Helen was a daughter of Zeus, and apparently raised by Tyndareus, a king of Sparta, and Leda.  When Tyndareus was looking for a husband for his beautiful daughter Helen, she had very many suitors.  Agamemnon, Tyndareus' son-in-law, used his family connection and his power to influence Helen to choose his brother Menelaus as her husband.  Helen bore Menelaus a daughter, Hermione.

After several years, the Trojan prince Paris arrived in Sparta.  Unknown to her, he had been the judge of the golden apple, and had been given Helen as a bribe.  Once in Sparta, Paris was entertained by king Menelaus, the husband of Helen.  Menelaus, however, soon had to leave Sparta, and he instructed his wife Helen to entertain their guest.  As soon as Helen  looked upon Paris, she fell madly in love, because of Aphrodite.  When Menelaus returned, the two lovers were forced to flee.  They grabbed whatever valuables they could find, and sailed for Troy.  Compelled by honor, Menelaus went to his brother Agamemnon, the king of all the Greeks.  He gathered up a great army and 1,000 ships to get Helen back.

During the war, Helen plays a very confusing role.  It is quite difficult to tell which side she is on.  In the Iliad, she addresses the troops at one point.  In her speech, she seems to show remorse for what she has done, but still she does not volunteer to return to Menelaus.  When Odysseus enters Troy disguised as a beggar, she does not betray him, but actually helps him steal the Palladium.

After the death of Paris, Helen remarries to his brother Deiphobus.  When Troy at last falls, he is killed and Helen, still very beautiful, is taken captive by Menelaus.  He does not kill her, as he had intended, but disgracefully takes her back home with him as his wife.  After a long voyage, they arrive back in Sparta and the two seem to have lived out their years peacefully.


  1. ApollodorusBibliotece.

  2. HomerIliad.

  3. EuripidesTroades.

  4. HomerOdyssey.