Garner's Greek Mythology

EP 26: The Three Helens

July 05, 2021 Patrick Garner Season 2 Episode 26
Garner's Greek Mythology
EP 26: The Three Helens
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to Episode 26, THE THREE HELENS

This episode features the story of Helen of Troy, also known as the woman whose "face  launched a thousand ships.”  She was beautiful, but ended up being a pawn of the gods in the Trojan War. The effort to rescue her actually changed Greek history by being the impetus to unite the Greek city-states.   

As often happens in these tales, nothing is as it seems. In this case, we learn there were at least three versions of the story, but none of them work out well for Helen.

Narrated by mythologist and best-selling author, Patrick Garner, Garner's Greek Mythology is unlike any other Greek history series.  Here these divine beings are viewed as if they were anything but mythical…

New stories about the gods!  Homo Divinitas, by podcaster Patrick Garner, is now available on Amazon as an audible book! For a free copy, see patrickgarnerbooks.com

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EPISODE 26-- The Three Helens


WHAT STARTED THE TROJAN WAR? THE ANCIENT GREEKS BLAMED ONE WOMAN. TODAY WE KNOW HER AS HELEN OF TROY.

BUT BEFORE THE WAR SHE WAS KNOWN AS HELEN OF SPARTA. HELEN'S MOTHER WAS LEDA, THE WIFE OF A SPARTAN KING. 

ZEUS SEDUCED LEDA AFTER TAKING THE FORM OF A SWAN. THEIR CHILD WAS HELEN. IT WAS AN AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING — THE OFFSPRING OF A DIVINITY & A KING'S WIFE — BUT AS WE'LL SEE, HER PARENTAGE DID HER LITTLE GOOD.

IN HER EARLY TEENS SHE MARRIED THE WARRIOR MENELAUS. HIS BROTHER WAS AGAMEMNON WHO LED THE GREEKS TO WAR AGAINST TROY.

BUT HOW DID HELEN START A WAR? PARIS, A YOUNG MAN FROM TROY, VISITED SPARTA & ABSCONDED WITH HER WHILE HER HUSBAND, MENELAUS, WAS AWAY... 

WHEN HER HUSBAND RETURNED, HE WAS OUTRAGED & DECLARED WAR AGAINST TROY ... 

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHAOS WAS HELEN WHO WAS ... ZEUS' DAUGHTER ... MENELAUS' WIFE ... & PARIS' BOOTY ... AND DID SHE HAVE ANY SAY IN ANY OF IT? NO.

THIS IS EPISODE 26 OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY. WE HAVE LISTENERS FROM 130 COUNTRIES & COUNTING. WELCOME TO EVERYONE, WHEREVER YOU ARE.

I'M YOUR HOST, MYTHOLOGIST & BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, PATRICK GARNER. 

THESE STORIES ABOUT THE GODS HAVE BEEN TOLD FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. BUT NOW THERE ARE NEW STORIES THAT ARE AS COMPELLING.

IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE SO ALREADY, CHECK OUT MY BOOKS ABOUT THE GODS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD. 

YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT THEM & ABOUT THIS PODCAST AT PATRICKGARNERBOOKS.COM. 

AND AS ALWAYS, THIS PODCAST FOCUSES ON ONE THING ... GREEK GODS, OF COURSE. THEY, LIKE YOU, ARE HERE, NOW ...

SOME SOURCES SAY THAT WHEN PARIS APPEARED IN SPARTA, HELEN FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM. IF SO, SHE LEFT WITH HIM WILLINGLY. BUT THAT SEEMS UNLIKELY.

REGARDLESS, HELEN LEFT SPARTA FOR TROY. 

THEN SCRAMBLING THE STORY FURTHER, THE GREEK WRITERS HESIOD, HERODOTUS & THE PLAYWRIGHT EURIPIDES SAY SHE NEVER MADE IT THERE.

THEY SAY ZEUS ORDERED HERMES TO TAKE HELEN TO AN ISLAND NEAR EGYPT CALLED PHAROS.

THEN, TO FOOL PARIS INTO THINKING SHE WAS STILL WITH HIM, HERA MADE A PHANTOM IN HER LIKENESS. THE PHANTOM, NOT HELEN, ACCOMPANIED HIM TO TROY.

ATHENE, APHRODITE & OTHER GODS WERE ALSO DRAGGED INTO ZEUS' ELABORATE RUSE. 

AND WHILE THE GREEKS FOUGHT A WAR FOR A DECADE IN TROY, HELEN —BELIEVED TO BE BEHIND TROY'S WALLS — LANGUISHED IN PHAROS, 700 MILES AWAY ... 

WE SHOULDN'T BE SURPRISED BY ANY OF THIS. 

IN THOSE DAYS THE GODS HAD THEIR FINGERS EVERYWHERE. YET AS A CONSEQUENCE, 1,000s OF MEN LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE WAR.

AT THE TIME OF HELEN'S ABDUCTION, THE GREEK CITIES HAD RECENTLY VOWED THAT WHEN ONE WAS ATTACKED, IT WOULD BE AS IF ALL WERE ATTACKED. 

HELEN'S KIDNAPPING TRIGGERED THE AGREEMENT. IN A MATTER OF MONTHS MENELAUS WAS ABLE TO CALL ON THE CITIES TO JOIN TOGETHER TO BRING HIS WIFE BACK.

YOU'VE HEARD THE PHRASE, 'HERS WAS THE FACE THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND SHIPS'? TO AN EXTENT THAT'S TRUE. BUT THE GODS WERE MOVING THE PIECES.

FIRST, APHRODITE OFFERED HELEN TO PARIS. HELEN WAS KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE WORLD AS MOST BEAUTIFUL MORTAL WOMAN ALIVE. HOW COULD HE RESIST? 

THE GODDESS HAD HIS BACK. IT WAS ALL TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE ... AND WAS HELEN LET IN ON ANY OF THIS? HARDLY — APHRODITE HADN'T BOTHERED TO TELL HER. 

THERE WAS MORE. APHRODITE HAD BEEN SET UP BY ZEUS. SHE, LIKE PARIS & HELEN, WAS A MERE PAWN. ZEUS WAS MANEUVERING THEM ALL.

SO, WITH COMPLETE IMPUNITY, PARIS TOOK HELEN FROM HER HOME. IT WAS AS EASY AS APHRODITE PROMISED ...

ZEUS' DAUGHTER, THE BEAUTIFUL HELEN OF SPARTA, FOREVERMORE BECAME KNOWN AS HELEN OF TROY ...

BUT DID SHE ACTUALLY ARRIVE IN TROY? ACCORDING TO SOME ANCIENT WRITERS, HERA CREATED AN EIDOLON — A GREEK WORD FOR WRAITH OR PHANTOM. 

THE EIDOLON WAS AN EXACT REPLICA OF HELEN. HERA SPUN HELEN'S DOUBLE FROM THE CLOUDS AT ZEUS' REQUEST. 

THEN, HERMES SPIRITED THE REAL HELEN TO THE ISLAND OF PHAROS.

THERE KING PROTEUS, DEEPLY ANGERED THAT PARIS HAD PLUNDERED MENELAUS' HOME, GAVE HER SANCTUARY.

RUMORS SPREAD THROUGHOUT GREECE THAT HELEN WAS NOT IN TROY, BUT THE GREEKS REFUSED TO BELIEVE A WORD. 

THERE WERE OTHER VARIATIONS TO THIS STORY. THE ANCIENT HISTORIAN, HERODOTUS, WRITES THAT IT WASN'T HERMES WHO SPIRITED HELEN AWAY.

INSTEAD, ONE OF THE GODS BLEW PARIS' SHIP OFF COURSE AS HE RETURNED TO TROY WITH HELEN — OR WITH HELEN'S PHANTOM.

WASHED ONTO PHAROS' SHORES, PARIS WAS CONFRONTED BY KING PROTEUS WHO DEMANDED TO HEAR WHY HELEN, THE WIFE OF HIS FRIEND MENELAUS, WAS IN THE COMPANY OF AN UNKNOWN TROJAN.

OF COURSE THE KING HAD ALREADY HEARD ABOUT THE OUTRAGEOUS ABDUCTION. YET HE WAS PREPARED TO LISTEN OBJECTIVELY TO PARIS' DEFENSE.

PARIS BEGAN TO PLEAD HIS CASE. IN MINUTES, THE KING CONCLUDED THAT PARIS WAS LYING. HE GRANTED HELEN SANCTUARY & BANISHED PARIS FROM HIS SIGHT.

LET'S TRY TO UNRAVEL THE VARIATIONS. 

FIRST, DEPENDING ON WHICH STORY WE BELIEVE, HELEN WAS EITHER TRANSPORTED TO A DISTANT ISLAND BY HERMES ... 

OR BEACHED THERE AFTER THE WIND PLAYED HAVOC WITH PARIS' SHIP ... REGARDLESS, BOTH OF THESE TALES LEAVE HELEN UNDER KING PROTEUS' PROTECTION.

THE LOSER IS PARIS, WHO EITHER SAILS FOR HOME WITH A REPLICA OF HELEN, OR SAILS HOME ALONE.

AND REMARKABLY, IF ANY OF THESE VARIATIONS WERE TRUE, THEY MAKE A MOCKERY OF THE TROJAN WAR AS THE GREEKS WOULD HAVE FOUGHT FOR NOTHING. 

IT GETS WORSE: ZEUS, ONCE THE GREEKS DEFEATED THE TROJANS, MADE SURE THAT MENELAUS REMAINED IGNORANT THAT THE HELEN HE RECOVERED WAS A REPLICA. 



THE PLAYWRIGHT EURIPIDES HAS HELEN WAITING ON PHAROS FOR 17 YEARS. SHE DOES SO, PRAYING THAT SOMEDAY SHE WILL SEE MENELAUS.

THE WAR ITSELF TAKES 10 YEARS BEFORE THE GREEKS WIN. TRYING TO RETURN HOME, MENELAUS WANDERS ON THE SEA FOR SEVEN YEARS.

HE'S EVENTUALLY STRANDED ON PHAROS. BUT BY THIS TIME, KING PROTEUS HAS DIED & BEEN SUCCEEDED BY HIS SON, THEOCLYMENOS.

HELEN, NOW IN HER EARLY 30s, REMAINS A DEVASTATINGLY BEAUTIFUL WOMAN & THEOCLYMENOS OFFERS TO MARRY HER.

SHE RESISTS & TAKES REFUGE BESIDE THE KING'S TOMB. SHE'S SAFE THERE AS HE CAN'T VIOLATE THE SANCTITY OF HIS FATHER'S BURYING PLACE. 

BUT HE'S PERSISTENT & CONTINUES TRYING TO PERSUADE HER. ADDING TO THE DRAMA, THEOCLYMENOS HAS A SISTER NAMED THEONOE WHO IS A GIFTED SEER.

SHE TOO GETS INVOLVED. NOTHING ESCAPES HER. SHE'S FAMOUS FOR SEEING INTO THE FUTURE ... HELEN TURNS TO HER & ASKS IF MENELAUS IS STILL ALIVE.

THEONOE SAYS, "YES, YOUR HUSBAND LIVES ALTHOUGH HE WANDERS AT SEA. AND HE CARRIES ON HIS SHIP AN EIDOLON IN THE VERY LIKENESS OF YOU."

HELEN, SHOCKED BY THIS NEWS, SAYS, "A PHANTOM OF ME? HOW CAN IT BE?"

THEONOE RESPONDS, "THE GREAT GODDESS HERA HAS HER FINGERS IN THIS. SHE ACTS FOR ZEUS."

"I DON'T UNDERSTAND," HELEN SAID. "MENELAUS THINKS THIS THING IS ME?"

"YES, HE & ALL THE GREEKS HAVE BEEN DECEIVED," THEONOE SAID, PAUSING. "BUT SOON THE EIDOLON WILL VANISH BACK TO THE CLOUDS."

HELEN WAS AT ONCE BOTH RELIEVED & AMAZED. HER HUSBAND LIVED. MENELAUS HAD SURVIVED THE WAR.

BUT IF THEONOE WAS RIGHT, HER HUSBAND BELIEVED HE WAS SAILING WITH HELEN AT HIS SIDE. THE GODS HAD TRICKED HIM. 

IF THE GREEKS WARRIORS THOUGHT THEY HAD RESCUED HER, THEY'D BEEN DECEIVED. IT WAS ALL TOO MUCH TO COMPREHEND. 

SHE NEEDED TIME TO THINK. AS SHE SAT BY HERSELF BESIDE KING PROTEUS' TOMB, A MAN IN RAGGED CLOTHING STAGGERED UP TO HER.

HELEN STOOD, STARTLED & AFRAID. SHE BACKED AWAY, DEMANDING TO KNOW WHO HE WAS. THE MAN STOPPED AS IF IN SHOCK, STARING AT HER.

CHOKING BACK TEARS, HE DECLARED, "YOU LOOK LIKE MY WIFE, HELEN. BUT I JUST LOST HER ON THE SEA AS MY SHIP WENT DOWN. SHE VANISHED, YET HERE YOU ARE!"

HELEN DIDN'T RECOGNIZE HIM. MENELAUS WAS NOW YEARS OLDER & SCARRED FROM BATTLE. HIS CLOTHES WERE NOT THE ROYAL ROBES SHE HAD LAST SEEN HIM WEARING. 

BUT SHE RECOGNIZED HIS EYES. AND HIS BLACK HAIR WAS STILL PITCH BLACK. SUDDENLY REALIZING IT WAS MENELAUS, SHE QUIETLY REJOICED.

GIVING NOTHING AWAY AS SHE GATHERED HER THOUGHTS, HELEN SAID QUIETLY, "YOU ARE NO NOBLEMAN. YOU BARELY LOOK GREEK."

HE FELL TO A KNEE & LOWERED HIS HEAD. "WHOEVER YOU ARE," HE SAID, "KNOW THAT MY NAME IS MENELAUS, & I COME FROM THE DISTANT LAND OF ARGOS."

"I'VE HEARD THE NAME," SHE SAID. "IS YOUR BROTHER AGAMEMNON?"

"YES, YOU KNOW!" HE SAID HAPPILY.

"THESE NAMES ARE KNOWN TO ALL. THE RUMOR HERE IS THAT BOTH MEN DIED AT TROY FIGHTING FOR A WOMAN WHO'D BROUGHT SHAME UPON THE GREEKS."

"NOT SHAME, MY LADY," HE SPOKE. "THE WOMAN WHO IS YOUR TWIN WAS TAKEN FORCEFULLY FROM MY BED. IT WAS TO BRING HER HOME THAT WE FOUGHT SO LONG."

"AND DID YOU SUCCEED?" SHE WHISPERED.

"AT FIRST I BELIEVED IT SO," HE SAID. "THEN AFTER YEARS OF BAD LUCK MY SHIP WAS LOST AT SEA. HELEN, WHOM I RESCUED FROM TROY, WENT DOWN IN THE WAVES ..."

HE PAUSED, LOOKING INTO HER EYES. "YET NOW I THINK SHE STANDS BEFORE ME, FAR MORE REAL THAN THE WOMAN I THOUGHT WAS HELEN."

"YOU WERE TRICKED," SHE SAID. "I AM SHE. HERA MADE A PHANTOM OF ME FROM THE CLOUDS. PARIS NEVER TOOK ME TO TROY. KING PROTEUS GAVE ME SANCTUARY HERE."

HE GASPED. "YOU'RE THE REAL HELEN, MY WIFE?"

SHE SMILED & OPENED HER ARMS. "BY THE GODS," SHE SAID. "I AM."

AFTER EMBRACING & REASSURING EACH OTHER WITH SECRET WORDS ONLY THOSE ONCE MARRIED WOULD KNOW, THE TWO PLOTTED THEIR ESCAPE. 

THEONOE KNEW THAT THE INTRUDER WAS MENELAUS, AS SHE KNEW EVERYTHING, BUT SHE SYMPATHIZED WITH HELEN'S PLIGHT & KEPT SILENT. 

HELEN PROVED TO BE INGENIOUS. SHE INSTRUCTED MENELAUS TO PRETEND TO BE HER HUSBAND'S SHIPMATE.

SHE TOLD HIM TO CONFRONT THE KING'S SON & TELL HIM HE SAW MENELAUS LOST AT SEA.

SHE IN TURN WOULD FALL TO HER KNEES & WEEP. THEN SHE WOULD TELL THEOCLYMENOS THAT SHE MUST MUST HONOR HER HUSBAND WITH THE SACRED GREEK RITES.

SHE WOULD SAY THOSE RITUALS DEMANDED THAT A MAN LOST AT SEA BE GIVEN FINAL BURIAL NEAR THE PLACE HE WENT DOWN. 

LAST, SHE WOULD PLEAD FOR A SHIP TO GET HER TO THE EXACT PLACE THE SHIP SANK ... AND SHE WOULD PROMISE THAT WHEN SHE RETURNED, SHE WOULD ASIDE HER GRIEF & BE HIS BRIDE.

SUDDENLY, THEOCLYMENOS APPEARED. HE DEMANDED TO KNOW THE MAN'S IDENTITY. "YOUR NAME & ORIGIN," HE DEMANDED, DRAWING HIS SWORD.

MENELAUS SAID HUMBLY, "I COME FROM ARGOS. I SAILED WITH THE FAMOUS WARRIOR, MENELAUS. I WATCHED AS ALL WERE LOST AT SEA. THE GODS SAVED ME ALONE."

AS SHE HAD INDICATED SHE WOULD, HELEN CRUMPLED TO THE GROUND, WEEPING. SHE CRIED, "MY DEAR HUSBAND IS LOST!"

IN SYMPATHY, THEOCLYMENOS SAID, "YOU MUST HONOR MENELAUS & GIVE THE MAN HIS DUE. TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED. IT'S YOURS. THEN WE WILL MAKE PLANS TO WED."

SHE ASKED FOR A SHIP. HE ORDERED A LARGE SEA-WORTHY CRAFT. WHEN IT WAS TIED UP IN THE HARBOR, MENELAUS STOWED AWAY UNDER THE OARS.

THE NEXT MORNING HELEN STOOD IN THE PROW, GUIDING THE SHIP INTO THE WAVES. SHE HELD OFFERINGS IN HER ARMS & SANG SONGS TO HONOR THE LOST MENELAUS.

AS THEOCLYMENOS WATCHED FROM THE SHORE, THE SHIP BECAME SMALLER & SMALLER, THEN DISAPPEARED FROM SIGHT. 

HOURS PASSED. HE REALIZED THAT HE'D BEEN DUPED. HELEN HAD FLED ... SHE & MENELAUS  WERE FREE & TURNED NORTH TOWARD ARGOS.

AS THE WEEKS PASSED, THEY TRAVERSED THE OCEAN. WITH THE GODS' AID, MENELAUS GUIDED THE SHIP BACK HOME WITHOUT INCIDENT ...

Ω 

THE ANCIENT WRITERS DIFFER IN THEIR ACCOUNTS ABOUT WHAT FOLLOWED ONCE THEY ARRIVED HOME.

HOMER RECOUNTS IN THE ODYSSEY THAT, AFTER RETURNING, THE TWO LIVED HAPPILY FOR YEARS IN MENELAUS' ELABORATE HOME IN ARGOS. THEY HAD A SON & A DAUGHTER.

OTHERS SAY THAT HELEN, EVER BEAUTIFUL, WAS TAKEN BY APOLLO TO MT. OLYMPUS & GRANTED IMMORTALITY.

ON THE OTHER HAND, THE FIRST CENTURY ROMAN WRITER, PAUSANIUS, SAYS THAT SHE GREW RESTLESS WITH HER QUIET LIFE & FLED TO THE ISLAND OF RHODES. 

THERE, TRAGICALLY, SHE WAS CAUGHT IN A POLITICAL SQUABBLE WHERE HER HANDMAIDENS TURNED AGAINST HER & SHE WAS HUNG FROM A TREE ...

AND WHAT BECAME OF PARIS, THE MAN WHO HAD SO FOOLISHLY LUSTED FOR HELEN? THE FATES DOOMED HIM TO BE KILLED IN THE FIGHTING AT TROY. 

IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE WAR, GREECE'S GREATEST WARRIOR, ACHILLES, SHOT HIM WITH AN ARROW.

APHRODITE, WHO HAD PROTECTED PARIS AS A THIEF, WAS NOT TO BE FOUND WHEN THE SAME MAN WAS ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

AND BEHIND IT ALL, ZEUS WAS IN THE SHADOWS, MANIPULATING GODS & MORTALS ALIKE.

NO ONE KNEW ABOUT HIS MACHINATIONS — NOT APHRODITE, OR HERMES, OR ATHENE, OR EVEN ZEUS' WIFE, HERA. EACH WAS ON A NEED-TO-KNOW BASIS.

AND HELEN? SHE WAS NO MORE THAN A PUPPET, AN INNOCENT WHO, REGARDLESS OF WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, WAS CONDEMNED IN THE END BY THE GREEKS. 

JOIN ME ... FOR THE NEXT EPISODE OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY

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