Helen of Troy is a woman whose name has become synonymous with female beauty and sexual intrigue in Western culture. The Iliad tells us that she was abducted by Paris and taken away from her husband Menelaus during his absence from Sparta, which caused the Trojan War.
Helen was born sometime around 1200 BC in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). She was raised in Sparta by her mother Leda and stepfather Tyndareus who were King and Queen of Sparta respectively at this time (many historians believe that Helen’s biological father may have been Zeus himself). At some point in her childhood she was kidnapped by Theseus who took her back to Athens where he married her. Many Greek heroes fought for her hand in marriage, including Odysseus and Menelaus, however, she would soon run away with Paris after he had come to Athens looking for his wife Oenone who had left him due to Theseus’s constant philandering ways.
Helen’s abduction by Paris led to a 10-year war between Greece and Troy that ended with the destruction of Troy and its people. The Trojan War may be one of the most famous wars in history because it inspired many great works of literature, including Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Inferno, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, and Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida.
Helen is considered one of history’s first celebrities and an inspiration for many artists throughout history including William Shakespeare and Mark Twain.