by CTCWeb Editors
Helen's Virtue in Doubt
With Aphrodite’s help, Paris immediately set sail for Sparta to collect his prize. But, here the story is hazy. One version of the story claims that Paris kidnapped Helen from Menelaus’ house (image), stealing rich treasures as well as Helen. Another version claims that Paris encountered Menelaus on his way to Sparta and was invited to Menelaus’ palace as a guest. While he was in Sparta as Menelaus’ guest, Paris and Helen fell in love with the assistance of Aphrodite. The two lovers escaped while Menelaus was away. In this version of the story, Helen went willingly to Troy with the handsome young prince (image).
Eighteenth Century Cartoon of The Abduction of Helen
Upon her arrival at Troy, Helen enchanted the Trojans. King Priam was bewitched by her beauty. He promised to protect her for as long as she wanted to remain in Troy. Quickly, Paris and Helen married, although Helen was still Menelaus’ wife. In this version of the story, Helen was guilty of adultery and bigamy. Paris was guilty of violating the sacred guest-host bond of hospitality. This breach was a major social transgression during a time when cultural code was the only law by which people lived.
The juxtaposition of the conflicting versions of her story cast Helen’s virtue in classic ambiguity. The acceptance of these opposed versions as equally plausible reflect the dualism that is found throughout Greek mythology. Dualism is a doctrine that the universe is under the dominion of two opposing principles, one good and the other evil, giving human beings the quality of having a dual nature. The compatibility of contrasting versions of Helen’s story reflects the dualistic view of human nature.
Troy Travel Guide
The city of Troy was located in northwestern Mysia, present-day Turkey. Paris and Helen only needed to travel northeast from Sparta around 300 miles or 483 kilometers across the Aegean Sea to reach their destination. It is believed that the city of Troy was founded around 3000 BCE. The city grew to be wealthy and powerful because of its important location on the Hellespont (the narrow stretch of water that separated Mysia from Thrace) that placed Troy on trade routes between Greece and Asia.
The date of the fall of Troy as the result of the Trojan War is usually agreed upon as 1184 BCE. However, the storied fall of Troy did not completely eradicate the city. Just as there were previous iterations of the city at the site before its famed destruction by the Greeks, there were numerous settlements on the same location after that date as well.
Herodotus reports in his Histories that in the early 4th century BCE the Persian despot Xerxes, while traveling with his armies from Persia to Greece, stopped to view the site of the fabled city when he was passing it. Further, Plutarch, in his Life of Alexander, recounts that in 334 BCE, Alexander the Great visited Troy during his invasion of Asia. Alexander was drawn to the tomb of Achilles where he participated in a customary race around the tomb. Alexander claimed to envy Achilles’ friendship with Patroclus and his glorification in a poem by such a master as Homer.