Title: Of Sparta, of Troy, etc.
Position: Queen of Sparta, Princess of Troy
Location: er, her bedchamber in Troy at the moment
City of residence: Troy
Ahhh, Helen. Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world-- in history. There are many stories as to her birth. Some say she was the child of Zeus and Leda while others say that she was produced by Zeus and Nemesis, th elovely goddess of vengeance. others say that she just happened to have a really lucky genetic combination and that she was the actual child fo her mortal father, Tyndareus. ha. Those are the people who write mythology books for little kids. Any real myth-lover knows that Helen was born from the happy union of Zeus and Leda, mortal queen. The people who argue that it was Zeus and Nemesis-- Zeus changed shape, Nemesis changed shape to elude him, they became geese at the same time, the rest is history-- have one basic kink to work out-- why did Leda lay the eggs? So, it's pretty safe to assume that Helen was the child of the great god Zeus.
Our story would be boring if it weren't for the fact that Helen was abducted rather often. Theseus, killer of the Minotaur, and his hero-friend Pirithous had decided to play matchmaker for one another. Seems that Pirithous was interested in none other than Persephone, queen of the underworld. Hades, her husband, was shocked at his gall, and stuck him to a seat in Hades for all eternity. Theseus managed to escape (with the help of his buddy Hercules) and decided to abduct the young Helen of Troy, only 12 or 13 at the time.
We aren't sure what his intentions were, but Helen did not produce any offspring. (Although some argue that Iphigenia, dauhgter of Clytaemnestra, helen's sister, was actually Helen's. Like the Leda-egg thing, this perspective is flawed. If you give birth to it, honey, it's yours.) Her brothers Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri, (see The Children of Zeus and Leda) dashed off to rescue her, laying siege to Theseus's home city of Athens, and he was forced to relinquish her. Helen went home, and stayed there for a few more years.
Then, her father (no, no, not Zeus, he couldn't admit she was his or Hera would kill him) decided he could make a buck or two if he married her off to some rich old king. Agamemnon, Menelaus, Odysseus, all the great Greek warriors turned out to woo her. Poor Helen. She was only about 18, and the guys her own age (like Achilles, more about him later) were considered to young to bid for her.) Her father began to worry. What if the warriors came to blows over her? I mean, she is the most beautiful woman in the world, and these are the greatest fighters in all Greece, and...
Luckily, Helen had a cute cousin named Penelope. Odysseus was sweet on her, and he told Tyndareus that if he would be given her hand in marriage, he would provide a solution. Tyndareus readily agreed. Odysseus's solution was The Oath of the Horse-- the warriors had to swear over the carcass of a horse that they would support Helen's husband, whoever was selected, if she were ever abducted, which ensured that they couldn't abduct her themselves. Brilliant, Ody!
Tyndareus then did something really, really stupid. He picked Menelaus. Not only was Menelaus a bit paunchy, he already had kids by slave girls and he came from the drab warrior-kingdom of Sparta. Not the place for a girl like Helen. But it was too late, and the not-so-happy couple was married off.
A few months later, Helen bore a girl child-- Hermione. A few months later, a handsome visitor sailed in from Troy. His name was Paris. he took one look at Helen, and she took one look back, and MENELAUS DECIDED TO LEAVE FOR A HUNTING TRIP! NOW WHY THE HECK DID HE DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT? HE LEFT PARIS AND HELEN ALONE IN THE SAME HOUSE TOGETHER! AS THOUGH PARIS COULD BE TRUSTED WITH WOMEN! I MEAN, IN TROY, THE POPULATION HAD INCREASED A GREAT DEAL SINCE HE RETURNED FROM THE HILLS OF MOUNT IDA. WOMEN COULDN'T RESIST THE GUY. (TRUST ME. I WOULD KNOW. HE WAS ABOUT TO PUT THE MOVES ON HIS SISTERS WHEN HE FOUND OUT HIS TRUE IDENTITY.)
Of course, for every stupid action, there is an equal and opposite response. Paris promptly abducted Helen, both of them madly in love, and sailed along the islands having an, er, good time "honeymooning." They arrived at Troy (Helen hadn't brought the baby) and they were welcomed in great splendor. The men really, really like Helen, but Paris wasn't after their wives anymore, so they left her alone. At least for a while. Helen had a very pleasant 9 years in Troy, despite the war which started when Menelaus realized his mistake and called together the Greek forces. Then Paris got shot with a poisoned arrow, and he did what most people do when shot with a poisoned arrow. He died.
Pretty soon, Helen got shipped back to hideous old Menelaus in Sparta, where she sat and knitted until a bunch of nutty women decided to make her hang herself. And that's the end of the most beautiful woman in the world. Wow.