Role Of Helen In The Iliad

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Helen, the woman that the sparked the Trojan War, is a very interesting character in Homer’s The Iliad. She is a complex woman struggling with her role in the war and the alleged intervention of the gods. Helen is no ordinary woman; when the chief men of the Troy first laid eyes on her they murmured “Surely there is no blame on Trojans and strong-greaved Achaians if for long time they suffer hardship for a woman like this one. Terrible is the likeness of her face to immortal goddesses” (3.156-1538). According to Homer, Helen is a woman of god-like beauty. She iwas so beautiful that some of the most intelligent men in Troy understood why the two sides were fighting over a single woman. This war definitively started when Helen left Menelaos and …show more content…
Priam, the ruler of Troy, says to Helen, “I am not blaming you: to the gods are blameworthy” (3.164). Through Priam, Homer implants the idea in the readers mind that Helen didn’t leave Menelaus of her own free will; rather, she was coerced and controlled by the gods. While divine intervention is not something that many, if any, readers can directly relate to, being controlled by external forces beyond one’s control can be a relatable experience. Readers can relate to the helplessness Helen may feel while she was under the control of Aphrodite, it brings a sense of relatability to the goddess-like woman. Homer’s humanizing of Helen continues after the rather uneventful duel between Paris and Menelaus. Aphrodite tells Helen that Paris “is in his chamber now, in the bed with its circled pattern, shining in his raiment and his own beauty; you would not think that he came from fighting against a man; you would think that he was going rather to a dance, or rested and had been dancing lately” (3.391-394). Homer portrays Paris as a weak pretty-boy, unable to stand toe to toe with the Achaian’s greatest warriors. Entertaining the possibility that Helen left Greece of her own free will then she made the very human decision of following her heart. Further, she is disappointed by the true nature of Paris. Homer renders Paris in this way to show that Helen may have made a …show more content…
Helen is held blameless by Priam; however, she still feels some confusion as to whether or not she is at fault for starting the war. She tells Priam, “I wish bitter death had been what I wanted, when I came hither following your son, forsaking my chamber, my kinsmen” (3.171-174). Helen said she came to Troy following Paris, not that she was coerced or kidnapped by a goddess or by Paris. This could mean that Helen believes that at least some small part of her wanted to flee with Paris. If Helen did want to leave with Paris then she would be responsible for the war. Perhaps she doesn’t want to admit that her lust for Paris started a ten-year long war, so she starts blaming the gods. When she sees Aphrodite in the form of an old woman she says, “Strange divinity! Why are you still so stubborn to beguile me? Will you carry me further yet somewhere along cities fairly settled?”(3.399-400). The question is whether Aphrodite did indeed take the form of an old lady or if Helen was just projecting her insecurity on a human. If Helen could convince everyone around her that she was merely a victim of divine intervention then she could be absolved of all responsibility; however, she is still morally conflicted because she still, at least partially, blames herself for the war. Therefore, Homer leaves the true cause of Helen’s departure from Menelaos vague; divine intervention and

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