Helen


Helen
/hel"euhn/, n.
1. Also called Helen of Troy. Class. Myth. the beautiful daughter of Zeus and Leda and wife of Menelaus whose abduction by Paris was the cause of the Trojan War.
2. a female given name.
[ < F Hélène < L Helena < Gk Heléne, of obscure orig., prob. the name of a pre-Greek vegetation goddess; often linked by folk etym. with heléne, heláne torch, St. Elmo's fire, an unrelated word]

* * *

I
In Greek mythology, the most beautiful woman in Greece, who was the indirect cause of the Trojan War.

She was a daughter of Zeus, either by Leda or by Nemesis. Her brothers were the Dioscuri, and her sister was Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon. Helen was the wife of Menelaus. When Paris, son of Priam, was asked to decide which goddess was the most beautiful, he chose Aphrodite, who rewarded him with the most beautiful woman in the world. Seducing Helen with the goddess's help, Paris carried her off to Troy, and the Greeks sent a military force to pursue them. At the war's end, with Paris dead, Helen returned to Sparta with Menelaus.
II
(as used in expressions)
Clark Helen
Frankenthaler Helen
Hayes Brown Helen
Jacobs Helen Hull
Keller Helen Adams
Levitt Helen
Lynd Robert Staughton and Lynd Helen
Helen Merrell
Helen Porter Mitchell
Potter Helen Beatrix
Helen Louise Leonard
Suzman Helen
Helen Gavronsky
Tamiris Helen
Helen Becker
Taussig Helen Brooke
Thomas Helen
Wills Helen Newington
Helen Newington Wills Moody Roark
Saint Helens Mount

* * *

 in Greek legend, the most beautiful woman of Greece and the indirect cause of the Trojan War. She was daughter of Zeus, either by Leda or by Nemesis, and sister of the Dioscuri. As a young girl she was carried off by Theseus, but she was rescued by her brothers. She was also the sister of Clytemnestra, who married Agamemnon. Her suitors came from all parts of Greece, and from among them she chose Menelaus, Agamemnon's younger brother. During an absence of Menelaus, however, Helen fled to Troy with Paris, son of the Trojan king Priam; when Paris was slain, she married his brother Deiphobus, whom she betrayed to Menelaus when Troy was subsequently captured. Menelaus and she then returned to Sparta, where they lived happily until their deaths.

      According to a variant of the story, Helen, in widowhood, was driven out by her stepsons and fled to Rhodes, whose queen, Polyxo, hanged her in revenge for the loss of her husband Tlepolemus in the Trojan War. The poet Stesichorus, however, related in his second version of her story that she and Paris were driven ashore on the coast of Egypt and that Helen was detained there by King Proteus. The Helen carried on to Troy was thus a phantom, and the real one was recovered by her husband from Egypt after the war. This version of the story was used by Euripides in his play Helen.

      Helen was worshipped and had a festival at Therapnae in Laconia; she also had a temple at Rhodes, where she was worshipped as Dendritis (the tree goddess). Like her brothers, the Dioscuri, she was a patron deity of sailors. Her name is pre-Hellenic and in cult may go back to the pre-Greek periods.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.