It’s not her fault she’s beautiful

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The words used to describe Helen make it perfectly believable that she was one of the most desired women, if not the most desired in Greek tradition. Who wouldn’t want to marry a woman as “striking as Artemis” (4.136)? Plus, she happens to be a daughter of Zeus, only the Father of all gods (4.205). 

When Helen first sees Telemachus, she notices that the guest has a striking resemblance to Odysseus, the man who was instrumental in rescuing her from Troy. She continues, saying all the battle were ruthlessly fought for “[my] sake, shameless whore [I] was.” Is she waiting for Menelaus and the others in the room to reassure her she in fact was innocent and did not play a role in her own “abduction”? Or does Helen genuinely feel guilty and burdened that Odysseus was torn away from his young son because of her decisions? 

Helen was said to have willfully gone with Paris, her captor, to Troy to marry him. Yet she does not once mention his name or shame herself any further. When Telemachus shows up in Sparta, a significant amount of time has passes and Helen could have already come to terms with the repercussions of the war. Additionally, it seems that Menelaus does not react to Helen’s strong words in a negative light and instead seems to reassure her that nothing is wrong. 

After Menelaus laments about Odysseus, Helen dissolves into tears, followed by Telemachus, Menelaus and Pisistratus. Soon after, Helen roofies the emotionally vulnerable group with spiked wine. Admittedly, I too would be distraught if my guests, husband and others were all just sobbing. There must be an element of ‘xenia,’ and her desperation must of translated to the need to quickly lift the mood, though by questionable means. This indicates her wounds are still quite fresh and by not talking about the subject, she is able to forget the pain she’s caused. 

Her defense mechanisms work in the end, because Telemachus does not once react to Helen’s stories of his father’s heroism. He does not direct the blame towards her or inquire further about his father’s role in her saving. 

38 thoughts on “It’s not her fault she’s beautiful

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