Trojan War: Beginning III
Some of you may have even seen Troy, the movie with Brad Pitt playing a very sensitive Achilles and Orlando Bloom as a painfully wus Paris. The movie was good, despite the fact that it's really loosely based on the Trojan War, but seeing Helen was a big downer. I mean, she was hot (and that was great given my feelings about most artistic representations of the heroine), but what's awesome about Helen is that no one ever can really know her. She is profoundly multi-dimensional and beyond any one telling.
I'm here to tell you the story how those infamous thousand ships got launched, but, since you can go ahead and read Homer’s Iliad to see the version focusing on such heroes as Achilles and Hector, I will begin with the woman who got the blame, and I will begin at the beginning.
Leda was the very beautiful Queen of Sparta and married to King Tyndareus by loved by the King of the gods, Zeus himself. Only, this wasn't any old' seduction, as you may remember, Zeus was quite creative, and in this case, he took the shape of a swan. Less than a year later, Leda laid two eggs. The first contained Helen and Polydeuces and the second held Helen’s younger siblings: Clytemnestra and Castor. Helen and Polydeuces were Zeus' children, while the second egg belonged to Tyndareus. Anyway, Helen grew up in Sparta getting more and more beautiful until just after she hit puberty and really began to follow in her mother's footsteps by getting abducted.
The abductor was the equally famous Theseus, King of Athens. He took her to Aphidna and they did their thing for a good while. At any rate, his goal of banging a daughter of Zeus now accomplished, the king moved on. But Helen was still a hot commodity, and her family - especially her brothers who were heroes in their own right - wanted her back. Castor and Polydeuces (the Dioscuri) attacked Athens and got Helen back and even took some girl slaves of their own while they were there. Back home, Clytemnestra was already married (first to Tantalus and then to Agamemnon who we will see later) but Helen, well, now that she was home her unmarried status became an immediate problem.
As Mr. Robert Bell says, "Every red-blooded male in Greece who had heard of the gorgeous Helen dreamed of possessing her." The rule of Sparta was matrilineal and thus she was such a hot ticket because she also brought with her in marriage one of the most successful cities on the continent and a great powerful military force in Greece: the Spartan Army. Fortunately for Tyndareus, when Odysseus came (and ended up walking out with Penelope, Helen's cousin), he made a suggestion that suitors be required to swear an oath:
Whoever Tyndareus chose to be Helen's husband must be respected by the rest, and more than that, ready to defend that relationship against anyone who would try to steal her away.
As it turns out, Tyndareus randomly chose Menelaus. He was kind of like a noble, plain-looking, rich brat (since most of his power and money came from his powerful brother Agamemnon -the one that married Clytemnestra?). Yeah, well, anyway, when his granddad died he went for rituals and met Paris (his boytoy) and took him home and then LEFT him there while he took a trip to Crete. WTF!? Well, I assume he felt safe given the oath of the suitors. Well, Paris had the goddess Aphrodite herself.
Young, dashing, arrogant Paris seal the deal and off they went in his ship back to Thebes. Helen was NOT kidnapped! She willingly went with Paris. If she was kidnapped Paris would in millions of pieces by the Spartan people. Addition, Spartan women can protect them and can fight as well as the men.
Aphrodite had cursed both daughters of Tyndareus to be unfaithful and hey look; she was already sleeping with slaves! Even if she was in love, there was a whole lot of sorrow in her life and her relationships hurt a lot of people, not least of all Helen.