Helena (mythology)

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Helena and the Dioscuri, Roman dedicatory relief, 30 × 27 cm
Helena between
Menelaus and Aphrodite
Detail of an Attic red-figure vase
approx. 450–440 BC Chr.
Evelyn de Morgan :
Helen of Troy ( 1898 ).
The mirror , the beaking doves and the Feast of Troy mark them in the style of the Pre-Raphaelites as femme fatale .

Helena , Latinized from ancient Greek Ἑλένη Helénē , is the daughter of Zeus and Leda born from an egg in Greek mythology . Leda was seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan, whereby she became the mother of Helena and the Dioscuri Castor and Polydeukes (Roman: Pollux ). Clytaimnestra was considered the daughter of Leda and Tyndareus ; she was a half-sister of Helena.

According to other traditions, Helena and the Dioscuri were born from one or two eggs, or Leda tended the egg of Nemesis and Zeus , from which Helena arose, who Leda raised like her own child.

The beautiful Helena

Apulian - red-figure pelike with the birth of Helena from an egg. On the left Helena's mother Leda, on the right a shepherd with a staff, above Eros with a wreath; Attributed to the painter of Athens 1680 , Antikensammlung Kiel .

Helena was considered the most beautiful woman of her time. Her beauty is said to have been so great that every man who saw her wanted to own Helena. As a teenager she was kidnapped by Theseus and Peirithoos to Aphidnai in Attica and freed by the Dioscuri , her brothers.

Many Greek princes competed for them. Her earthly father feared the hostility of all rejected if a suitor was preferred and therefore, following a advice from Odysseus , made all applicants for Helena swear that they would recognize Helena's election and defend it against everyone - a typical justification for the alliance of almost all Greek kings against Troy . Helena chose Menelaus , Prince of Mycenae and thus later King of Sparta , to whom she gave birth to her daughter Hermione .

In the quarrel between the three goddesses Hera , Aphrodite and Athene over the apple of Eris , Aphrodite promised her to the Trojan prince Paris and agreed to abduct her to Troy. Hera and Athene decided to fight Troy.

According to one version of the legend, she never arrived in Troy, but ended up on a long return journey with many detours to Egypt - according to the will of the gods, only a "phantom" like Helena arrived in Troy. According to the main version of the legend, however, it followed Paris to Troy and thus triggered the Trojan War of the Greeks against Troy when the dishonored Menelaus turned to all the rejected suitors for help. After the fall of Paris, she married his brother Deiphobus and was accepted again by Menelaus after the defeat of Troy. Both returned safely to Sparta, lived and ruled there for a long time - unlike most of the other Greek princes, almost all of whom perished after the fall of Troy.


The Helena figure appears already in the oldest Western (Greek) epic of Homer , the Iliad , and learned a long literary afterlife (z. B. in Goethe's Faust II , as well as in the Historia von D. Johann Faustus and Jacques Offenbach's operetta La Belle Hélène and much more).

Her name appears in all European languages ​​as a female first name , although in many cases Saint Helena may have been the godmother.

The Mount Helen in Antarctica is named after her.


Web links

Commons : Helena  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary. Munich / Vienna 1965.
  2. It is said that she was worshiped as a vegetation goddess in pre-Greek times in Sparta .
  3. Euripides , Helena 18-19; Hyginus , Fabulae 77
  4. Pausanias 1,33,7; Libraries of Apollodorus 3,10,7
  5. Hyginus, Fabulae 79; Plutarch , Theseus 31
  6. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 81
  7. Hyginus, Fabulae 77; Libraries of Apollodorus 3,10,9