A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Helen of Troy – A Greek Romance

For all those who are suffering from yesterday’s hangover of love and romance, here is another romance of mythical times.

All of us have read, or heard or even seen on celluloid the Greek romance of Helen and Paris of Troy. So what is it that has made the romance so well known that generations later, people recount it again and again?

Many of us know about the romance leading to war, but not many might know as what led to the romance in the first place. So let us start at the very beginning i.e. with the root cause of the romance which led to the massive war in which gods sided with mortals, something quite unheard of.

Apple of Discord
It all started in the heavens, with the episode better known as the Judgement of Paris. Eris was an evil goddess of Discord (conflict) and due to her nature; she was not invited to the heavenly gatherings. During one such gathering, she was the lone goddess who was not invited. She decided to avenge the insult by creating trouble, and trouble she did! She threw in the banquet hall a golden apple, on which was written ‘For the Fairest’. Quite predictably all the goddesses laid claim on it, but eventually it narrowed down to three of them, viz. Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. They asked Zeus, the King of Gods, to arbitrate, but better sense prevailed and he suggested that they go to Mount Ida and meet Prince Paris, who was supposed to be a good judge of beauty and let him decide.

Before we move further, Paris, though a son of the King, was guarding the sheep as his father was told that he would be responsible for the destruction of his country. The King had thus sent him away to the mountains, to keep him away from the country, lest the prophecy became true. The three goddesses reached Mount Ida and asked Paris to arbitrate on the celestial problem. Paris was amazed at the job, and could not believe his luck. However, his judgement did not rest on the actual beauty of the goddesses, but on the bribes that each offered to him. Hera promised to make him the Lord of Europe and Asia. Athena offered him victory of the Trojans against the Greeks, leading to the ruin of Greece. Aphrodite offered him the love of the fairest of all mortals (which was none other than Helen). Paris offered the golden apple to Aphrodite, much to the disappointment of the others. It is this judgement, due to which the great Trojan was fought.

Helen’s beauty was a subject of heavens and was the mortal daughter of Zeus from Leda. Every prince in Greece wanted to marry her and when all had assembled to ask for her hand, it was a gathering of who’s who amongst the rich and powerful. Helen’s father, or rather the husband of her mother, was scared to choose one, lest he offended the rest and invite the collective wrath of the mighty. He then extracted an oath from all, that all of them would stand by Helen’s husband, whoever he be, and if he faced any problem, then all would unite with the husband and fight the enemy. Each agreed as each wanted to be the husband. Helen’s father then selected, Menelaus and also made him the King of Sparta.

Aphrodite having won her title of the fairest took Paris straight to Sparta where he was received by Menelaus and Helen. To cut short the story, before anybody realised, love had blossomed and Helen had eloped with Paris. When Menelaus came to know about it, he called on all the chiefs of Greece, and sought their help to get Helen back. They all responded as they were bound by the oath.

The war between the Greeks and the Trojans was war of the epics. Heroes were made and killed. Gods sided with the central characters during the war. Gods like Zeus, Achilles, Athena, Hera, Apollo, etc. all took sides. Heroes like Odysseus, Menelaus, Hector were made and some died heroic deaths. The Trojans were destroyed (episode of the Trojan Horse, is etched in our memories) and the Greeks were victorious. I will spare the details of heroism of the bloody war, as our subject is still love and what’s a better love story than the one which has a happy ending?

Helen goes back to Menelaus, and the initial prophecy was proven that Paris would bring destruction to his country.

Needless to say, that the gods were behind the mortal destruction, all for vanity of three goddesses, which I thought, was a human emotion!

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