Helen's Judgement Of Paris And Greek Marriage Ritual In Sappho 16

Helen’s “Judgement of Paris” and Greek Marriage Ritual in Sappho 16, an article written by Eric Dodson-Robinson from Johns Hopkins University, explores how Homer’s writings and Greek marriage rituals feed into the meaning of Sappho’s sixteenth fragment. Primarily through exploring the parallel roles of the characters in Sappho’s fragment and Homeric tales, Dodson-Robinson begins to decipher what is beautiful in Sappho’s eyes. Exploring the subjective role of Helen in the poem, the author reveals how abducting Helen could be a possible reference to archaic Greek marriage ritual. Ultimately, it concludes that the relationship between traditional judgment roles and desire are far more complex than it seems. Written By Ilja Leonard Pfeiffjer, …show more content…
Both translations state it quite eloquently, yet in different ways. One describes her as “forgetting love due her own blood,” and the other saying “not for her children nor her dear parents had she a thought, no” (Barnard 12-13; Carson 9-10). Sappho’s frustration with Helen seeps through in her language. The audience is also astounded by this thought. Yet, the reference to Helen proves Sappho’s thesis-as she said so initially. Helen, although she knew it would cause a war, pursued the most beautiful. And, the fact that she chose to follow Paris makes Helen an example of someone who finds the one they love, the most beautiful. Not only that, it makes known that her love is more important to her than any other aftereffects that her choice may bring. This return to the martial theme of the priamel reflects that not only is the person one loves more beautiful than armies, but it is a perfect example illustrating Sappho’s declaration. The story of Helen functions to force the audience to reassess their interpretation of the opening lines. In fact, Sappho is genius in turning the story of Helen and Paris around. Dodson-Robinson states that “the poet reverses the audience’s expectation: in the traditional myth, Paris is the subject of judgment and Helen is the object; in Sappho 16 she is the subject, while Paris is the object of her desire” (8). Helen gets to …show more content…
The beginning of the poem comes into play again with the framing of martial activities, forcing the audience to understand that Anactoria is the one she loves. The obvious connection of Anactoria to Helen arises when Sappho cries of the distance between them. Her absence is reminiscent of Helen leaving her home for Troy. This also explains why earlier in the poem Helen’s beauty was explicitly mentioned. The recalling of Anactoria, who is apparently gone, makes the audience consider Helen’s importance of being the object of love. Dodson-Robinson paraphrases Andre Lardinois stating that “Lardinois cites the praise for Anactoria and lament for her absence as generic markers typical of the Greek wedding song, and adds that Helen was also often associated with marriage” (9-10). This use of the story of Helen only creates additional relevance. The main reason for using her as an example is her usefulness in illustrating Sappho’s point, and her beauty and loveliness is just a bonus. However, like Dodson-Robinson says “Where does this leave Sappho?”(7). Applying Helen in the explanation of what is beautiful, leads the audience to assume that she is Menelaus. Anactoria, Sappho’s Helen, has left her. However, previous knowledge of the myth reminds the audience that in the end Menelaus recovers her and her love, which reveals how Sappho feels about Anactoria. It shows

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