Helen’s beauty was able “to launch a thousand ships”. It is the main reason why the war that lasted for ten years broke out. This conflict gathered a big amount of gods, goddesses, kings, and heroes on the opposite sides and caused many deaths and the destruction of the whole nation. This paper defines the ability of Helen’s beauty to raise the international conflict and describes her power usage and decisions she makes. In addition, it gives an explanation about the current image of Helen in the today’s society.
Helen’s divine origin, incomparable beauty, and social status were factors that caused the general perception of this woman as the precious treasure that could not be taken away from the owner. People knew about her beauty all over Greece and treated her as a person of higher status. Men were driven by the overwhelming desire to own her. “The myth of Helen’s origins implicitly justifies the pursuit of these goals by granting her extraordinary as casus belli” (Blondell, 2013, p. 39). Taking into consideration the fact that she was the only Zeus’ daughter from the mortal woman, it was obvious that she would have supreme power. In case of the princess, this power was in her outstanding beauty. Moreover, officially being the princess of Sparta, this girl could afford many things that were unreachable for other women of her time.
According to mythology, Helen was abducted once before her marriage. The first time Theseus did it. However, the princess was brought home still being a virgin. To avoid conflicts between the daughter’s suitors while wooing, Tyndareos allowed Helen to choose her future husband by herself. During Helen’s matchmaking, one more important event happened. The king of Sparta “hold all the suitors to an oath, that if anything ever happened they would rally to recover her wherever she was” (Martin, 2003, p. 187). From this statement, it becomes clear that the male society was subconsciously ready for her new abduction and the oncoming war. The fact that all her suitors took the oath confirms the possibility to start a military conflict because of this woman. Men gave Helen power that could control and destroy them. To be more exact, they gave this devastating power to her great beauty, not to her as a person.
From the very beginning, the male society emphasized Helen’s divine origin and worshiped her beauty. Such kind of treatment pushed her to act in such a reckless way. Moreover, her behavior can also be justified by her origin as it was normal for goddesses to be abducted or married more than once (Blondell, 2013). What is more, it was an ordinary thing to start wars in the name of gods in ancient times. That is why, it can be stated that the surrounding subconsciously “wanted” her to do such things. Helen left her husband and the daughter and ran away to Troy. Thus, she did as she “was asked to”. Was she able not to do it? Perhaps, no as the community provoked her to have such kind of behavior. To conclude, the society of that time was ready for such Helen’s behavior as she had power given to her by Zeus and proven by the people. She subconsciously knew she should do all the reckless deeds she did.
Helen had a power that made her superior tor all the other women in the world. Her origin and divine beauty were key characteristics of her possible success as everything was reachable for her. She could choose her destiny by herself although it was “a rare practice” (Blondell, 2013, p. 30) for that time. Marriage was the main determiner of women’s future in Ancient Greece. Helen, probably, was the only mortal woman who had such kind of opportunity. It means that she took precedence over not only women, but also the men as she had a right to choose from them.
There are some facts that confirm the influence of her power on the surrounding. Firstly, while being married to Menelaus, Helen gave birth only to one daughter. Ten years of marriage did not bring an heir to the king of Sparta. Nevertheless, he did not reject his wife; on the contrary, he still loved her and treated her as an honorable queen. Secondly, after arrival in Troy, Priam and the society did not exile her, knowing how terrible her sin was and what could it mean to his town. The society of Troy treated her as Paris’s wife despite the fact that she was already married. Thirdly, when Troy had fallen, Menelaus wanted to find and kill his unfaithful wife. However, when he saw how beautiful she was, he put his sword away (Martin, 2003). Post-war stories tell that Menelaus took Helen back and treated her as his wife (Blondell, 2013). It implies that he forgave Helen’s adultery and their relationships were the same as they had been before her escape and the military conflict. All these facts prove that Helen’s beauty saved her life more than once.
It cannot be stated that she used her power to reach some status or she had some motives to show herself from some particular side. The society accepted everything she did because she was thought to be a supreme woman. In her position, she should have reached more than just being an idol of beauty or a treasure of some nation. She could use her superiority to have some benefits for herself. Helen should have acted in the way she wanted to, but not the society. Using her power, she could even rule the country. The only woman in the ancient times who was allowed to marry the person she chose by herself and live happily after did not use her chance to do it. Helen should have thought about her personal happiness instead of leaving it to be decided by others.
Helen of Sparta, having the unique power in the patriarchic society, used it only in the way the surrounding wanted her to use it. She allowed her relatives and Paris to choose her fate. Firstly, the Spartan princess had the possibility to choose her future husband, but did not show the desire to see all the candidates. A restriction made by Tyndareos implied sending the suitor’s representatives to woo her. Helen did not object to this order and did not see Menelaus before the wedding day. Secondly, as it has been said previously, there were many noble candidates to marry, but while choosing her partner, Helen took into consideration not her personal desire, but family relationships. Agamemnon, a husband of Helen’s sister, and Tyndareos persuaded Helen to marry Menelaus. It is clear that Helen did not even want to use her power and influence to object to that and she agreed to marry the suitor who was the most “suitable” for her position. Moreover, the suitor’s wealth was taken into account. Menelaus was the richest person who wanted to marry Helen. The Spartan princess who was very wealthy by herself chose the person for her whole lifetime, basing her decision on how rich he was. It is clear that this fact matters, but Helen had a real chance to marry some other person whom she liked.
Talking about decisions Helen made, the absence of power usage as well as her divine origin should be considered. Having the biggest priority the woman could ever have in the world ruled by men, i.e. her beauty, Helen let other people decide for her. The first proof of this statement is her marriage. As it has already been said, the “decision” to marry Agamemnon’s brother was not made by Helen herself. Her choice implied that her relatives made her do it. It is clear that they convinced the princess that he was the best suitor. Helen did not think about love or her future happiness at that moment as she was under the influence of her family. What is more, when Helen ran away to Troy with Paris, it was Paris who decided to make this sin and planned their runaway. She just agreed to leave her life as a queen of Sparta and her only child in order to live in Troy with Paris. Helen understood what she was doing and what consequences it could have, but it did not influence her decision to leave. What is more, when Menelaus came to the walls of Troy on the head of the great army, she did not go back to him. It can be understood as if she knew that she was to blame and was afraid of her legal husband’s anger. The woman understood that there would be a war because of her, but she did not preclude it from happening. It implies that, being ashamed of her behavior, she condemned the whole nation to destruction. To make a small conclusion, from the very beginning this woman did not realize the importance of decisions she made. According to mythology, all gods and goddesses used to make reckless decisions. It explains why she could do such kind of things without being blamed for them. However, being a half-human, she could not make such decisions as it was obvious that they would bring deaths and sorrow to both sides of the conflict. The thing is that someone else always made important decisions for her and it led to her disability to be responsible for everything she did.
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It is said that times change, but people stay the same. It can be true to some extent as the society changes, but there are always the same prototypes of people present in it. Helen’s character is not an exception as the woman of great beauty always has power. Nowadays, Helen would have some qualities of her ancestor and some modern ones. Today, women are free to choose their way of life. Helen of the present time is a woman of outstanding beauty who uses it in order to have personal benefits and clearly understands consequences of her decisions. The reason is the change in the women’s perception in the society. In this case, if the modern Helen wants to survive in the contemporary society, she should control her life by herself as the divine origin cannot be taken into account anymore.
People have observed the behavior of Helen prototypes in movies and in the real life. It must be underlined that despite their in some cases unacceptable behavior, these women give the feeling of esthetic pleasure and viewers forgive all their ill acts. As the matter of fact, the perception of women has changed, but the perception of beauty has not.
Summing up, Helen’s divine origin and her great beauty gave her the possibility to rule the world. She was the only mortal woman who had such a big priority, but her disability to use the power given to her and make her own decisions caused the war that took many human lives. Being unable to object or unwilling to do it, Helen let other people decide for her. It was the fatal mistake as everyone just wanted to own her. However, talking about the war outbreak, not only Helen is to blame as the society provoked her to act in such a way. She was considered as a half-goddess and anything she did was justified by her origin. That is why, her beauty had a devastating influence on the society.