Helen


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Wikipedia.

Helen

Helen, in Greek mythology, the most beautiful of women; daughter of Leda and Zeus, and sister of Castor and Pollux and Clytemnestra. While still a young girl Helen was abducted to Attica by Theseus and Polydeuces, but Castor and Pollux rescued her. Later, when she was courted by the greatest heroes and chieftains of Greece, her foster father, Tyndareus, fearful of their jealousies, demanded that each suitor swear to defend the rights of the man Helen chose. She then married Menelaus, who, when Paris carried her off to Troy, reminded her former suitors of their oath. They then recruited an army and defeated the Trojans in the Trojan War.

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.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Helen

carried off by Paris, thus precipitating Trojan war. [Gk. Lit.: Iliad, Hall, 147]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
She kissed me, and still keeping me at her side (where I was well contented to stand, for I derived a child's pleasure from the contemplation of her face, her dress, her one or two ornaments, her white forehead, her clustered and shining curls, and beaming dark eyes), she proceeded to address Helen Burns.
"How are you to-night, Helen? Have you coughed much to-day?"
Imagine how disconcerting for Helen! What is wanted is a person who will go slowly, slowly in this business, and see how things are and where they are likely to lead to."
Something must be done about Helen. She must be assured that it is not a criminal offence to love at first sight.
She told Helen that he always called on Sundays when they were at home; he knew about a great many things--about mathematics, history, Greek, zoology, economics, and the Icelandic Sagas.
"Has he ever been in love?" asked Helen, who had chosen a seat.
Sensing his mood, Helen walked beside him filled with respect.
In the darkness under the roof of the grand-stand, George Willard sat beside Helen White and felt very keenly his own insignificance in the scheme of exis- tence.
'My darling angel - my own Helen,' cried I, now passionately kissing the hand I still retained, and throwing my left arm around her, 'you never shall repent, if it depend on me alone.
And you do love me, Helen?' said I, not doubting the fact, but wishing to hear it confirmed by her own acknowledgment.
"Sir," answered Helen, "father of my husband, dear and reverend in my eyes, would that I had chosen death rather than to have come here with your son, far from my bridal chamber, my friends, my darling daughter, and all the companions of my girlhood.
898: The writer (3) of the Cyprian histories says that (Helen's third child was) Pleisthenes and that she took him with her to Cyprus, and that the child she bore Alexandrus was Aganus.