Helen-A Ten Year War
What is mythology? According to James Harvey Stout, it is an organized collection of stories by which we explain our beliefs in history. Myths usually confront major issues such as the origin of humanity and its traditions. It is the way in which the natural and human worlds function on a universal level. Other myth narrate the deities daily activities their love affairs and pleasures, their jealousies and rages, their ambitions and schemes, and their quarrels and battles. Homer s Iliad is work of literature where this is well represented. An example of a character who represents this notion is, the one and only, Helen.
Helen is perceived as the most inspired character in all literature, ancient or modern? At first glance we know she is a woman, a woman whose face launched a thousand ships. A whole war, one that lasted for 10 years, was fought over her. We know that she is made of flesh and blood, but yet she was immortal. However, in Homer s Iliad he produces negative attitude in regards to the way Helen is viewed. Is this in fact the truth; is this woman the cause of the death of thousands and the destruction of Troy? Let us take a journey back to ancient Greece, with the hopes of revealing the truth about this most controversial woman.
Helen of Sparta was a tantalizing enigma, so we hear, from the beginning. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leda, queen of Sparta. She was also famous in the world for her beauty and has been called the Lady of Sorrows. It appears that the story of Helen is more fascinating then the women herself. Ironically, we do not regard her as a God herself, despite her immortality and being the daughter of Zeus .The story concentrates more on the all who surround, as opposed to Helen herself.
Helen was abducted by Paris and held captive in Troy. It was because of Helen that a large army sailed against that city to demand the return of Helen to her husband Menelaus. When Menelaus learned that Helen sailed away with Paris, he turned to his brother Agamemnon to gather an army. An alliance was formed which sailed to Troy and demanded that Helen and the Spartan property be returned at once.
As well as being a captive, Helen is also looked upon as the cause of the Trojan War. Therefore, the characters of the Iliad repeatedly refer toward Helen in a negative manner every time her name is mentioned. It us unclear whether the war was over Helen or her numerous possessions and uncertain whether Aphrodite forced Helen to leave Paris. Although, most of the characters in the story blame Helen for the war, Menelaus sees her as a helpless victim. Priam, King of Troy, in seeing her as a victim as well, turns and blames the Gods.
Helen in her act of self-pity blames herself and regrets betraying her husband. Hence the fact, if Aphrodite was seen as an abstract embodiment of passion, Helen s act was motivated by lust and lust alone. Homer represents Helen as a woman who scorns her husband, and hungers for what she has left behind.
Helen is viewed as a disgrace to herself and all of Hellas, who fights a ten-year battle for an unvirtuous woman who leaves her husband for a foreigner. This is the reason she continues to display self-consciousness about the scandal of her behavior. Since virtue of Honor is the ideal, shame becomes her distinction.
As we return from our journey and reflect upon what we have learned of Helen, one can only say that she is nothing other than extraordinary woman. Although, Homer portrays a negative image of this character, one can t help imagine that this individual was at the of a war that inevitably affected all of Greece. One needs to ask what ordinary woman can have this affect on an entire country?