykurgos, the law-maker who created the military state. We had warriors but they were men who farmed the lands, artisans and high born. It was a place of great music, drama and beauty. This was the Sparta I grew up in.

My status as a princess meant there were many expectations, one being groomed for marriage. All Spartan girls learnt a sacred dance to Artemis, our gift was our youth and virginity. I also learned how to weave and sow. I made Menelaos’ shroud, a task all Hellenic women were expected to make for their husbands.

I respected my parents and loved my sister Klytemnestra and brothers, Pollux and Castor. My brothers were a lot of fun and always watched out for me. It was the saddest day in my life when they were killed. I would never hear their laughter or kind words again. Klytemnestra, being the eldest, had a serious nature. I was much younger than her but we got on well. She would let me try on her jewellery and perfumes. I was upset when I heard of her death. I understood her grief and desire for revenge. A pity she didn’t stop to consider how her other children would react.

Today, I rule Sparta alone. Menelaos died some years ago. Hermione is of an age to marry, so now I will meet with potential suitors who will then become king of Sparta.

Now, where did I leave that necklace King Priam gave me?

 

Helen

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