See studies by E. A. Carmean (1989) and J. Elderfield (1989).
See her memoirs Gift of Joy (1965; with L. Funke), On Reflection (1968; with S. Dody), Twice Over Lightly (1972; with A. Loos), and My Life in Three Acts (1990; with K. Hatch); biography by her mother, Catherine Hayes Brown (1940).
Some legends say that Paris forcibly abducted Helen; others that she fell in love with him and went willingly. In one peculiar account, originating in Stesichorus and used by Euripides, Helen was rescued by Proteus in Egypt, who substituted in her stead a phantom that sailed to Troy with Paris. Proteus then cared for Helen until Menelaus finally claimed her. In the Iliad and Odyssey, Helen becomes Paris' wife but is in sympathy with the Greeks. She is easily reconciled with Menelaus after the war, and they return to a peaceful life at Sparta.
There are several other accounts of the story of Helen. Some say that after she and Menelaus returned to Greece, Orestes vengefully tried to kill her but that Zeus deified her. She bore Menelaus one daughter, Hermione, and, by some accounts, a son, Pleisthenes. Helen had cults in Sparta and elsewhere and is considered by some scholars to be a "faded" goddess—perhaps an ancient fertility goddess—who became a mortal woman.
See her memoir, In No Uncertain Terms (1993); study by M. Pimstone (1973, repr. 2005).
In Greek mythology, Helen (in Greek, Ἑλένη – Helénē), better known as Helen of Sparta later Helen of Troy, was the daughter of Zeus and Leda, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta and sister of Castor, Polydeuces and Clytemnestra. Her abduction by Paris brought about the Trojan War. Helen was described by Christopher Marlowe as having "the face that launched a thousand ships."
If it has an Indo-European etymology, it is possibly a suffixed form of a root *wel- "to turn, roll or "to cover, enclose" (compare Varuna, Veles), or of *sel- "to flow, run". The latter possibility would allow comparison to Vedic Saraṇyū, who is abducted in RV 10.17.2, a parallel suggestive of a Proto-Indo-Asian abduction myth.
The name is in any case unrelated to Hellenes, as is sometimes claimed ("Hellenes" being from the root *sed- "to sit, settle").
In most sources, including the Iliad and the Odyssey, Helen is the daughter of Zeus and Leda. Euripides' play Helen, written in the late 5th century BC, is the earliest source to report the most familiar account of Helen's birth: that Zeus, in the form of a swan, was chased by an eagle, and sought refuge with Leda. The swan gained her affection, and the two mated. Leda then produced an egg, from which Helen was born.
On the other hand, in the Cypria, one of the Cyclic Epics, Helen was the daughter of Zeus and the goddess Nemesis. The date of the Cypria is uncertain, but it is generally thought to preserve traditions that date back to at least the 7th century BC. In the Cypria, Nemesis did not wish to mate with Zeus. She therefore changed shape into various animals as she attempted to flee Zeus, finally becoming a goose. Zeus also transformed himself into a goose and mated with Nemesis, who produced an egg from which Helen was born. Presumably in the Cypria this egg was given to Leda; in the 5th century comedy Nemesis by Cratinus, Leda was told to sit on an egg so that it would hatch, and this is no doubt the egg that was produced by Nemesis. Asclepiades and Pseudo-Eratosthenes related a similar story, except that Zeus and Nemesis became swans instead of geese. Timothy Gantz has suggested that the tradition that Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan derives from the version in which Zeus and Nemesis transformed into birds.
In most accounts of this event, Helen was quite young; Hellanicus of Lesbos said she was seven years old and Diodorus makes her ten years old. On the other hand, Stesichorus said that Iphigeneia was the daughter of Theseus and Helen, which obviously implies that Helen was of childbearing age. In most sources, Iphigeneia is the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, but Duris of Samos and other writers followed Stesichorus' account.
When it was time for Helen to marry, many kings and princes from around the world came to seek her hand or sent emissaries to do so on their behalf.
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All suitors brought many rich gifts with them, with the exception of Odysseus.
Helen's father, Tyndareus, would not choose a suitor, or send any of the suitors away, for fear of offending them and giving grounds for a quarrel. Odysseus promised to solve the problem if Tyndareus would support him in his courting of Penelope, the daughter of Icarius. Tyndareus readily agreed and Odysseus proposed that, before the decision was made, all the suitors should swear a most solemn oath to defend the chosen husband against whoever should quarrel with him. This stratagem succeeded and Helen and Menelaus were married. Following Tyndareus' death, Menelaus became king of Sparta because the only male heirs, Castor and Pollux, had died and ascended to Olympus.
Some years later, Paris, a Trojan prince, came to Sparta to marry Helen, whom he had been promised by Aphrodite after he had chosen her as the most beautiful of the goddesses, earning the wrath of Athena and Hera. Some sources say that Helen willingly left behind her husband Menelaus and Hermione, their nine-year-old daughter, to be with Paris, but, since Aphrodite promised Helen to Paris, there is some ambiguity about whether or not Helen went willingly. Some scholars have argued that Helen's abduction by Paris was in fact a rape (termed abduction as per the ancient understanding of raptus). Sources from Herodotus to material culture support this view. Ancient vases depict both the shameless Helen who went willingly to Troy and abduction stories in which Helen is taken by force.
Helen's relationship with Paris varies depending on the source of the story. In some, she loved him dearly (perhaps caused by Aphrodite, who had promised her to Paris). In others, she was portrayed as his unwilling captive in Troy, or as a cruel, selfish woman who brought disaster to everyone around her, and she hated him. In the version used by Euripides in his play Helen, Hermes fashioned a likeness of her out of clouds at Zeus's request, and Helen never even went to Troy, spending the entire war in Egypt. In all, she is described as being of magnificent beauty.
When he discovered that his wife was missing, Menelaus called upon all the other suitors to fulfill their oaths, thus beginning the Trojan War. Almost all of Greece took part, either attacking Troy with Menelaus or defending it from them.
Menelaus had demanded that only he should slay his unfaithful wife; but, when he raised his sword to do so, she dropped her robe from her shoulders, and the sight of her beauty caused him to let the sword drop from his hand.
According to Pausanias the geographer (3.19.10.):
"The account of the Rhodians is different. They say that when Menelaus was dead, and Orestes still a wanderer, Helen was driven out by Nicostratus and Megapenthes and came to Rhodes, where she had a friend in Polyxo, the wife of Tlepolemus. For Polyxo, they say, was an Argive by descent, and when she was already married to Tlepolemus, shared his flight to Rhodes. At the time she was queen of the island, having been left with an orphan boy. They say that this Polyxo desired to avenge the death of Tlepolemus on Helen, now that she had her in her power. So she sent against her when she was bathing handmaidens dressed up as Furies, who seized Helen and hanged her on a tree, and for this reason the Rhodians have a sanctuary of Helen of the Tree."
Tlepolemus was a son of Heracles and Astyoche. Astyoche was a daughter of Phylas, King of Ephyra who was killed by Heracles. Tlepolemus was killed by Sarpedon on the first day of fighting in the Iliad. Nicostratus was a son of Menelaus by his concubine Pieris, an Aetolian slave. Megapenthes was a son of Menelaus by his concubine Tereis, no further origin.
In Simonianism, it was taught that Helen of Troy was one of the incarnations of the Ennoia in human form.