Tell me not of Helen of Troy, the woman whose beauty caused cities to burn at her feet.
Tell me of Helen of Sparta, a woman who spent a decade, locked behind enemy walls, who cried for her captors and her rescuers alike. Tell me of Helen of Sparta who was so fair that foreign princes locked eyes with her and labeled her theirs.
Tell me of Helen of Sparta who got kidnapped against her own will, was forced to look at her captor with soft eyes and watch her countrymen die outside the safe walls of Troy.
Tell me of Helen of Sparta who got taken from her home, Tell me of Helen of Sparta whose identity got stolen away to paint a stealing prince as a hero with a harp. Tell me of Helen of Sparta who did not break her vows and was kind when poets wanted her to be lethal.
Tell me of Helen of Sparta, the one, true victim in a war of victims. For she was made the sinner when the devil walked free.
“Choose me, prince Paris,” the ethereal woman said with a gentle voice that reminded him of a mother’s embrace. “Choose me and you shall rule the world.”
He took a step towards her as another angel transformed behind her. She wasn’t gentle like the woman before him, she was strong, she was wise, and he froze where he stood.
“No,” where the other’s voice was gentle, this one was firm, seductive in a curios way that made him want to explore the world, “choose me and you shall never lose a battle. Choose me, prince of Troy, and you shall never die in war.”
Just as he turned towards the newcomer, he was stopped by a third voice. Third times the charm, and this was exactly what the new voice was. Charming. Seductive. Loving. Beautiful.
“Choose neither, my prince,” she said to him, her hair flowing behind her like the sea, her kind eyes smiling at him when her lips did not. “Choose me for I can give you your heart’s deepest desire, though it does not know it yet.”
“What do you offer, my queen of love?”
She smiled and it was like the very air was singing. “A true queen. Of Sparta. Helena.”
A mirror appeared before his eyes and in this, a true goddess appeared. Aprodite’s voice sung in his head as he stared at the woman enchanted.
“The most beautiful woman in the world.”
He looked back at Aphrodite and stretched out his hand bearing the golden apple.
“To you, I give this apple,” he said with a firm voice, though his eyes slowly turned to the mirror, “for you are truly the fairest of them all.”
Oh, tell me of Helen of Sparta. Stolen from her bed as goodnight she said.
“Who are you, my child?”, the old king asked her, as Paris led her up the stairs.
She bowed her head and closed her eyes, “I am Helen. Queen of Sparta.”
King Priamos looked at her with those wise eyes of his, “Helen of Sparta, why have you come to us?”
She lifted her head and fixated her gaze on the old man, though she would wish to look at Paris. Make him understand the consequences of what he had wished for.
“Your son wished upon a star and a goddess gifted me to him.”
“Have you come to stay here, child?”
She swallowed and remembered the battle cry of the fierce Spartans, remembered the fine sand under her feet, and she shook her head. “My husband will not allow you to keep me. He will come and with him, his brother, King Agamemnon, and all his ships.”
“Do you want to stay?”
She could feel Paris’ eyes bore into her and she straightened her back. She was Helen of Sparta, Queen of the fiercest island in Greece, and she would not be ensnared by the enchantments of Troy, lovely as it was.
“No, my king,” she spoke and raised her chin. “No, I would like to go to my husband, Menelaus of Sparta.”
Now, Paris would not allow her to talk any further. “Father, she was given to me by the goddess of love herself, Aphrodite. We cannot send her back lest we want to anger her. And she is a powerful enemy.”
Helen closed her eyes at this, in defeat, for no one, Greek nor Trojan, would dare defy the gods. This was reserved for the heroes of the songs only, and they paid dearly.
“Then you shall stay here,” the old king said, and she swallowed a sob. “From henceforth, you shall be known as Helen of Troy.”
You take me from my home and you make me queen of a city, I did not want to know. Have you no honour?
“Do you like it here, my lady Helen?”
She shook her head. “I like the azure main and the soft sand on the beach. I like the laughter in the streets and the smiles on my servants’ faces. But every time I find something I like, something to bring me joy, I think of how much happier and better it would be on Sparta.”
Hector nodded, like he understood her every word, those left unsaid too. Maybe he did. The great warrior of Troy, whose compassion reached no end and whose warmth could heat her even in the coldest of winter nights, knew many things and one of them was how to qualm a kidnapped woman’s worries.
Where the people welcomed her because of the Trojans treasured valuable and beautiful pieces, he welcomed her for he could see how her heart longed for home where Paris longed for her.
I shall be your protector, he had said and she had smiled sadly. There is no one to protect me when the gods have decided my fate.
The gods had a plan with her as they did everyone but as soon as she laid her eyes on Troy, she knew it would be yet another tragedy to unfold among the heroes of the songs.
“My brother would never inform you of this, my dear,” he started out while looking fondly at the streets below them, at the people in them, like it was the last time he would see them. “Your husband is coming for you.”
She nodded. “The gods told me in a dream and Menelaus promised me every night, that should anything befall me, he would come for me.”
Theirs was not a fairy tale but theirs was not a tragedy either. At least that is what she thought.
“I am sorry for what will happen here in Troy,” he whispered, and she shook her head to make him silent.
“For us, the gods have set an evil fate,” she told him and let a tear fall at the memory of the salt wind of Sparta, “that we be the theme of the singer for generations to come.”
He nodded at her words and squeezed her hand in comfort. “I will defend my country with my life, but know this, Helen of Sparta, you are not to blame for the forces raised by the hands of men. You cannot be to blame for the way of brutal men.”
She smiled a sad smile and sent a prayer to the gods, that if they would not spare Menelaus, let them spare Hector.
“Will you not come out, my lady?”
Helen looked from her weaving to the woman in the door, beautiful and with kind eyes. A war was being fought and the Trojan royals was ever positive. How they could bare it, she did not know.
“They are fighting for your honour,” the older woman told her, and Helen bit her lip as she visioned her brave king fight the beautiful prince of Troy. “Our valiant Paris fights for your honour, and old Menelaus fights as well. Will you not see it, my lady?”
She caressed the weaving, dark in colour and dark in theme. Pyres from a faraway beach, her people sending loved and hated ones off to the next world. Sounds of swords against sword, brave and kind warriors falling victim to the brutal and quick ones.
“Do you know which one of them will win?” She turned around to meet the gaze of her sister-in-law.
“Paris,” she answered, “for he has Hector on his side.”
“You can not have paid close attention, my dear, for the Greeks have the strong Peleïden Achilles to fight for them. Him can no sword pierce through.”
“What are you weaving?” the older woman said as she slowly approached the younger, more beautiful woman.
Helen blinked and let a tear fall from her eye, “the fate of heroes.”
“Who rules your heart?” Helen kept her stare fixated in the ocean, on the horizon. Unseeing when they glanced at the ships, at the armies. “Sing me a song, Helen of Troy, of your love for the men that started a war.”
“My heart belongs to my one and only husband, king of Sparta, Atreïde Menelaus,” she whispered in response, “though I cannot deny my heart’s compassion for the prince Paris. He is but a boy and he has caused a war that will make his home burn.”
“You will go to the winner,” Helen nodded silently, “such is the terms of the combat. Tell me, do you long for the coast of Sparta?”
Helen stayed silent.
“You will stay with him, Helen of Troy,” the goddess told her as she was guided into the room. Paris’ room, which should be empty, he was fighting her husband. He was taking responsibility for the war he had brought to the front steps of his city. “You will stay with him, as is costumed for a wife.”
I do not belong to him. I do not belong to the waves of Troy, I belong by the soft beach of Sparta.
Helen did not utter these words, she did not turn her heated gaze to Aphrodite, queen of love, she simply nodded. The gods had chosen her fate, and she would be a fool to oppose it.
“Stay with him, Helen of Troy,” the goddess said, “for he is my champion.”
Of true love? Does he understand it, when he does not even feel it for his country?
She left the goddess and went to see the prince who’s face was turned to the floor. He looked as if he had seen a ghost, pale and shaken. His arm was bleeding but he did not even acknowledge the injury as his leg jumped up and down, like electricity coursed through his blood.
“Did you win, my prince?”, she spoke with a soft voice, standing tall over him as his body seemed to grow smaller by each passing second. “Did you defeat my husband, else I did not think you would return behind these walls.”
“She would not let me finish the fight, she would not let me die,” was all he answered and she did not press him further.
A champion of the gods seldom got a happy ending, they were not meant to live forever. They were meant to be what the gods could not, mortal while invincible. Mortal men who thought themselves gods were bound to be proven wrong.
Helen cared for him, cleaned his wound, bound it tight and sang sweet songs for him to take his mind of his failure on the battlefield. He was a weak warrior and there was no need to make him hurt more.
“Do you like Troy?” he had asked at one point, laying his eyes on her for the first time since he came back.
“I like the things in which I see Sparta,” was her answer and he did not ask her any further.
This was how they were found, Paris in his bed, lost in thought on the bed, and Helen sitting by the side, her sweet voice filling the air.
Hector caught her gaze and shook his head. Helen cast her eyes to the ground, mourning the funeral pyre that would come for the stealing prince.
“Hector!”, had Achilles screamed.
Helen had not met Achilles but a thousand things could be heard in that scream alone. It was the yell of a man, of a lion, ready to attack. It was one of anger, grief, hate. It was one of a killer.
And Hector was his victim. Helen could have screamed right back, when this was the name called.
He, the warrior and commander of Troy, had told her of an Achilles, leading his feared warriors into battle, igniting the fire of hope inside the Greeks. It was in this moment the Trojans felt real resistance in years.
But it had not been Achilles, and it would seem the young boy, whom Hector had revealed to be the one leading the Myrmidons, had been of utter importance to the lion of Phtia.
You should fear us, Troy, had she thought when the council had laughed at the letter from Agamemnon, announcing war, for none of your swords, spears or arrows can kill our fiercest warrior. Even Primeïde Hector stands defenseless in the face of Peleïden Achilleus.
She had been true up until now and as Hector found her gaze and gave her a weak smile, she could not stop her feet from going to him.
“You cannot go to him,” she begged, “he cannot be defeated by mortals.”
“No,” he answered and her vision became blurred as she watched him ready his armor, “but I have to fight him. I took the life of an innocent, that is something the gods cannot forgive. I have to repent my sins.”
She laughed weakly through her tears and took her hand to his cheek, “oh Hector, your heart is too gentle for the burden you bear.”
He laid his hand over hers and gripped it strong, “you are a kind woman, Helen of Sparta. I shall always remember your innocence in this war.”
She shook her head, “the rest of the world will not.”
She gave his cheek a chaste kiss and Hector, the true prince of Troy, knelt shortly before her and gave the signal for the gates to open. He was met by the roar of a hurting lion and he was never seen again.
If the singer’s sung true, they would sing of how Helen screamed once in Troy.
When the spear of Achilles killed the only man who had been truly kind to her in a decade.
“They say, you kissed my son before he walked to his death.”
She turned to the old man, his eyes red from tears and she nodded once. “He was a kind man, he did not deserve to die cold.” He did not deserve to die, at all.
“Every man dies cold, every man dies alone,” he answered her, “that is the will of the gods.”
Because the gods have no true hearts, Helen thought treacherously.
“The men say, you are a curse,” the old man’s voice drifted like a whisper in the wind, “that when my son decided on the queen of love, he cursed our lands. We were meant to burn because he wanted you.”
She was silent for a moment, remembering Hector’s parting words, the laughter of Troy’s streets and the gardens of Sparta. All would burn if their priest’s words rang true.
“No longer do I have anyone in Troy that is gentle to me or kind. All men shudder at me,” she whispered and looked over the houses of Troy.
They want me to be their sun but they flew too close. They will fall.
"They have left," and with those words, joy spread through the streets of Troy. "They have left and we stand unbeaten."
Paris turned towards her and she turned her eyes to the floor. The carpet was red, red like the blood that should have flowed through the streets as her people came to her rescue.
Perhaps it had been too long. Perhaps Menelaus had forgotten the sound of her songs, forgotten the light of her eyes, forgotten the pearls of her laughter, forgotten the gold of her hair. Perhaps he had thought her untrue, a betrayer to all the vows she had spoken to him.
"How are you, my lady Helen?", the prince who had started this war with the snap of his fingers had come to her and she refused to look to him.
"Well, my prince, I am well."
He sighed once, so defeated, so agonizing, "Foibos Apollo had rained their camp with his arrows. The pest would have left them all bleeding had they not fled."
She dared to sneak a poignant look at him, "I do not blame them for raising sails. Ten long summers and winters is a long time to spend outside impenetrable walls."
"I do not know what my brother would offer you as words of comfort," he spoke, sullen, "but I will not betray your tears, should you choose to shed them."
I am a queen of invincible warriors. You, thieving prince, will not see me shatter, will not see me break. I am a force of nature and you will be doomed.
"They left a horse for Poseidon, a hecatomb to give them winds in their sails," the prince informed her, "and what a mighty gift it is. Tall as the city gate and build of fire from the pyres. It will stand great and strong in his temple."
Her brows furrowed at his words and she lifted her gaze. "Are you bringing it into the city?"
Paris nodded. "Father thought we would be no better than the heathen scum, Achilles, had we left such a gift for the gods outside the protection of our walls."
"You do not agree the gods would let their fury befall you, if you did not honor their gifts?"
A moment of silence, that was a more clear answer than a hundred words combined. "My father has gotten tired after the death of my brother and perhaps he just wants the end to be as well as possible."
She did not answer and therefore she did not miss his whisper of doom: "my dreams tell me, that horse will crack open the ground and let Hades swallow us whole."
She knew it before he came to her, before she saw the flames rise to sky; for she heard the gods scream. A tear slid down her cheek as she heard the screams of the people that had not taken her captive but still paid for one prince’s foolishness.
They die screaming, yet he walks this earth still. He should’ve died when he sparred Menelaus. That is what the gods had intended.
He came to her, crying for he was a prince and it is ingrained in a prince to love his country with a love so true and fierce, no woman could ever match it. Or so it should be.
“Troy has fallen.”
She nodded, “the sky is screaming in grief, can you not hear?”
His eyes flickered to the sky for a moment before he shook his head. “No, tis not the sky that is screaming. It is my people, my blood of my blood. We have fallen.”
She did not answer as she did not know how to, without reminding him that it was his that doomed them when he chose her.
“Will you gift me one last thing, dear Helen?”
She turned to him, her hair glowing like the sun with the burning buildings behind her, and her eyes shining with pity. “Do you command me as my prince?”
He cocked his head. “Would you do it?”
“Mayhaps. If it is a request worthy of a prince.”
“I fear, I will not return to Troy after today,” his voice is weak, afraid, and she feels her pity grow. “Will you give me a kiss?”
Helen of Troy, Helen of Sparta, looks at him now, looks at him like the prince he is and not just as the man who chose her over his city, his country.
Forgive me, Menelaus, forgive me, Hera. I cannot deny a dying man.
Her lips touched his for a moment so short not even Zeus, the everwatching god, would be able to see it. Her eyes bore into his, and she remembered Aphrodite proclaiming him her champion.
He will not save anyone. He will only die. Hector was the hero of the two, and you took him from me, from Troy. Let justice rule once more.
“Go,” she whispered, “go, my prince, and avenge your brother, Hector, tamer of forces.”
Aphrodite would rejoice if she had seen the kiss, for she would’ve seen it as a promise of true love in the face of certain death. In the face of the world burning to the ground.
He looks at her for a moment and whispers, “such beauty. Any man would be lucky to die for you.”
Then he left her to watch the screaming city.
It is when Odysseus comes to her that she understands that the war has finally come to an end.
“Is it true?”, she whispers as he falls to his knees at the sight of her.
He looks up at her, and in his eyes she can see the grief and torment the Greeks has been through the last ten years and she bites her lips as to not scream.
He gives her his hand without answering and it is when her skin touches another Greek for the first time in such a long time that she breaks down.
She had stood tall and proud, regal like a queen, since she was taken, since the screams of dying warriors began outside the city walls.
No, no this cannot be. How can I break when I am to return home?
She fell to her knees, her hair hiding her tears from the warrior king that was called to war for her. Hector told her when he went to die, that the fault of this tragedy was not hers. Maybe it was so, maybe it was not. No matter, the fallout was still a burning city.
Odysseus crouched down in front of her and sang a soft lullaby, a song meant to lull children to sleep at night when the monsters were out to get them. It was a song of love and a promise of protection.
“Prince Paris perished,” his voice is low, as if he told her a secret only they knew of, “he was struck down a loyal king of Greece. But he did not travel to the underworld of Hades alone, with him he brought our strongest and most beautiful warrior, Pereïden Achilles.”
She closed her eyes, praying for the warrior that had slain the only man in Troy who had been kind to her, and for the prince that had made the world burn with his actions.
Such is the fate of heroes; right or wrong they all fall.
Time can be transcendent as long as you remember.
Remember the name Helen of Sparta, for her story is that of a magical woman.
Born of gods, she was a beauty like no man has ever seen again. That beauty, so many men, would have you believe was what sparked a war; but tell me, was it not the voice of men that commanded a thousand ships, was it not a man, a prince, that saw her and claimed her his?
Helen of Sparta was taken for ten years, lived through a war and reunited with her husband. She returned to her home and her people worshiped her as a goddess, a symbol of everlasting love, of fidelity.
So correct me if I’m wrong, but is not the poets and singers that made her kiss out to be one of death? Was it not the poets and singers who sung of a woman whose touch was poisonous?
Helen of Sparta had her identity stolen, her name became that of the city that held her prisoner. And yet we say it is her that started the war of a century and burned Troy to the ground.
Tell me her story once more. Is that the truth of it? Truly?