Helen of Troy(formerly Helen of Sparta)
Helen of Troy by Evelyn de Morgan
Helen of Troy by Evelyn de Morgan

external image chart4.gifFamily Tree

Helen of Troy, formerly Helen of Sparta, is the daughter of Zeus and Leda, the beautiful queen of Sparta, who was raped by the former. Helen is also the sister of Clytemnestra, although Clytemnestra's father was Tyndareus, the king of Sparta and husband of Leda. Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces) were twin brothers of Helen, but only Pollux was the one who shared a father with Helen. Tyndareus was the father of Castor. Clytemnestra later married Agamemnon.Helen of troy was considered the most beutiful woman in that era.


  • desired by a lot of men
  • immortal due to divine lineage
  • removed and largely unaffected by the outcome of the war
  • beautiful

Events Before The Iliad

Theseus, a Greek Mythology hero, kidnapped Helen when she was only 12 years old and planned to make her his wife. She was locked away to Attica in Greece under the care of Theseus's mother but Castor and Pollux rescued her when Theseus was away. In some versions, before Helen was brought back to Sparta by her brothers, she gave birth to a daughter named Iphigenia.

Some time after returning to Sparta, King Tyndareus decided that Helen should marry already, so suitors, many of them powerful leaders, from all over Greece came and hoped to win her over. Tyndareus worried that choosing one suitor over the other will cause trouble for his kingdom since the rejected suitors might be angered by her choice. Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, was among Helen's suitors, and he proposed to Tyndareus to have all of Helen's suitors make an oath to respect her choice and support that person if ever the need arises. All the suitors agreed. Helen finally chose Menelaus, prince of Mycenae and the older brother of Clytemnestra's husband, Agamemnon. Helen and Menelaus, who eventually became the King of Sparta, had two children.

Role in The Iliad

Upon Aphrodite's promise of the most beautiful woman in the world to him, Paris, a prince of Troy, traveled to Sparta. Paris knew that Aphrodite kept her promise when he saw Helen. While Menelaus was in Crete, Paris took Helen back to Troy. In some versions, Helen went back to Troy with Paris willingly, seemingly under his charm. Other accounts claim that Paris took her by force.
When Menelaus returned home and discovered that Helen was gone, he called on the powerful suitors of Helen, who swore to support him when necessary. The Greeks set sail for Troy and their arrival marked the beginning of the Trojan War. It is because of this that Helen received the title of the face that launched a thousand ships.

Diane Kruger as Helen of Troy in the 2004 movie Troy.
Diane Kruger as Helen of Troy in the 2004 movie Troy.

Helen's sympathies during the war were divided. At times, she identified the Greek leaders for the Trojans to kill. Other instances, she was helping the Greeks. Paris died during the war, and Helen married his younger brother Deiphobus. When the Greeks won the war, she helped Menelaus kill Deiphobus, and then they both returned to Sparta.


The main challenge for artists who depicted Helen of Troy through art was how to represent ideal beauty. There are numerous artworks on Helen of Troy in various scenes. Some show her fleeing from Menelaus after the fall of Troy while others show her staring boldly into his eyes. Paris's abduction of Helen is another popular motive by some early artworks, some of them depicting Helen being raped by Paris. Several movies have been made about her and the Trojan War.