Many of the reflections on love of the great authors of classical Greece remain valid. Homer, Hesiod, Plato, Sappho or mythology offer us instruments that still serve us today to understand our passions and the nature of seduction. And we continue to reinterpret those stories, differently according to each historical period. So much so that Sparta can be seen not only as a symbol of war or the most severe austerity but as the embodiment of love.
Helena is remembered, somewhat masochistically, as the beautiful woman who led the Achaeans to impose a long siege on Troy, the ruin of the city, causing many deaths. We tend to believe that she betrayed her husband Menelaus to leave with a Trojan prince named Paris, who did not want to return her.
The emphasis on betrayal – wouldn’t it be more of an abduction? makes us forget the later development of the events, a happy reconciliation with Menelaus, with whom she shared a reign in Sparta and had at least one daughter, Hermione. That’s why, viewed with perspective, it was her love that triumphed forever.
Why did Helena and Menelaus get back together? Matteo Nucci, the author of the recently published essay ‘Eros and The Abyss’, points out that, after being possessed by Paris, she felt uprooted, since she had been defeated by Aphrodite, the goddess of the arts in the bedroom, but, like everyone, it was impossible for her to remain trapped forever in the aphrodisiac spell. It had to be another god, Eros, the one who, going beyond sexual desire, penetrated the soul of the one who gave himself to her.
After being possessed by Paris, Helena felt uprooted, having been defeated by Aphrodite, the goddess of the arts in the bedroom, but it was impossible for her to remain trapped forever in the aphrodisiac spell
Nucci is upset that the possibility has been pointed out that Helena artfully used the drug of the Nepenther with her husband Menelaus, “thus pushing him to calm his grudge and drown the desire for revenge in oblivion.” His theory is another: the magic was not that of a drinker, but simply that of Eros, “the love that recomposes itself and that, when doing it after the worst betrayal, becomes immortal, infinite, complete love”.
Hence, as some say, the city of Therapne, where they both lived and received Odysseus, according to Homer, the place where they both died, a few days apart, housed, on the top of a hill, the tomb of the kings of Sparta, Helena and Menelaus, converted for centuries into a sacred place, “the residence of endless love”.
All this believed at least those who, for a long time, went to the sanctuary of Therapne. Helena was deified and she was invoked to help the evils of love. The women asked for the beauty that would allow them to obtain an infinite and lasting love like the one dispensed by the kings of Sparta.
Let’s be fair and let’s talk about Helen of Sparta, rather than Troy.