Helen Of Troy

Helen was the most beautiful woman in the entire Greek known world. She was the daughter of the god Zeus and of Leda, and wife of the King of Sparta. The hero Theseus, who hoped in time to marry her, abducted her in childhood but her brothers rescued her. Because Helen was courted by so many prominent heroes, Menelaus 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.

Helen's beauty was the direct cause of the Trojan War. The ten-year conflict began when the three goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite asked the Trojan prince Paris to choose the most beautiful among them. After each of the goddesses had attempted to influence his decision, Paris chose Aphrodite, who had promised him the world's most beautiful woman.

Soon afterward Paris sailed to Greece, where Helen and her husband hospitably received him, Menelaus, king of Sparta. Helen, as the fairest of her sex, was the prize destined for Paris. Although she was living happily with Menelaus, Helen fell under the influence of Aphrodite and allowed Paris to persuade her to run off with him, and he carried her off to Troy. Menelaus then called upon the Greek leaders, including Helen's former suitors, to help him rescue his wife, and with few exceptions they responded to his call. Agamemnon his brother led the forces to Troy. During ten years of conflict, the Greeks and Trojans fought irresolutely. Then Paris and Menelaus agreed to meet in single combat between the opposing armies, and Helen was summoned to view the duel. As she approached the tower, where the aged King Priam and his counselors sat, her beauty was still so matchless and her sorrow so great that no one could feel for her anything but compassion. Although the Greeks claimed the victory in the battle between the two warriors, Aphrodite helped Paris escape from the enraged Menelaus by enveloping him in a cloud and taking him safely to Helen's chamber, where Aphrodite compelled the unwilling Helen to lie with him.

Unable to capture the city after a siege of ten years, the Greeks resorted to strategy. Agamemnon’s forces, namely Odysseus, came up with a plan. They sailed away and left the Trojan horse, filled with armed warriors, on the shore. Sinon, a Greek spy, persuaded the Trojans to take the horse into the city, convincing them that to do so would mysteriously make Troy invulnerable. That night Sinon let out the armed Greek troops; killing the guards, they opened the gates to the Greeks, and Troy was captured and burned.

After the death of Paris and the fall of Troy, Menelaus was reunited with his wife, and they soon left Troy for their native Greece. They had, however, incurred the displeasure of the gods and were therefore driven by storms from shore to shore in the Mediterranean Sea, stopping in Cyprus, Phoenicia, and Egypt. Arriving at length in Sparta, Menelaus and Helen resumed their reign and lived the rest of their days in royal splendor. They had one daughter, Hermione.




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