The Great Teller of Tales: The Real Couples of the Odyssey
Sep 21, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra are the farthest thing from being a good couple. Menelaus and Helen aren't a very good couple, either. All of the . Odysseus' main goal throughout the story is to get home to see Penelope. Jul 22, The mythic character Clytemnestra, a woman who has been described as In the description of his seduction of Clytemnestra in book III, he is the one who initiates their relationship, and .. Aeschylus's decision to change the purpose of Clytemnestra's . But now for the sake of Helen's lust and for the man. When Helen, Clytemnestra's sister, left her husband, King Menelaus of Sparta, When Clytemnestra discovered the true purpose her husband had in mind for.
Another similarly tiresome account had Paris robbing the king of Sidon, who had offered the party hospitality on their way up the coast. Already disgraced in most eyes, Paris would then have been little more than a pirate. Whatever minor adventures befell them, the company came at last to Troy. A wedding ceremony took place, and it was as though Helen was marrying Troy, since her destiny became at that moment interlocked with the destiny of the city. Even Priam was fully won over and vowed to protect her as long as she wanted to remain.
The lovers had barely left Sparta before couriers were running swiftly to all parts of Greece. The unthinkable had happened. Menelaus came swiftly back from Crete, where his loitering with a nymph had allowed the elopers ample time to outdistance any possible pursuit. Not only was his family dishonored, but he took the insult almost personally. One suspects he himself was in love with his sister-in-law. Swift action was taken. Menelaus, Odysseus, and, according to some, Acamas, the son of Theseus, went to Troy to demand that Helen be returned.
Incidentally, this above all would seem to silence the versions that had Paris and Helen taking months to reach Troy. Though counseled by such advisers as Antenor and Aeneas to surrender Helen, Priam stubbornly held to his promise to her. Moreover, he recalled the reverse situation when his sister Hesione had been kidnapped by Heracles and Telamon, and the Greeks had turned deaf ears to entreaties for her return.
The envoys returned to Greece, and preparations for war began. The former suitors of Helen were reminded of the oath they had sworn. Armies were recruited and ships were built. Men who had been boys when Helen married came forward to enlist in a cause that the gods transported her to Elysium.
This was the most fitting end of the story since Helen was, after all, immortal. Consequently, Menelaus could scarcely have carried out his intention of killing her when he was reunited with her at Troy.
Immortal or not, her physical remains and those of Menelaus were supposed to be buried at Therapne in a temple dedicated to them. Writers even followed her into the afterworld, where they had her marry Achilles, making him her fifth husband, following Theseus, Menelaus, Paris, and Deiphobus. From there she was even said to have blinded the poet Stesichorus for writing unflattering things about her; she restored his vision when he recanted and composed a poem in her praise.
The most fascinating thing about Helen was her story. It was far better than she was. We do not see any real character development in her and have to regard her as a pawn of the gods. The larger story is involved with the people around her, their rise and fall. She herself seemed almost oblivious to the horrors that surrounded her. She displayed very little emotion and no remorse.
She seemed removed and largely unaffected by the outcome of the war. In most accounts of her final years she was not even made to pay for her part in the calamity that touched virtually every family in Greece. It is small wonder some writers contrived alternative versions in which she was made to pay a debt to society.
From Women of Classical Mythology: We have little reason to doubt it, but we have little more to believe that it was the greatest conflict ever to have occurred.
The Greeks however, thought that it was: With the passage of time these heroic exploits had entered the realm of legend, people were convinced that the gods had taken part, and history became myth. The Trojan War glows with a dark fire at the dawn of time as the unsurpassable model for all the wars that were to come. An extraordinary phenomenon must have an extraordinary cause.
Did Homer think so? It is impossible to tell: One thing is clear: The affair started with a woman being raped and a raid -- an act of brigands. Paris went off with plundered treasure, and a queen to boot. With Aphrodite's blessing, he made the queen his wife. But other bards, whose work has been lost, were not satisfied with such a humble explanation. They built up a cycle of epics telling the whole story of the war from the beginning.
They described the origin of the affair ab ovo. They accepted that Zeus wanted to decimate the human race which had become too numerous, and posited a whole series of events: This woman, Helen, was the daughter of Zeus and Leda; as Zeus had disguised himself as a swan to seduce his beloved, Helen and her brothers the Dioscuri were born ab ovo -- from an egg. This explication of the whole episode entails several difficulties.
The main question is the extent to which Helen accepted the fate assigned to her. Did she act of her own free will? It was not long before people wondered if she had followed Paris voluntarily.Trojan War - Agamemnon and Menelaus
It is an important distinction. In the first instance it could be said that she was the occasion of the war, which makes her no less odious; in the second she was responsible for the war, and could thus be hated as a scourge, and also condemned on moral grounds.
Such condemnation became increasingly necessary in the eyes of the Greeks, who were developing a personal morality, but was ever less acceptable to those among them who saw Helen as a goddess.
The immorality of religious myths shocked more than one right-thinking person in the fifth century BC.
In some towns, Sparta in particular, there were temples to Helen, feasts of Helen and a cult of Helen, who figured as the protectress of adolescent girls and young married women. It would be shocking if elsewhere she had set an example of adultery. And the closer we go towards presenting the story in human terms, the closer we come to the unacceptable. Aeschylus turned Helen into a being who was both abstract and divine, a sort of curse closely allied to the goddess Nemesis, -- who according to some traditions was her mother, and not Leda.
But Euripides saw his heroine purely as a woman; he did not even accept the possible intervention of Aphrodite to inspire Helen with an irresistible passion.
Hecabe says so very forcefully in the Troades: How far is this psychological speech, which uses allegory, also an impious speech casting doubt on the existence of the gods? It is not easy to say. In any case it is almost at the opposite pole from the chorus in Agamemnon where Aeschylus says of Helen that she is the Erinyes, the 'wife of tears' and 'the priest of Ate'; we are also a long way from the suggestion that Helen has a sort of divine mission, making her the instrument of fate: The virtual disappearance of the religious aspect of Helen that surrounded her with an aura of sacred terror laid her open to the most scathing insults.
People expressed amazement that the Trojan War should have been fought over such an unimportant creature -- a woman -- adding that the woman in question had absolutely no value because she herself had no sense of her own dignity.
A fine assortment of insults could easily be garnered from Euripides. This tradition did not stop with him; at the height of the neoclassical period in Europe the name of Helen became a simple figure of speech, a metonym that could be used to designate any woman who was dangerous because she was flighty; in Schiller's Maria Stuart one of the queen's most persistent opponents can find no worse epithet for her than this: Euripides was alive at the time when sophistry was born.
No doubt he was as amused as anyone else by the idea of pleading lost causes. Gorgias and Isocrates each produced a eulogy of Helen. The tragic poet had shown them the way by putting a plea in the heroine's own mouth Troades ff.
There is censure of the power of the gods, the origin of desire and the power of seduction: Or there is praise of beauty. From whatever angle it was approached it was not a comfortable morality: A philosophical dimension loomed. Homer was happy to concede that the Trojan populace felt ill-will towards Helen, but the finest Trojans, Priam, his advisers and Hector, found it impossible not to respect her.
At one point in the Iliad VI. Homer's successors never tired of pondering a parallel between Helen and Achilles. One of the poets of the epic cycle had proposed a meeting between the most beautiful daughter of Zeus and the most valiant of heroes.
Much later it was imagined that these two marvellous beings were united beyond death on the fabled Isles of the Blessed. But Euripides had already pointed out Helen 99 that Achilles had been prominent among Helen's suitors, and that the Trojan War had been envisaged also with a view to allowing Achilles to distinguish himself op. Paradoxically the concern to elevate Helen from the realm of sordid anecdote and restore her to an epic role, was to have the effect of casting doubt on the epic itself.
Since it was vital that beautiful Helen should be virtuous, it was claimed that she had never been in Troy, that Zeus had put a phantom in her place or that a king of Egypt had snatched her from Paris to protect her. The second version, which was known to Herodotus, has had a long life: Wolf imagines that the Trojans pretended Helen was within their walls so as not to lose face.
The first version also effectively makes Helen an object of derision, and again presents in an exaggerated form the bitter judgement so often repeated -- a woman was not a worthwhile cause for people to kill one another. Yet this was not the point of view expressed by Euripides, the poet supposed to hate women, in his tragedy Helen.
Clytemnestra - The Role of Women in the Art of Ancient Greece
Not only does he depict her character in the same touching, majestic light as his Alcestis or his Polyxena in Hecabehe even extends the study of the sufferings of misrepresented innocence to a tragic interrogation of the identity of the person: Helen is a woman who has been robbed of her very name and face.
Saved because the gods finally proclaim the truth, she can rejoin or at least expect to rejoin the pleasant atmosphere of the feasts in Sparta I. No doubt he bore in mind that according to a tradition relayed by Plato Phaedrus a the poet Stesichorus had been blinded by the gods for speaking ill of Helen, recovering his sight only after reciting the Palinode a recantation.
It is impossible to know which of the two traditions Euripides was more committed to, that which he followed in his Helen or the other which is evident in the rest of his plays, where he attacks her as fickle, flirtatious and brazen.
We can only note that other heroic characters were also depicted by Euripides in a none too favourable light: If Hecabe reproaches Helen, she does not spare Odysseus. Reading the great tragedies that conjure up the fall of Troy Traodes, Hecabe and to some extent Andromache as well we get the impression that the judicious balance that Homer's epic poems preserved between the two opposing sides has been upset, and certainly not in favour of the victors.
The legend also became degraded. Once seen as a divine scourge, Helen was now regarded as a hateful woman. Others merely adopted a light, frivolous, scornful tone when writing about her.
How could we justify censuring those poets for whom Helen is perfectly and impudently at ease with her conscience, always supposing she has one? All the same, Helen is cast with remarkable frequency as a burdened soul who finds it hard to recognize her own identity, in the work of both those who stick to the Trojan version and those who adopt the Egyptian variant.
One of the first times he mentions Helen Homer speaks of her 'sobs'. And the distress of the innocent Helen in Euripides' play is immense. Beside this motif there is another: Helen is par excellence the woman carried off by a stranger. Abducted by Theseus, then by Paris, recaptured by her brothers, then by her husband, snatched from Paris by an Egyptian king, then from the son of that king by Menelaus, taken off by Simon Magus, then by Faust, sent to the heavens or to the Isles of the Blessed: It will be remembered that in Troades Helen is 'held prisoner with all the women taken in Troy' 1, She is imprisoned like Hecabe, Andromache and Cassandra.
For the film he produced in Cacoyannis had a cage built in which Helen was discovered, and suddenly booed. And in the plea she makes, however sophistical it may be, the reviled princess claim that her time spent in Troy has always been to her a period of captivity.
Morality and psychology would lead one to expect many subtle differences in the relationships between the characters. Euripides, for example, organized his tragedy round a conflict between Helen and Hecabe, and Tennyson made his poem a complaint levelled at Helen by Iphigenia.
Helen of Troy
He and Clytemnestra eventually had three daughters—Chrysothemis, Electra, and Iphigenia—and a son, Orestes. Meanwhile, Menelaus became king of Sparta after the death of Tyndareos. When Paris returned to Troy, he took Helen with him. At the time of Menelaus's marriage to Helen, all the rulers of the Greek city-states had promised to come to her defense if necessary.
Menelaus reminded them of their promise, and they agreed to go to war against Troy to bring Helen back. Agamemnon was chosen to lead the Greeks in battle. Agamemnon prepared a fleet of ships to carry the Greeks to Troy. As punishment, Artemis caused the winds to die down so that the Greek fleet could not sail.
The Mesopotamians regretted the fact that humans could not live forever like the gods. Their mythical heroes sought eternal life even though the gods showed them that they were doomed to fail.
By contrast, one of the basic ideas of Greek mythology is that all humans have a fate that cannot be escaped and limits that they should not try to exceed. The Greeks believed that individuals must face their fate with pride and dignity, gaining as much fame as possible. People—such as Agamemnon—who believed they could change fate by their own actions were guilty of hubris.
They would eventually be punished by Nemesis, the vengeance of the gods. When his daughter arrived, Agamemnon killed her.
Although the sacrifice pleased Artemis and allowed the Greek ships to sail, it would later have terrible consequences for Agamemnon. The Greeks fought the people of Troy for nine years and seized many of their cities. However, they failed to capture the city of Troy. This is the point at which the Iliad begins, and Agamemnon's arrogance and pride come into play again. After winning a battle against the Trojans, Agamemnon received a female prisoner named Chryseis as part of his booty.
Chryses begged for the return of his daughter, but Agamemnon refused. Angered, Apollo sent a plague to devastate the Greek forces. The hero Achilles demanded that Chryseis be returned to her father. He finally agreed on the condition that he be given Briseis, a female slave of whom Achilles had grown very fond.
Achilles became so angry that he laid down his arms and refused to fight any longer. This proved to be a costly mistake because without Achilles the Greeks began to lose badly.
Achilles returned to the battle only after learning of the death of his close friend Patroclus. When he rejoined the Greek forces, the tide of battle turned.