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GENERAL EDITORS William Arrowsmithand Herbert Colder


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First published in 1981 by Oxford University Press, Inc.,200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016

First issued as an Oxford University Press paperback, 1992

Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University PressAll rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,

without the prior permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataEuripides.

Helen.(The Greek tragedy in new translations)I. Michie, Jarnes. II. Leach, Colin.

HI. Title.PA3975.H4M5 882'.01 80-19680

ISBN 0-19-502870-8ISBN 0-19-507710-5 (pbk.)

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Printed in the United States of America

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To Ben Sonrienbergwho sees more jokes than I do

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The Greek Tragedy in New Translations is based on the con-viction that poets like Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides canonly be properly rendered by translators who are themselves poets.Scholars may, it is true, produce useful and perceptive versions.But our most urgent present need is for a re-creation of theseplays—as though they had been written, freshly and greatly, bymasters fully at home in the English of our own times. Unlessthe translator is a poet, his original is likely to reach us in crip-pled form: deprived of the power and pertinence it must have ifit is to speak to us of what is permanent in the Greek. But poetryis not enough; the translator must obviously know what he isdoing, or he is bound to do it badly. Clearly, few contemporarypoets possess enough Greek to undertake the complex and for-midable task of transplanting a Greek play without also "colonial-izing" it or stripping it of its deep cultural difference, its remote-ness from us. And that means depriving the play of that crucialotherness of Greek experience—a quality no less valuable to usthan its closeness. Collaboration between scholar and poet istherefore the essential operating principle of the series. In for-tunate cases scholar and poet co-exist; elsewhere we have teamedable poets and scholars in an effort to supply, through affinity andintimate collaboration, the necessary, combination of skills.

An effort has been made to provide the general reader or stu-dent with first-rate critical introductions, clear expositions oftranslators' principles, commentary on difficult passages, amplestage directions, and glossaries of mythical and geographical terms


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encountered in the plays. Our purpose throughout has been tomake the reading of the plays as vivid as possible. But our poetshave constantly tried to remember that they were translatingplays—plays meant to be produced, in language that actors couldspeak, naturally and with dignity. The poetry aims at beingdramatic poetry and realizing itself in words and actions that areboth speakable and playable.

Finally, the reader should perhaps be aware that no pains havebeen spared in order that the "minor" plays should be translatedas carefully and brilliantly as the acknowledged masterpieces. Forthe Greek Tragedy in New Translations aims to be, in the fullestsense, new. If we need vigorous new poetic versions, we also needto see the plays with fresh eyes, to reassess the plays for ourselves,in terms of our own needs. This means translations that liberateus from the canons of an earlier age because the translators haverecognized, and discovered, in often neglected works, the percep-tions and wisdom that make these works ours and necessary to us.


If only for the illusion of coherence, a series of thirty-three Greekplays requires a consistent format. Different translators, each withhis individual voice, cannot possibly develop the sense of a singlecoherent style for each of the three tragedians; nor even the illu-sion that, despite their differences, the tragedians share a com-mon set of conventions and a generic, or period, style. But theycan at least share a common approach to orthography and a com-mon vocabulary of conventions.

i. Spelling of Greek namesAdherence to the old convention whereby Greek names were firstLatinized before being housed in English is gradually disappear-ing. We are now clearly moving away from Latinization and to-ward precise transliteration. The break with tradition may beregrettable, but there is much to be said for hearing and seeingGreek names as though they were both Greek and new, insteadof Roman or neo-classical importations. We cannot of course seethem as wholly new. For better or worse certain names andmyths are too deeply rooted in our literature and thought to bedislodged. To speak of "Helene" and "Hekabe" would be no lesspedantic and absurd than to write "Aischylos" or "Platon" or


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"Thoukydides." There are of course borderline cases. "Jocasta"(as opposed to "lokaste") is not a major mythical figure in herown right; her familiarity in her Latin form is a function of thefame of Sophocles' play as the tragedy par excellence. And astourists we go to Delphi, not Delphoi. The precisely transliteratedform may be pedantically "right," but the pedantry goes againstthe grain of cultural habit and actual usage.

As a general rule, we have therefore adopted a "mixed" orthog-raphy according to the principles suggested above. When a namehas been firmly housed in English (admittedly the question ofdomestication is often moot), the traditional spelling has beenkept. Otherwise names have been transliterated. Throughout theseries the -os termination of masculine names has been adopted,and Greek diphthongs (as in Iphigeneia) have normally beenretained. We cannot expect complete agreement from readers (orfrom translators, for that matter) about borderline cases. But wewant at least to make the operative principle clear: to walk anarrow line between orthographical extremes in the hope ofkeeping what should not, if possible, be lost; and refreshing, inhowever tenuous a way, the specific sound and nameboundednessof Greek experience.

2. Stage directionsThe ancient manuscripts of the Greek plays do not supply stagedirections (though the ancient commentators often provide in-formation relevant to staging, delivery, "blocking," etc.). Hencestage directions must be inferred from words and situations andour knowledge of Greek theatrical conventions. At best this is aticklish and uncertain procedure. But it is surely preferable thatgood stage directions should be provided by the translator thanthat the reader should be left to his own devices in visualizingaction, gesture, and spectacle. Obviously the directions suppliedshould be both spare and defensible. Ancient tragedy was austereand "distanced" by means of masks, which means that the readermust not expect the detailed intimacy ("He shrugs and turnswearily away." "She speaks with deliberate slowness, as thoughto emphasize the point," etc.) which characterizes stage direc-tions in modern naturalistic drama. Because Greek drama ishighly rhetorical and stylized, the translator knows that his wordsmust do the real work of inflection and nuance. Therefore everyeffort has been made to supply the visual and tonal sense required


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by a given scene and the reader's (or actor's) putative unfamil-iarity with the ancient conventions.

3. Numbering of linesFor the convenience of the reader who may wish to check theEnglish against the Greek text or vice versa, the lines have beennumbered according to both the Greek text and the translation.The lines of the English translation have been numbered in mul-tiples of ten, and these numbers have been set in the right-handmargin. The (inclusive) Greek numeration will be found brack-eted at the top of the page. The reader will doubtless note thatin many plays the English lines outnumber the Greek, but heshould not therefore conclude that the translator has been undulyprolix. In most cases the reason is simply that the translator hasadopted the free-flowing norms of modern Anglo-American pros-ody, with its brief, breath- and emphasis-determined lines, andits habit of indicating cadence and caesuras by line length andsetting rather than by conventional punctuation. Other trans-lators have preferred four-beat or five-beat lines, and in thesecases Greek and English numerations will tend to converge.

4. Notes and GlossaryIn addition to the Introduction, each play has been supple-mented by Notes (identified by the line numbers of the transla-tion) and a Glossary. The Notes are meant to supply informationwhich the translators deem important to the interpretation of apassage; they also afford the translator an opportunity to justifywhat he has done. The Glossary is intended to spare the readerthe trouble of going elsewhere to look up mythical or geographi-cal terms. The entries are not meant to be comprehensive; whena fuller explanation is needed, it will be found in the Notes.


Colin Leach studied Classics at Oxford University in the fiftiesand, following his first degrees, became a Classical Tutor atBrasenose College, specializing in Ancient Drama. After spend-ing a number of years in the City of London, he returned toOxford in 1979, where he is now a Fellow of Pembroke College.He is the author of numerous articles and reviews on a wide vari-ety of classical subjects; and at present he is occupied with a

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study of Aristophanic comedy. He is one of the relatively fewremaining regular composers in Greek and Latin verse.

His collaborator, fames Michie, is presently a Director of theBodley Head in London. He holds an M.A. in Classics and Eng-lish Literature from Oxford University. His publications includea book of poems, Possible Laughter (1959), and translations ofvarious Latin poets, The Odes of Horace, The Poems of Catullus,and The Epigrams of Martial. He has also edited The BodleyHead Book of Longer Short Stories, and, most recently, trans-lated Selected Fables of La Fontaine.


"It is all iridescence," observed a contemporary French scholar ofEuripides' Helen. He was speaking descriptively, not impression-istically. In the whole Euripidean corpus, there is nothing quitelike this play, with its glittering wit, its ingenuity of contrivanceand elegance of execution, and, at a deeper level, its subtext oftragedy and pain and the pathos of the impossible. At ever}' point,the sensitive reader will feel the dramatist's delight in his own vir-tuosity, in his ability to "dance in the chains of convention," out-witting, if not outraging, expectation with constant surprisingperipeties. Like Orestes and Jon, the Helen is a complex tissueof sustained and often contrasting reversals whose dramatic effectis the sense of something unstated or unrevolved at the very heartof things, an ellipsis or enigma in reality itself. The reader feelsthe presence of a design in the unfolding rhythm of the obviouslypatterned reversals of dramatic events; but when he asks himselfthe meaning of the design, it slips away, as though the pointwere mysteriously suppressed or missing.

The play refuses to resolve the problems raised by its own pat-terned reversals. And the reader feels this apparent absence ofresolution as dissonance. In this respect, of course, the Helen islike many other Euripidean plays in which the essential structuralprinciple is the systematic contrasting of different "worlds," dif-ferent orders of reality. Again and again Euripides sets the idealagainst the real, or the real against the ideal; the tragic against thecomic-romantic or comic-pathetic; literary epic and high poetryagainst ordinary everyday reality; archaic against contemporary;the reality of "things as they are said to be" (myth or logos)against "things as they are" (actuality, fact, ergon). The result is


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the sense of consistent, even studied anachronism, which onefinds everywhere in Euripides. The dramatist obviously takes painsto produce the sense of cultural clash, the dissonance in values,that necessarily results from juxtaposing these opposed "worlds"or realities. The mythical or ideal (not necessarily synonymous,at least in Euripides) values of the culture are set against its actualvalues (often nobler, but often more base than the ideal values),and the effect is inevitably that of a world where things are de-liberately prevented from "phasing," from converging and inte-grating. The world, in short, as it must have seemed to Euripidesin the last thirty years of the fifth century.

But in the Helen (and the Orestes), this principle is pushedto its logical, or perhaps illogical, extreme. Here we have, in theform of a palinodic recantation of Euripides' persistent disparage-ment of Helen elsewhere,1 a denial of the "tragic" Helen by con-trast with an invented "romantic" Helen of surpassing domesticvirtue. Helen, we are told, did not go to Troy; she was abductedto Egypt where, after the Trojan War, the shipwrecked Menelaosfinds her, her virtue besieged by an amorous Egyptian prince. Be-tween these two Helens, the tragic adulteress of epic and the"retouched" Helen of our play, the poet seemingly invites hisaudience to choose. But in one sense—the crucial sense, I think-there is really no choice; or rather, the choice is merely apparent,a device ex hypothesi by which Euripides obliquely but firmlydrives home his point—the utter futility of the Trojan (i.e. Pelo-ponnesian) War. The palinodic fiction intensifies the tragedy ofthe war by demonstrating its futility, a war fought for the posses-sion of a phantom. Helen—whoever "Helen" may be—is rehabili-tated, but the result is to assert even more strongly the meaning-less suffering of all those thousands who fought and died for tenlong years to bring her home. In the end, the phantom who wentto Troy is more real—more symbolically real, above all in her ef-fect upon others—than the palinodic "flesh-and-blood" Helen ofthe play.

Of what is Helen a symbol? What else but that figure of lethallyintoxicating loveliness that, in play after play, floats across theEuripidean stage, luring men to their destruction in pursuit of a

i. See, for instance, The Trojan Women or Hecuba, where Hecuba exclaimsof her doomed daughter Polyxena, "O gods,/ to see there, in her place,Helen of Sparta,/ sister of the sons of Zeus, whose lovely eyes made ashesof the happiness of Troy!"


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will-o'-the-wisp, the objectification of their own desire. "WhatAphrodite has driven this army mad?", asks a character in anotherplay, and he means: mad with desire, with the lust known to hiscontemporaries as eros: the lust for power, empire, wealth, con-quest. Libido dominandi. Helen is Euripides' image of what Thu-cydides called arche, the power of rule which the historian re-garded as the effective cause of the Peloponnesian War, andwhich Aristophanes .personified in the Birds as BasiJeia ("sov-ereignty," "rule," the reward which Pisthetairos, the winged im-perialist of Cloudcuckooland, claims from Zeus as his right) ?

The play is, as Colin Leach suggests, profoundly pacifist, adramatic prayer as it were, almost a spell, to bring the "true"Helen home to Hellas where she belongs, out of foreign parts."Foreign parts" will mean of course many things: Syracuse, wherethe great Athenian armada was already doomed; all those distantplaces in which the Athenians—in Thucydides' powerfully com-pact phrase, duserotes ton aponton, "unlucky lovers of distant (i.e.unobtainable) things"—had sought to extend their unappeasablehunger for empire; or perhaps that underworld from which De-meter and all Hellenes hungered to repatriate the lost Persephone.Whatever else this play may be about, it is surely not the "es-capism" which has been so persistently attributed to it (and, withequal improbability, to Aristophanes' Birds).

Translating such a play is ticklish high-wire work. For obviousreasons. One mis-step, and the whole airy artifice crumbles. If thetranslator miscalculates the timing or the intricate involutions ofthe reversals at the instant of their pivoting; if he misconstruesthe tone or tension by overstressing real or ideal, tragic or roman-tic; if he fails to register the delicate inflections of character, thenthe play loses, if not quite everything, at least that sure-footedacrobatic balance on which its beauty depends. At every point theplay challenges the translator to preserve the texture. For the tex-ture embodies the dramatist's sense of the actual texture of humanexperience generally but above all at the time: life lived in theshuddering tension between real and ideal, between what men areand what they might aspire to be; between their own inconsistent

2. See Birds, 1536-41. Aristophanes plays punningly on the word basileia(princess, queen), which is thereupon glossed (by Prometheus) in the senseof basileia (sovereignty, power, etc.): "She [Basileia] is the stewardess ofZeus's thunder and of everything else, good counsel, good government, re-straint, naval arsenals, slander, paymasters, and judicial payments too."


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natures, at once animal and divine, and the uncertain and perhapsunknowable purposes of gods represented so vividly in the rever-sals by which human existence is rhythmed, now for better, nowfor worse. To these extremely taxing demands, it seems to me thatthe translators have responded with consistent tact of understand-ing and poetic skill.

One last point of important disagreement. In his Introduction,Colin Leach argues that the play abounds in signs of hastycomposition. There are, no doubt, inconsistencies. But none ofthese, it seems to me, amounts to much when set against theastonishing technical control exhibited by the poet, above all intone and texture—matters in which the poet's care and intelli-gence are evident throughout. Theonoe may not have been con-sulted by Helen because Helen, like the Servant, is perhaps asskeptical about prophecy as she is about her own mythologicalbackground ("There's an old story . . . which may or may notbe true"). In the recognition-scene I see no problem whatever; itis handled with great technical agility, and it enjoyed, I suppose(given Aristophanes' parody of it), great popular success at thetime. The Demeter ode admittedly poses real problems. But if wesuppose, as we reasonably may,3 that the Iphigeneia at Tauris wasperformed as a third play in the same group with Helen and the(lost) Andromeda in 412 B.C., the problem largely dissolves. Thatis, the extremely close structural resemblances between the Iphi-geneia at Tauris and the Helen then appear, not as structural self-plagiarism by Euripides, but unmistakable linking by means ofcoordinate—i.e. corresponding—structural units or actions (therecognition-scene, the escape, epiphany, etc.) .4 And since all threeplays deal with the theme of la perduta ritrovata (in every case aGreek girl, lost or abducted or constrained by barbarians, is res-cued and repatriated by a Greek hero), the beautiful ode tellingof Demeter's anguished search for her own lost child, the ravishedPersephone, with its ritual theme of loss and recovery, death andrebirth, falls into thematic place, linking the three plays to a

3. Cf. A. M. Dale, ed., Euripides Helen (Oxford, 1967), xxiv-xxviii, for adifferent view. Dale believes that the 1ph. Taur. is to be dated to 414, twoyears before the Helen. But her evidence is entirely metrical. And while suchevidence is invaluable for dating Euripides' plays to distinct periods, metricalcriteria are no better than carbon-14 dating for pinpoint-accuracy. Nor, itseems to me, can structural arguments be so easily dismissed.4. See Richmond Lattimore's Introduction to his translation of Iph. Taur. inthis series (Oxford, 1973).


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larger mythological pattern of return, deliverance, and redemp-tion. The great dramatist deserves the benefit of the critical doubt,even the doubts of his admirers. To no Euripidean play doesGoethe's observation apply more accurately, I believe, than to theHelen: "Over the scenes of Hellas and its primitive body oflegends he sails and swims like a cannonball in a sea of mercuryand cannot sink even if he tries. . . ."

Baltimore and New York William Arrowsmith


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Introduction, 3Introduction,

Helen, 19

Notes, 87

Glossary, 101

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Of the eighteen or nineteen plays of Euripides which havereached us in complete form, is any more elusive than Helen? Isit a tragedy, a comedy, a dramatic exercise in philosophy (a kindof remote prototype of Beckett's Waiting for Godot or TomStoppard's jumpers), a thoroughly perverse ballon d'essai, a playwritten for, and for performance by, women only—or what? Theclues exist, but the labyrinth is tortuous and the answer multi-faceted.

First, then, this is one of Euripides' later plays; it was produced,probably at the city Dionysia, in 412 B.C. (a date which, excep-tionally, can be taken as certain). He was as fertile as ever, withOrestes, Phoenissae, and, above all, Bacchae still to emerge; in-deed, in fifty years he was to compose nearly ninety plays. A datecan mean much, a little, nothing; this one, 412 B.C., does (as Ishall shortly argue) mean a lot. For, even if there is no need torecount here the dismal story of incompetence, procrastination,and ill-fortune which led to the calamitous defeat of the Athe-nians' huge (and then reinforced) expedition to Sicily, let us atleast remember that the final catastrophes, by sea and land, tookplace in autumn of 413 B.C. 412 B.C. was not an easy nor an agree-able year for the Athenians, who had now been at war withSparta, almost continuously, for nineteen years.

Next, Helen herself. The dramatist, to be fair, gives us warningof surprises to come; in the very first line he tells us, throughHelen, that we are to imagine ourselves as being on the banks ofthe Nile: we are in a remote and unfamiliar country, where any-thing could happen, and anything might be expected. Egypt


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then—though far from unknown, of course—was still a distantland, difficult of access, full of marvels. A few lines later, and weare being introduced to Proteus: not the well-known Proteus ofHomer, who had the gift of turning himself at will into otherspecies, but quite a different one, a king of Egypt. Another fewlines, and Helen is casting doubt (18-22*), in rather a sly fashion,on the story surrounding her own birth:

There's an old story that Zeus changed himselfinto a swan once and, being chased by an eagle,flew to my mother Leda's lap for refugeand by trick got what he wanted from her—which may or may not be true.

What sort of Helen is heroine of this play will emerge as theplot develops; what the audience has first to cope with is therealization that Euripides' play is based on the violent variationof the myth which is ascribed to the Sicilian poet Stesichorus.Stesichorus was a lyric poet who flourished in the first half of thesixth century B.C. Legend, as recounted by Plato, claimed that,after he had told the conventional version of Helen's story, hewas blinded: after all, she was by now regarded as a goddess, atleast in Sparta. Hence, the famous Palinode, with its best-knownlines:

It is not true, this tale,You never once set sailOn well-benched ships, nor wentTo Troy's tall battlement.

(TR. c. M. BOWRA)

Of course, too much violence to the myth would be unacceptable;hence Stesichorus seems to have invented the phantom-Helen,or "eidolon," who "really" went to Troy while the real-live Helenstayed with Proteus in Egypt. Further particulars about Helen'sstay in Egypt are provided by Herodotus in his narrative ofEgyptian history, and some of this is used by Euripides—but themost important elements of the plot are unquestionably the in-vention of the dramatist.

For the unusual version of the myth, a Helen to match. In thetradition to which Athenian playgoers were—or, for that matter,modern playgoers are—accustomed, Helen was "one of the su-

* Unless otherwise indicated, line references throughout are to the Englishtranslation.


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preme figures of Greek mythology, daughter of Zeus and radiantexemplar of the power of Aphrodite, the living symbol of allmen's desires for beauty, married to men of a little less thanheroic stature, sinning and bringing destruction to a city anddeath to thousands, yet herself curiously unscathed and un-dimmed by it all." So, justly, A. M. Dale;1 and perhaps we shallthink of those lines in the Iliad where the Trojan elders, seeingHelen walking on the walls of Troy, said, "Who on earth couldblame the Trojan and Achaean warriors for suffering so long forsuch a woman's sake? Indeed, she is the very image of an immortalgoddess." To be sure, later authors were sometimes less kind. Forexample, viciously and deliberately punning in a chorus of theAgamemnon, Aeschylus described her as "Hell to ships, hell tocities, hell to men." But in this play there is nothing of that. Herewe have a wife of total faithfulness—yes, after seventeen years!—wronged by the gods and men. She cuts off her hair to feignmourning—she even wishes she looked plainer (277-78); she ispositively agreeable to Menelaos, while being only too obviously(to us, not to him) very much cleverer than he is. She is alreadyworried about the prospective spinsterhood of her daughterHermione. She is altogether very different from the standardHelen who had appeared, only three years earlier, as a characterof middling importance, in The Trojan Women. In The TrojanWomen, Helen is faced with imminent death, after the fall ofTroy, at the hands of Menelaos. She remains unmoved and dig-nified; well may Hecuba warn Menelaos not to fall once againunder her spell, she "who snares the eyes of men." To Hecuba,Helen is the Queen of Love, and she comments bitterly on thesimilarity of the words "sensual" and "senseless" (in Greek,Aphrodite and aphrosyne). The most recent editor of the playsays that Menelaos "treats Helen with apparent contempt. Be-neath this veneer his true feelings can be seen. Helen's beauty istoo much for him and we feel sure that it will finally prevail."2

Even if so much can hardly be extracted from the text, this is faircomment; for our purpose we need only note that there is noth-ing in this, the accepted, picture of Helen (and Menelaos) thatwould have alerted Athenian playgoers to the idea of a totallydifferent Helen just three years later. We are, in brief, dealingwith the standard version of the myth.

1. Helen (Oxford, 1967), p. vii.2, K. H. Lee (London, 1975), p. xxv.


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It is quite clear that the treatment in Helen was startling. Wehave a tantalizing glimpse of just how startling it was from thesure-footed Aristophanes. In the very next year, 411 B.C., Aris-tophanes produced his Thesmophoriazusae, or Women at a Reli-gious Festival. This play is exceptional in that it contains a pro-longed parody of the Helen, including many direct quotations.This is inconceivable unless our play had secured speedy and wide-spread acclaim—or at least notoriety. And, even more to the point,in the passage which introduces the parody, the speaker (Mne-silochus) says, as he wonders how to bring Euripides to his assis-tance, "I know; I'll imitate the new Helen"—where the Greekwork for "new," kainos, means not only "recent" but "new-fangled."

Nothing, then, is as it seems or as we should expect it to be ina well-ordered universe. Appearance is to be contrasted with re-ality—and frequently contrasted: by my count nearly 30 times inless than 1700 lines. We have set off on the long road, thoughwe have not yet realised it, to the New Comedy, to Menanderand his sets of identical twins, to the Menaechmi of Plautus, toThe Comedy of Errors.

This is (as A. W. Verrall3 saw) a woman's play. Verrall's in-sights were none the less real for being flawed; and while weneed not accept his theories concerning the Helen, for all theirbrilliant expression, either in whole or in part—indeed, who everhas accepted them?—we shall assuredly accept that women havethe best parts in both dramatic and moral terms. Take the men:Teucer? Little more than a blustering substitute for a program,he appears from nowhere, shortly to vanish, his purpose un-achieved, into that same nowhere whence he came. Theoklyme-nos, who makes a brief, but unappealing, appearance toward theend, has small opportunity to shine, being hardly more than thepersonification of a threat. Menelaos himself, the brother ofthe great Agamemnon, cuts a dismal figure. Tattered and cower-ing on first appearance, he accepts being browbeaten by a servant(how Thersites would have enjoyed that!); he is slow in the up-take and impractical in invention: in short, anything but a hero.By contrast, the women all come out well: the portress whoworsts Menelaos; the priestess Theono'e with her "shrine of jus-tice" in her heart, in whose hands lies the safety of Helen and

3. Four Plays of Euripides (Cambridge, England, 1905), pp. 45-133.


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Menelaos; and, of course, Helen herself, the home and husband-loving Helen, faithful, ingenious, practical, never-despairing.

At this point, a brief summary of the plot becomes essential.Helen, seated as a suppliant on the tomb of Proteus, is anxious toavoid a forced marriage with his son Theoklymenos, whose sisteris Theonoe, the omniscient prophetess. Teucer enters to consultTheonoe (how did he know she was available?), but instead hasa horrified exchange with the woman who, to him, is exactly likethe hated Helen. Teucer tells Helen of the events at Troy beforedeparting, his purposes not achieved, at the threat of the arrivalof Theoklymenos. In the next scene, Menelaos makes his ship-wrecked appearance, dressed (according to Aristophanes) in apiece of sailcloth—it is here that he has his discreditable episodewith the portress. In due course, Helen and the Chorus emergeto join him, now knowing from Theonoe that Menelaos is indeedalive. Menelaos, who has arrived in Egypt accompanied by theHelen-eidolon, understandably finds the situation puzzling, anddoes not accept the real Helen for what she is until he hears ofthe disappearance, in surprising circ*mstances, of the phantom.Plans for escape—or, failing that, suicide—are made, but all de-pends upon the silence of Theonoe. Theonoe hears the pleas ofHelen and Menelaos, and is persuaded to silence; the pair finallydecide to trick Theoklymenos by pretending that Menelaos isdead (so that a ship can be provided for Helen in which to per-form the funeral rites). The rest of the play is occupied with thesuccessful execution of the plan; a passage between Menelaos andTheoklymenos in which the former purports to be one of hisown crew provides yet more opportunity for double entendreand dramatic irony. The curtain is rung down, suitably enough,by an appearance ex machina by Helen's brothers, Kastor andPolydeukes; and all ends happily.

So bald a narrative, though it can convey nothing of the lan-guage—serious, blustering, matter-of-fact, philosophical, moraliz-ing, comic, or whatever—at least leaves us in no doubt that Helenis not, and cannot be in any "traditional" sense, a tragedy—if by"tragedy" we think of the Agamemnon or Oedipus Rex orBacchae. To be sure, Richmond Lattimore makes a partly validpoint when he says, listing the striking similarities betweenIphigeneia in Tauris and Helen, "The occasion and sanctions ofperformance, the use of heroic legend, the tragic diction andmeters, the tragic actors, costumes, and every circ*mstance de-


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fined it as tragedy, and the happy ending made no difference."4

But there is, perhaps, some risk of circularity of argument here,which, if accepted, would make it difficult for a dramatist to beallowed to develop except within disagreeably narrow confines;moreover, Helen shows, at times, a striking informality of dic-tion—there's a good example at one point when the messenger,seeing one (real) Helen and believing her to be the other(eidolon, real-to-him) Helen, says, in effect, "Oh, hello Helen—so you were here, after all." Again, we have seen that Euripides isusing an unfamiliar version of the myth; and we can be certainthat Menelaos' costume at least was of an outr6 appearance.There is a feeling of experiment throughout the play, difficult tocommunicate except by lengthy quotation—so that one may sym-pathize with Lattimore, who advised his readers to read Helenbefore reading his introduction to it. Perhaps, however, modernreceived opinion has gone too far in the other direction: the lateProfessor T. B. L. Webster wrote:5

The Helen should not be taken too seriously: it is gay, often excit-ing, sometimes comic, always beautiful. The story of the eidolonmakes nonsense of the Trojan War, and both the old servant andthe chorus touch on this theme. No doubt Euripides believes thatquarrels should be settled by argument rather than by battle, andthat commonsense is more useful than prophecy, but he treats thisvery lightly. . . . He has simply accepted the eidolon story andwritten a very pretty play on its consequences.

This seems a long way too dismissive. To begin with, it takesno account of the play's philosophizing, its emphasis on themeaning of words, the constant harping on the sophistic distinc-tion between onoma (name = appearance) and logos (word) onthe one hand, and soma (body), pragma (fact, reality), or ergon(fact) on the other. One thinks of Menelaos' bafflement on thepossibility of two Zeuses co-existing, two Helens, two Troys(511-18):

Is there a manby the name of Zeus living beside the Nile?No, for there's one Zeus only—the one in heaven.And where else in the world can there be a Spartaexcept beside the reed-bright, rippling Eurotas?

4. Iphigeneia in Tauris (New York, 1973), p. 5.5. The Tragedies of Euripides (London, 1967), pp. 201-02.


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. . . Can there possibly be a second Sparta andanother Troy?

Commentators have observed other sophistic associations, no-tably a use of reductio ad impossible which may even derivefrom Gorgias. Again, in famous lines (1089-91) Theonoe speaksof the notion of the survival after death of a spiritual element inmankind; and this—like a somewhat similar passage in Euripides'Suppliants6—early led to the noting of the relationship betweenEuripides and Anaxagoras:

The dead may not have living minds like ours,but having once mixed with immortal etherthey have immortal consciousness.

So much, perhaps, is reasonably clear, relatively interesting:Euripides in old age was no less willing to experiment, no lesswilling to listen to the latest offerings of the philosophers. But animportant paper by Charles Segal, entitled "The Two Worlds ofEuripides' Helen," has taken this much further, by demonstratingthe depth and complexity of the underlying philosophical struc-ture. Segal's study, one of the most penetrating and authoritativediscussions of the play, may in a few instances go a little furtherthan the evidence, strictly speaking, permits; that is, in any case,unimportant, What he shows is that the play contains a wholepattern of antitheses that goes far beyond the onoma-pragmacontacts: for example, death and life; true inner piety and out-ward regard for religious forms; cosmic perspective and narrowpossessiveness; feminine values and masculine values; and, ofcourse, peace and war. Segal develops his theme by taking threemain generic contrasts—Reality and Appearance, Helen andMenelaos, and Theonoe and T'heoklymenos—and developing theunderlying antitheses from there. His analysis concludes:

The issue of whether the play is comedy or tragedy is, in the lastanalysis, irrelevant. Euripides, like many artists in the late stages oftheir work, has created a form which transcends the precise limitsbetween genres. Shakespeare's late "tragic" romances—notably Cym-beline and Pericles—me a close analogy. The urge and the encourage-ment to go beyond the conventional form of tragedy must have comewith the conception of the basic material of the plot: the complexinterchanges of appearance and reality, the exotic setting, the philo-sophical mysticism, the ritual death and rebirth, the odes on Perse-

6. Gilbert Murray, ed. (Oxford Classical Texts, 1913), 11. 531-34.


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phone and the Mountain mother, the blend of sophistic epistemologyand ancient, Odyssean archetypes. The equally "romantic" and"comic" features of plays like the Iphigeneia Among the Tauriansand the Ton—to say nothing of the heroless Trojan Women or thetripartite Herakles—suffice to show that Euripides was in a period ofintense artistic exploration.7

It is Segal's achievement that, among much else, he has givenback to Helen its claim as a deeply serious play—a claim whicheven Wilamowitz would not and did not accept. By so doing, asI shall maintain, he has opened the way to an interpretation ofHelen which will enable its title as a "tragedy" to be restored,even if in an indirect and unexpected way.

In lines 972-77 (significantly, the lines not only are spoken byHelen to Theonoe, but also appear just after the play is halfwaythrough) Helen says:

God abominates violence; his commandmentto all of us is: get and enjoy possessions,but not by robbery. For just as the skybelongs to all men, so too does this earthwhere each may fill his house with goods, so long asthey are his own, and not snatched from his neighbor.

In the context, where Helen is actually talking of her positionvis-a-vis Theoklymenos, the lines had enough of a gnomic feelabout them to ensure their elimination, in some editions, fromthe text. Nothing could be less likely.

We can now no longer ignore the political background inwhich Helen made its appearance. Few among its audience didnot have a relation who had been a casualty (whether dead orimprisoned) of the Sicilian Expedition; demographers have evenasserted that perhaps one-quarter of free Athenian males of mili-tary age were so lost. This was the greatest single disaster inAthens' imperial history; worse, it could not possibly be imputedto virtuous motivation. Not for nothing, in Thucydides' History,does the account of the Sicilian Expedition immediately followthe appalling story of Athens' despicably cruel treatment ofMelos. For the Athenian invasion of Sicily was nakedly devotedto gain at the expense of others, to win (as we might put it now-adays) the foreign currency, especially in terms of gold, that

7. Transactions of the American Philological Association (TAPA), 102(1971), pp. 553-614.


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would enable them to carry on the war against Sparta with agrowing rather than a dwindling band of allies.

The expedition failed, failed catastrophically. Then is theHelen an "anti-war tract"? It appeared less than a year after theSicilian disaster, at a time when it would be absurdly weak to saythat questions of the war's likely outcome and usefulness were "inthe air." Yet the play itself contains relatively little that can beinterpreted, directly or indirectly, as an attack on war—thoughwe must note that the play's most obvious direct attack on any-thing, divination, has immediate relevance to the craze for justthat, which, in an outburst of superstition, broke out at exactlythat time; as T'hucydides tells us in his usual clinical language.And that craze seems to have been particularly connected, notsurprisingly, with the fate of the Sicilian Expedition. A servantsays (806-21):

I do now seehow full of lies, how rotten the whole businessof prophecy is. . . . Much betterto sacrifice and pray to the gods and leaveprophets alone. Prophecy was inventedas a bait for gullible man, but no one evergot rich without hard work by studying magic.

Indeed, the passage chimes a little oddly in a play where soimportant a role is played by the priestess/prophetess Theonoe:this suggests that Euripides badly wanted to get it off his chest.One anti-war passage indeed there is: in the second antistropheof the third choric ode we read (1240-52):

Madmen, all who seek glory in war,trusting in ignoranceto the sheer weight of the lanceto end mortal debate IIf battle and blood are to settle the score,grief and hatewill never leave the cities of men. Through strifesuch men have foundcramped sleeping room, a Trojan burial mound,who might by words have learntsome way to compoundthe quarrel over Menelaos' wife—you, Helen!


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(Unsurprising sentiments, it may be felt, from the author of theelegy for the Athenians who fell in Sicily.) Here the voice of thepacifist comes through loud and clear, but in a relatively harmlessplace. (The other choric odes provide little or nothing of sub-stance, and, as A. M. Dale aptly observes of the first of them,"like many of the songs in Helen this is an operatic aria whosewords must not be expected to bear too close a scrutiny of theirmeaning.")

Supporting evidence exists, but it must be used with due cau-tion. Suppose, for a moment, that Helen was, in a valid sense, areaction to the Sicilian expedition's failure, then there was notmuch time to write it. Bad news reaches Athens, autumn, 413B.C.; Helen written, and rehearsed, 413/12 B.C.; Helen produced:city Dionysia, roughly end-March, 412 B.C. In such a case, onewould expect evidence of hasty composition to exist. It not onlyexists: it abounds.

The play rests upon the shaky substructure of a giant fault; afault which Euripides will have recognized, but (since he wasnot writing for pedants 2,400 years later) will have ignored.Theonoe is omniscient, we learn immediately; yet for seventeenyears Helen has not bothered to consult her, whether as to theTrojan War, or the fate of Menelaos, or the prospects of hereventual reunion with him. Of course, Euripides may have feltthat such a detail would readily be passed over (more likely, notnoticed at all during performance) by the audience: but there ismore, as soon as one starts looking.

First, the Teucer episode. It is held to presage the arrival, lateron, of Menelaos; but it contains nothing that a (character-elimi-nating) dialogue with, say, Theonoe could not have conveyed.Next, the recognition (anagnorisis): two attempts at this have tobe made, and one may (or may not) believe that what we have isan imperfect conflation of two attempts to achieve, in a difficultphilosophical context, a satisfactory synthesis. There is muchminor evidence, but it is technical in the sense that, whilearguable, it depends on knowledge of both Greek and Greekstagecraft; better to look at one more major point of concernto critics.

The final choric ode of the play, generally known as the "GreatMother" or "Mountain Mother" ode, has long been a source ofworry to scholars. Choric odes are "supposed" to be related, evenif remotely, to the general themes of the play; in this case, in-


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genuity has been forced to its limits. Demeter is (but the text issadly corrupt) distressed at the loss of her daughter. What onearth (or elsewhere) has this got to do with Helen? One canhardly blame A. W. Verrall for claiming that this ode helps toprove that Helen was first performed at a festival when rites at-tended only by women were performed in honor of the GreekMother Demeter, and her daughter Persephone. Another, lesssensitive, suggestion can be advanced: Helen needed anotherchoric ode at about this point (as a play it is unevenly balancedbetween scenes, which must have put considerable strain on thethree actors allowed by convention); may not Euripides, in somehaste, have inserted an ode from his reservoir? After all, if ourargument has any force, it was not the choruses where his mes-sage was likely to lie.

Lastly, we have already drawn attention to the fact of the closecomparison with Iphigeneia in Tauris; and, once again, an ex-planation obtrudes itself—Euripides' willingness to use anotherframework, and available material, to ease the rapid productionof a play where he was more concerned with the message thanthe medium. Haste would explain (if not excuse) much that hasfor long exercised the attention of critics; while, from the pedan-tic point of view, a number of lines which have been rejected asspurious on grounds of context, taste, meter, or Greek might justpossibly, on the basis of the argument we have advanced, be re-prieved. It is at this point that we must look for more direct sup-port from the play itself—or in its motif. And it stares us in theface.

Of course, it is not the theme, but the starting-point, of Helenthat the Greeks and Trojans went to war for ten years over aphantom—a war which Thucydides himself, in the opening chap-ters of his History, is far from decrying in terms of importance.A phantom/ Euripides was not writing for fools, and no under-lining would have been necessary for his audience to considerthat, just possibly, another people was, even now, at war in searchof a different sort of phantom. In any case, a more direct ap-proach would have been at best imprudent. Euripides (it is said)had already suffered arrest and impeachment—possibly on politi-cal grounds—"impiety" being the charge; he was far too subtle aperson, and dramatist, to run any such risk needlessly again.There is no hint of subversion in Helen—except to those who, byalleging it, would ex hypothesi have admitted the existence of


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aggression and the corruption of greed. Naturally, even in Eu-ripides, not everything is perfectly carried out: there are frigiditiesin Aeschylus, and bad jokes in Aristophanes, just as Homer nods.In Helen, there is much that is, in one way or another, imperfect;but if (and it cannot be so very unlikely) we suppose that hewanted to produce a play with relevance to Athens' morally and(nearly) physically bankrupt situation, and produce it in greathaste, then perhaps we have the plausible outcome: much intel-lectual depth and brilliance, but imperfect stagecraft.

Nor, of course, does this mean that the arguments advanced byCharles Segal are in any way irrelevant. Rather, their relevance isheightened: and the themes are always contrast and comparison.The Trojan War was fought over a phantom: for what, precisely,after nineteen years, was the Peloponnesian War being fought?Was Sicily's gold real, or another phantom? Did the public atti-tude of Athens—as best seen by us in the account given byThucydides of Pericles' speeches—really accord with its real-worldbehavior? Or did even Athenians say one thing and do another?If we even begin to accept that thoughts like these were in Eurip-ides' mind when he wrote Helen, then we should also feel thatit no longer makes sense to ask whether the play is "technically"a tragedy, or a comedy, or a vehicle for philosophical expression,or anything else. It is all of these, and the philosophical contentmay have been partly serious, partly camouflage (who can tell?):but it is something much more than any of these things, some-thing that should appeal to us more nearly than the appallingdestiny of the House of Atreus, the self-wrought tragedy ofOedipus, even la crise psychologique of the Bacchae: it is no lessthan the cry, muted, parabolic, ironical, but nonetheless genuineand impassioned, despairing the destruction, both spiritual andmoral, of Athens herself. Helen is not a tragedy: but behind itlies one of civilization's greatest tragedies. Once this is under-stood, much else falls into place, and the depth of the underlyingphilosophical themes discerned by Charles Segal becomes com-prehensible in a way that would hardly be the case in the light-hearted frolic postulated by Webster. And—a woman's play? Yes,certainly. It is not women who make war. The men in Helen areall warriors, of a kind, and poorly do they come out of it; but formorality, justice, compassion (a quality of extreme rarity inGreek tragedy) we must go to Helen and Theonoe. No need forVerrall's elaborate hypothesis when a much more plausible ex-planation lies before our very eyes.


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Aristophanes, of course, did much the same sort of thing, butin a less constricted medium (and with a correspondingly greaterrisk of prosecution). As we have already observed, his acute earand eyes were to make practical use of Helen in the Thesmopho-riazusae in 411 B.C.; but he had already written and produced hisown version of Helen—The Birds—in 414 B.C., not long after theSicilian Expedition had set sail (and well before any authoritativereport of success or failure could have reached Athens). Birds isa play of escape—the play of escape: where after all was Cloud-Cuckoo-Land invented? A play does not need to drive lessonshome in a heavy-handed manner to be effective. Euripides, likeAristophanes, was unusually lucky in his audiences.

It remains to place Helen within the broader sweep of Athe-nian history. Close in time to Lysistrata (another play, interest-ingly enough, in which anti-Laconian feelings are muted), it musthave held a poignant message for Athenians who had already beenat war for nearly twenty years and who were still to be at war foranother eight. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that thegreat years of Athens, in both physical and cultural terms, wereapproaching their end. Sophocles and Euripides were both to diebefore the turn of the century; Aristophanes' verve would soonvanish, to decline into the duller ore of the Ploutos. The age ofPericles had already been replaced by men of lesser stamp—Cleon, Theramenes, and the like. For Athens, the fifth centuryB.C. was a glorious one, but it took an appalling toll: one thinksof the famous inscription, now in the Louvre, commemoratingthose of the Erechtheid tribe who died, all in the same year,fighting "in Cyprus, in Egypt, in Phoenicia, at Halieis, in Aegina,at Megara." The year was 459 B.C., just before the production ofEumenides. Just before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War,in the spring of 431 B.C., Euripides himself breathed the spirit ofPericlean optimism in a chorus of the Medea:

From old the sons of Erechtheus know felicity;The children of blessed gods,Born from a land holy and undespoiled,They pasture on glorious wisdomEver walking gracefully through the brightest of skies,Where once, men tell, the Holy Nine,The Pierian Muses,Created golden-haired Harmony.

(TR. c. M. BOWRA)


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In 430, Euripides produced his Children of Herakles, presentingin an heroic setting an ideal Athens which assumes responsibilityfor the oppressed, whencesoever they come. In 424, in the Supplianrs, Athens is still an ideal city, a true democracy, the homeof free speech. But Pericles died in 429 B.C., and Euripides livedon to produce Helen, in which a glittering fajade of point andcounterpoint does so much to conceal "something far moredeeply interfused": the futility of war, the especial futility andimmorality of this war, and the inexorable decline of Athens.


We have normally, but not invariably, followed the text favoredby A. M. Dale in her edition (Oxford, 1967). The text of Helenhas come down to us in a very imperfect state (it is one of thosenine plays of Euripides for which there is only a single manuscripttradition) and in places it is seriously, even desperately, corrupt;this is especially the case in the choruses (where copyists werealways apt to become confused owing to their ignorance of themeters employed and the difficulty of the language) where, alltoo often, one can do little better than follow what was probablythe intended sense. It is difficult to overestimate the importanceof this—and the difficulties which are thereby posed for the trans-lator. In an exegetical edition one can discuss textual cruces, pointout the problems, arrive at a preferred solution—or decide thatone cannot be found. The translator has no such resource; andwe can do no more than to indicate in the notes a few of thoseplaces where the text is most deeply corrupted and what an al-ternative rendering might be. More than this: there are placeswhere we do not know, and cannot know, for certain, who isspeaking (there are several such places in Helen, one of them ofgreat importance). Actors' later interpolations, too, abound, andwe have taken a sturdy approach: when we believe—usually inconcert with A. M. Dale—that lines have been interpolated, wehave omitted them. It should be added that such lines often givethemselves away by their awkwardness, extravagance, or irrele-vance. In reading a translation, it is only natural for the Greeklessreader to assume that the text has been transmitted straight fromheaven; we ask you to remember that such is very far from beingthe case. Our own faith has by no means always proved robustenough to feel really confident that Euripides wrote such-and-such


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and not anything else in any given passage; but translators mustwield swords to cut the most Gordian of knots.

The foregoing comments refer to, but do little to describe, theremarkable thesis advanced by A. W. Verrall (Four Plays ofEuripides, Cambridge University Press, 1905, pp. 43-133). Verrallwas famous for providing a perverse answer to the right question,and it is worthwhile looking briefly at what he says on Helen, notbecause of his far-fetched solution, but because of the questionswhich he, explicitly or implicitly, raises. Verrall argues that Helenwas originally not written for public presentation, but as an ironicand partly self-parodying drama, composed for private perfor-mance at a house on the island of Helene belonging to a womanof Athens, the occasion being a gathering of women who hadbeen celebrating the Thesmophoria. Needless to rehearse Verrall'sarguments; what are the reasons which have led him to theorizein this way? Just those odd aspects of the play to which we havedrawn attention:

A. the rehabilitation of Helen, least reputable of her sex;B. the seeming irrelevance of the "Great Mother" choric ode;c. the strangely unused omniscience of Theonoe;D. certain structural parallels with Iphigeneia in Tauris;E. the.superfluity of the Teucer episode.

And there are other points, sometimes (to be candid) of an im-plausibly detailed nature. Here we need only observe that Ver-rall's acute eye, striking at an angle to reality, has observed justthose anomalies which have led us to a quite different, perhapsmore mundane, conclusion. But in one, relatively minor, point,Verrall's analysis is faultless. Menelaos is generally, as alreadynoted, really rather stupid. But at one point, when Helen pro-poses that he should pretend to be the reporter of his own death,he retorts: "But how will this trick help our combined escape?/It's rather an old-fashioned one, you know." (1131-32). Yes, in-deed: both Aeschylus (in Choephori) and Sophocles (in Electra)had used the device before, and it is just that fact that, veryboldly, he is referring to. A line like that serves to remind us thatthere was an ironic as well as a deeper side to the Helen; aflawed jewel, but a jewel.

Oxford, England COLIN LEACH


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HELEN daughter of Zeus and LedaTEUCER a GreekCHORUS of captive Spartan womenLEADER

MENELAOS husband of Helen and King of SpartaOLD WOMAN portress at the palace

SERVANT one of Menelaos's menTHEONOE sister of Theoklymenos

THEOKLYMENOS King of EgyptMESSENGER a servant of Theoklymenos

DIOSKOUROI KASTOR AND POLYDEUKES, sons of Zeus and Leda, now gods

Line numbers in the right-hand margin refer to the Englishtranslation only, and the Notes at p. 87 are keyed to theselines. The bracketed line numbers in the running headlinesrefer to the Greek text.

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The scene is Egypt, before the royal palace. On one side of the stage is thetomb of Xing Proteus, where HELEN has tafcen sanctuary.

The stage represents a palace front, with central double doors. To the left ofthe stage is the substantial structure of the tomb of Proteus, King of Egypt.HELEN is found center-stage.

HELEN Here live the lovely water-nymphs of Nilewho brings the melted white snow down to waterthe plains of Egypt starved of blessed rain.Proteus was king here, when he lived, controllingall Egypt from his island home of Pharos.He'd married one of the sea-nymphs, Psamathe,who'd left her husband Aiakos, and she bore himtwo children in this palace: first a son,Theoklymenos, and then a young princess,the apple of her mother's eye—Eido 10

she was named as a child, but when she reached the ageof marriage she was called Theonoe,for she had understanding of all thingsthat are, and are to come, prophetic powersinherited from her mother's father, Nereus.My own home country, though, is pretty well known,for it's Sparta, and my father was Tyndareus.There's an old story that Zeus changed himselfinto a swan once and, being chased by an eagle,flew to my mother Leda's lap for refuge a

and by that trick got what he wanted from her—which may or may not be true. My name is Helen.Now let me tell you my sad history.The three goddesses, Hera, Aphrodite,and Zeus-born, virgin Athene, went one dayto Paris's valley hide-out on Mount Idaquarreling about their beauty and determinedto have the issue judged. And Aphrodite


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H E L E N [27-59]

offered my beauty—if anything can be calledbeautiful that brings misery—as a bribe, 30

and me as a wife, to Paris, and so won.Paris quitted his mountain herds and cameto Sparta to collect his bride; but thenHera, disgruntled in defeat, deprivedher rival's solid promise of all substance:she gave the Trojan prince not the real mebut a living likeness conjured out of air,so that believing he possesses mehe possesses only his belief. Then Zeuscompounded these misfortunes with new plans, •*"for in order to relieve the cumbered earthof her plethora of children and to enhancethe reputation of the mightiest Greekhe loaded with a war the land of Greeceand the unlucky Phrygians. Yet all those yearsthe Helen who endured the siege of Troy,the Helen the Greek spears fought for as a prize,was me only in name. For I myselfwas wrapped in a cloud, hurried through pockets of airand set down in the palace of Proteus here 50

by Hermes—proof that Zeus did not forget me;indeed he chose the most civilized of mento help me keep my marriage-bed unstained.So here I've been while my unhappy husband,bent on recovering me, mustered an armyand sailed off to the battlements of Troy.Men died for me in thousands by Skamander,and I, the passive sufferer in it all,became anathema, for it seemed to the worldthat I had betrayed my husband and that he M

had pushed Greece into a disastrous war.Then why do I go on living? For this reason:I have it on the authority of Hermesthat once my husband learns the truth—that neverdid I go to Troy, never was I unfaithful—I shall live with him again in famous Sparta.


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H E L E N [60-84]

HELEN moves left across stage to stand by the tomb ofProteus.

As long as the old king Proteus enjoyed lifeI was immune from suitors, but his son,Theoklymenos, now that he's dead and buried,haunts me and hunts me—which is why I've come, 70

loyal to my vows to Menelaos,to the tomb of Proteus as a suppliantto pray for their preservation. Thus at least,although my name is vilified through Greece,my body here remains free from reproach.

Enter TEUCER, right. He first sees and is impressed bythe imposing form of the palace, then, almost at once,

catches sight of HELEN.

TEUCER Who is the lord of this imposing place?These royal precincts, this proud corniced mass,suggest the house of the God of Wealth himself.Hah!Ye gods, what's this I see? An abomination! K

The very image of that murderous womanwho was the ruin of me and all the Greeks!May the gods abhor you for resembling Helen!If I weren't a. guest standing on foreign soilone of my trusty arrows would soon pay youfor looking like the daughter of Zeus—with death.

HELEN Poor man, whoever you are, don't flinch away.Why detest me because of what happened to her?

TEUCER My fault—my anger got the better of me,for the whole of Greece loathes the daughter of Zeus. M

Forgive me, lady, for the words I spoke.

HELEN Who are you, though? Whereabouts do you come from?

TEUCER I am one of the Greeks who fought and suffered.


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H E L E N [85-105]

HELEN No wonder, then, that you abominate Helen.

TEUCER My name is Teucer, Telamon was my father,and I was born and raised in Salamis.

HELEN What brings you, then, to the delta of the Nile?

TEUCER I am an exile. I was driven from home.

HELEN You have my sympathy. Who was responsible?

TEUCER The closest friend a man could have—my father! 10°

HELEN But why? For the fact implies some sort of doom.

TEUCER My brother Ajax died at Troy—my doom.

HELEN How? You didn't kill him yourself, surely?

TEUCER He died by his own hand, fell on his sword.

HELEN Was he mad, then? No one sane attempts self-slaughter.

TEUCER Have you heard of a certain Achilles, Peleus' son?

HELEN He was one of Helen's suitors, I've been told.

TEUCER When he died he left his arms to be contested.

HELEN And how could that have caused Ajax's death?

TEUCER Another man won the arms—and he killed himself. 11°

HELEN And so your troubles stem direct from his?

TEUCER They do, in that I failed to die with him.

HELEN Did you really go to the famous city of Troy?


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H E L E N [10&-27]

TEUCER I brought about its downfall—and my own.

HELEN And is it razed flat now, burnt to the ground?

TEUCER So thoroughly that no trace of a wall is left.

HELEN Oh, Helen, Helen, for you the Trojans perished!

TEUCER The Trojans? The Greeks too! A holocaust!

HELEN How long is it since the city was destroyed?

TEUCER Almost seven harvests have gone round since then. 12°

HELEN And before that how long were you at Troy?

TEUCER Innumerable months, ten years in all.

HELEN Tell me, did you capture the Spartan woman?

TEUCER Menelaos did, and dragged her off by the hair.

HELEN Did you see the unhappy queen? Or is this hearsay?

TEUCER I saw her as plainly as I'm seeing you.

HELEN But perhaps the gods made you imagine it all.

TEUCER Please talk of something else. Stop harping on her.

HELEN And is Menelaos home now with his wife?

TEUCER He's certainly not in Argos—nor in Sparta. 13°

HELEN That's terrible news—for some who hear it anyway.

TEUCER He's said to have vanished, lost, and his wife with him.

HELEN But surely all the Greeks sailed back together?


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H E L E N [128-49]

TEUCER They did, but a storm scattered them far apart.

HELEN Where were they on the wide salt sea when it struck?

TEUCER Halfway through their passage of the Aegean.

HELEN And no one's had news since of his having landed?

TEUCER No one. All Greece considers him as dead.

HELEN (aside) I am crushed. (To TEUCER) AndThestios'daughter—is she living?

TEUCER Leda, you mean? No, she died long ago. 14°

HELEN You're not suggesting Helen's disgrace destroyed her?

TEUCER They say so. Though she was royal, she hanged herself.

HELEN And her sons, Kastor, Polydeukes—dead or alive?

TEUCER Both, you might say. There are two different rumors.

HELEN Give me the stronger one. (Aside) Nothing but grief!

TEUCER It's said they became gods, in the shape of stars.

HELEN Those words are welcome, but what's the other story?

TEUCER That shame for their sister made them end their liveson their own swords. But enough of tales of the past—I've no desire for a second bout of tears. 15°My reason for arriving at this palaceis to see the prophetess Theonoe.Will you introduce me, so that I can askadvice from the oracle how best to obtaina fair wind for my voyage on to Cyprus?For Apollo has told me I shall settle there


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H E L E N [150-74]

and give the island name of Salamisto my new home in memory of my birthplace.

HELEN The ship and the sea will guide you there themselves.But, sir, make your getaway from this place 16°before Theoklymenos sees you—he's the king:at the moment he's away, bloodily engagedin slaughtering animals with his pack of hounds—for any Greek caught here he puts to death.Don't press me to know why, I'm saying nothing;and anyway what good could the knowledge do you?

TEUCER Kind and frank words, which I appreciate, lady.May the gods reward you richly in return!Your similarity to Helen is onlyskin-deep; inside you're not a bit like her. 17°May she die horribly and never reach home,but you—good luck be with you all your life!

Exit TEUCER right. The CHORUS of captive Greek womenenters Jef t

HELEN Raising a great cry for a great grief,how shall I bring my misery to birthfor its relief?To what spirit of music shall I appealfor a dirge, for a lamentbitter enough to suitthe burden of sorrow I feel?Come, deathly daughters of Earth, 18°you sirens with bird-wings,and with your pipe or lyre or Libyan flutestrike up a sad accompaniment,some grim, despairing strainin sympathy with my sufferings,in harmony with my pain,so that your music, matching my agony,may as my offering please Persephone


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H E L E N [175-211]

down in her dark hall—a chant of blood, a black paean rising in unison 19°with the tears I now let fallfor the souls of the dead and gone.


CHORUS By the blue pool, where the young rushes throng,I happened to be dryingin the sun's golden beamsmy purple clothing spreadon the curling grass's bedwhen I heard a pitiful crying,no voice of joy, no songfit for the lyre, but anguished, haunting screams 2BO

such as a mountain nymph, a naiad, flyingfrom Pan's brute forcemight utter, at bay, in the rocky hollow of her source.

HELEN Women of Greece, captives of a foreign oar,I have news for your ears.A Greek mariner has come ashorebringing fresh tears to mingle with my tears.Troy is a smoking ruin of war,destroyed by my deadly face—or, rather, by my ill-used name. 21°Leda, my mother,has put a noose round her neck for shameof my disgrace.My wandering, sea-tossedhusband is lost, is lost,and Sparta's glory and pride,Kastor and his twin-born brother,will never, never be seen againon the pounded, hoof-ringing plainor the meadows beside 22°reed-fringed Eurotas where the young men used to

train-wrestle and run and ride.


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H E L E N [212-42]

CHORUS Mourn, mournfor Helen hounded by her doom.Lady, you were givena mocking gift, a life not to be borne,when Zeus swooped from mid-heavenin the shape of a swanand with a flash of snow-white wingsplanted you in your mother's womb. 23°Since then what sufferings,what trials have you not undergone?Leda is dead;your two brothers, the beloved sonsof Zeus, are far away from happiness;your land of birth is hidden from your eyes;throughout the cities of Greece there runsa rumor, lady, that impliesyou sleep in a barbarian's embrace;your lord is a corpse on the sea's bed; 24°never again will you blessyour father's house or graceAthene's brazen temple with your face.

HELEN Alas, whose hand in the known world felledthe pine that ultimately spelledruin to Troy? For from that tree was nailedand hammered the ship that Paris sailedwith his pirate oarsmen over the wavesto shatter the peaceof my hearth in his quest for the prize 25°of my lovely disastrous eyesand the pleasures of my marriage-bed;and with him, false to all she'd said,came the murderous goddess of love who sent to their

gravesthe warriors of both Troy and Greece.And then her highness Hera,who shares the bed of Zeus and on a gold thronesits beside him, sent her message-bearer,the swift-footed son of Maia, down.


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H E L E N [243-77]

He caught me 26°when I was gathering fresh roses in my gownto take to Athene's temple, snatched me and brought methrough the glittering zoneof air to this bleak shore,where I becamea wretched prize in the fierce tug of warbetween all Greece and Priam's sons.And now, where the river Simois runs,I'm soiled with a false shamethat's mine only in name, only in name. 27°

LEADER You have sorrow enough, we know; but one must bearthe burdens of life as lightly as one can.

HELEN Look at me, friends. I'm yoked, half-choked withtrouble!

Was I not born a monster? My entire life,every wretched event, has been unnatural,for which I blame my beauty as much as Hera.If only it could have been wiped clean like a pictureand something less alluring painted over,so that the Greeks, forgetting the blemishesthat chance has put on me, might bear in mind 2ao

my better, not my worse side, as they do.When a person's hopes hang on a single issueand the gods treat him badly, then it's hard,but still it's bearable. But in my casemisfortunes hem me in from all directions.In the first place, I'm both innocent and slandered—and being saddled with another's crimescuts deeper than the burden of your own.On top of that the gods uprooted mefrom my own fatherland and put me down ^here, among savages, cut off from friends,a slave among slaves, for in barbarian countriesall men in effect are slaves except for one.And the sole anchor in my sea of troubles,


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H E L E N [278-313]

the hope that my husband would arrive one dayand rescue me, is gone, for he's gone too-dead. And my mother's dead, and I "destroyed" her—untrue, unjust, but the injustice sticks.My daughter, once the sunshine of my lifeand all our house, withers in spinsterhood, 30°dead are my two twin brothers whom they callthe sons of Zeus, and dead is my own heartthrough what's been done to me, though I live on.And last and worst, even if I did reach homethey'd bar the gates, thinking I was the Helenthat Menelaos went to fetch from Troy.If my husband were alive, he'd recognize me,as I should him, by certain special signsprivate to us; but he's not, he's lost forever.Then why am I still alive? What's left to suffer? 31°I could choose marriage as a way of escape,live with this uncouth foreigner and presideat his rich table, but when a husband's hatefulto a wife she hates even the richest house.This is the doom and depth of my despair:the very beauty that makes other womenhappy has proved for me a blasting curse.

LEADER Helen, don't be too sure that what that Greek,whoever he is, reported is all true.

HELEN But he made it clear enough my husband's dead. 3M

LEADER The spoken word can often turn out false.

HELEN But equally it can have the ring of truth.

LEADER You're biased towards the dark view, not the bright.

HELEN It's fear that grips and drives me—into fear.

LEADER How much goodwill do you have inside the palace?


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H E L E N [314-45]

HELEN They're all my friends, except my hot pursuer.

LEADER Do you know what you must do now? Leave thissanctuary—

HELEN What are you trying to say? What's your proposal?

LEADER —and go to the house of the daughter of the sea,the Nereid Theonoe, who knows all things. 33°Ask her whether your husband's still alive,enjoying daylight. When you've got your answer,weep or rejoice according to the news;for what good can it do you to grieve now,before you know the facts? Listen to me.I'm willing to accompany you myselfto ask for her clairvoyant revelation.Women should always give each other help.

HELEN Friends, I shall do what you say.Hurry to the palace, hurry through the gate 34°to learn the outcome of my fate.

CHORUS You call me; gladly I go.

HELEN Ai, ai, black day!What words of horror or unhappinessam I about to hear?

CHORUS Dear heart, don't leap ahead of your fear,don't play the prophetessto your own woe.

HELEN What deep distresshas my husband suffered? Does he see the sun 35°chariot his four horsesand the stars runon their nightly courses,or does he share the dead man's doom below?


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H E L E N [346-73]

CHORUS Accept the future, whateverface it may wear, as a friend.

HELEN Eurotas, my home river,sweet-running and reed-green,to you I appeal,be my witness: if the report is true 36°that my husband's dead, I swear I shall end—

CHORUS What do these wild words mean?

HELEN I shall pay the priceof my guilt with my life-noose my neck with a strangling ropeor use the bloody, throat-severing knifetill the sharp, cold thrust of steeland the flesh's cruel ordealmake of my death a sacrificeto the three goddesses and Priam's boy, 37°who once kept herds and tuned his pipe on Ida's slope.

CHORUS May bad luck shift elsewhere and leave you hope.

HELEN Oh, suffering, pitiful Troy,destroyed by a deed of mine that was never done!My beauty, Aphrodite's gift, which wonthe prize, has borne a monstrous childof blood and tears, agony piledon agony, sorrow multipliedon sorrow. Countless mothers mourn a son,and countless Trojan girls, 38°sisters of corpses, have shaved off their curlsin grief by swirling Skamander's side.Greece, too, wailsinconsolably for her Greeks;a river of tears runs for her dead;she has beaten her fists against her headand scored her fingernailsin stripes across her cheeks


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H E L E N [374-400]

till the soft skin bled.Happy Arcadian girl, who long ago 39°shared Zeus's bed,Kallisto—you relieved your weight of woewhen you were transformed to a bearwith rough pelt and paws and savage glare-punishment lighter than my mother earned.Happy, too, daughter of Merops, Titan maid,whom Artemis in the days of oldexpelled from her chaste company—you paidyour beauty's penalty by being turnedinto a hind with horns of gold. 40°But mine has burned, has burnedTroy's citadeland been the death of my own Greeks as well.

HELEN and the CHORUS exeunt center through the doubledoors of the palace, in order to consult THEONOE. MENE-LAOS enters right; he is in rags and presents a woebegone

appearance, having corne from the seacoast.

MENELAOS O grandfather Pelops, who at Pisa oncewon the great chariot-race with Oinomaos,would that your life had ended the same dayyou were served up as a banquet for the gods!Instead, revived by them, you lived to fatherAtreus, who in his turn, with Aerope,produced that famous couple, Agamemnon 41°and myself, Menelaos. I consider—and I don't say this to boast—that of the GreeksI shipped the largest expeditionary forceto Troy—and my authority as kingowed nothing to compulsion, being basedon willing obedience from the men I led.The count of those who died and those who escapedthe perils of the sea and got back safelywith the names of all the dead can now be reckonedexactly. I'm the exception, for ever since 42°


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H E L E N [401-36]

I sacked the towers of Troy I've been a miserablewanderer on the grey-green, rolling seas,longing for my own country, which, it seems,the gods think me unworthy to rejoin.I've sailed to every lonely landing-placeand hostile port in Libya; every timeI near my native shore gales beat me back;not once have I had the wind I need for home.And now I'm here, a wretched castaway—my comrades lost, our ship split on the rocks 43°and smashed to flotsam—washed up on this coast.I found a floating keel, all that was left,on which in my desperate danger with great difficultyI got to land, saving Helen as well,my prize from Troy. Who the inhabitants areor what this place is called I've no idea.Out of embarrassment I avoided the crowdand so never asked, concealing my distress,ashamed at my shabby state, for when a manof high importance falls on evil times 44°he feels it more than one inured to hardshipbecause it's unfamiliar. I'm in factat the end of rny tether—no food, and no clothesto cover me—as anyone can tell,what I'm wearing are torn sails saved from the wreck,for the sea has confiscated my magnificent,luxurious wardrobe. Meanwhile, having hiddenthe cause of all my sufferings, my wife,in the depths of a cave and charged my fellow-survivorswith the task of guarding her, I've come on my own 45°to try and scrounge provisions for my shipmates.When I saw these high, topped walls and the grand gatesI thought, "Some rich man's mansion," and approached,since there's always hope in the houses of the wealthyfor sailors in need; from the poor they can't get help,even though the will to give it may be there.Hallo, there! Is there a porter around to takethe news of my predicament inside?


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H E L E N [437-53]

MENELAOS has been moving toward the palace doorsduring the last lines of his speech. As he knocks, an OLDWOMAN, the portress, appears at the doors; she is both

busy and irritable.

OLD WOMAN Who's this at the door? Be off with you at once!Stop hanging about the porch and bothering 4W

my lords and masters—or you'll end up dead,for you look like a Greek, and we've no truck with


MENELAOS Well said, old lady! A fine speech! All right,I'll behave myself. Only less temper, please.

OLD WOMAN Be off, I tell you. Stranger, I've strict ordersnot to allow any Greek inside the house.

The OLD WOMAN moves threateningly toward MENELAOS.

MENELAOS Look here, don't wave your arms and jostle me!

OLD WOMAN It's your fault for not doing what I say.

MENELAOS Go in and announce to your master that I'm here.

OLD WOMAN I won't be at all popular if I do. 47°

MENELAOS As a shipwrecked foreigner I'm a protected person.

OLD WOMAN Off with you now and try another house.

MENELAOS speaks blusteringly.

MENELAOS I shan't. I'm coming in. Do as I order.

OLD WOMAN You're being a nuisance, you know. You'll get thrownout.

MENELAOS Ah, where's my famous army now? I need it!


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H E L E N [454-71]

OLD WOMAN You may have been someone elsewhere; here you'renobody.

MENELAOS My soul, do we deserve this? What an insult!

OLD WOMAN Tears in your eyes, eh? Who are you moaning to?

MENELAOS Only the happy days I used to know.

OLD WOMAN Then go and dump your tears on your old friends. 4BO

MENELAOS What country am I in? Whose palace is this?

The OLD WOMAN points to Proteus' tomb.

OLD WOMAN This is the house of Proteus. You're in Egypt.

MENELAOS Egypt? So it's an ill wind blew me here!

OLD WOMAN What have you got against our shining Nile?

MENELAOS Nothing at all. It's rny own luck I'm cursing.

OLD WOMAN Plenty of folk have troubles—you're not the first.

MENELAOS Your king, whatever you call him—is he at home?

OLD WOMAN This tomb you see is his. His son reigns now.

MENELAOS Then where is he? Inside the house, or away?

OLD WOMAN Not at home. And he's a hater of all Greeks. 49°

MENELAOS To what do I owe this dubious benefit?

OLD WOMAN Helen, the daughter of Zeus, is here in the palace.

MENELAOS What? Did I hear you rightly? Say that again.


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H E L E N [472-502]

OLD WOMAN Tyndareus' daughter, the one who lived in Sparta.

MENELAOS Where did she come from? What's the explanation?

OLD WOMAN From Sparta of course—from her country to ours.

MENELAOS But when? (Aside): Surely not captured from the cave?

OLD WOMAN Before the Greeks went off to Troy, my friend.But make yourself scarce, for things inside the palacehave taken a most upsetting turn just now. 50°You've come at a bad time. If my royal mastercatches you here, your welcome will be death.I'm a friend of the Greeks more than my words let on:if I spoke harshly, it was for fear of him.

Exit OLD WOMAN into the palace. MENELAOS soliloquizes.

MENELAOS I'm at a loss. What am I to think? She tells meof new disasters following in the trainof the old ones. If I really seized my wifein Troy and brought her here with me and put herunder guard in a cave, it must be another womanbearing the same name who's in the house. 51°She called her the daughter of Zeus. Is there a manby the name of Zeus living beside the Nile?No, for there's one Zeus only—the one in heaven.And where else in the world can there be a Spartaexcept beside the reed-bright, rippling Eurotas?Tyndareus is a unique and well-known name.Can there possibly be a second Sparta andanother Troy? I don't know what to make of it.But the earth's a big place, I suppose—many thingsmust share one name, cities and women too; 52°there's nothing strange in that. And I refuseto be frightened off by the barking of a servant.No man alive could be so uncivilizedas to deny me food, especially having


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H E L E N [503-31]

learnt who I am, for the fires of Troy are famousand so is the man who lit them—Menelaos,a name that's recognized throughout the world.I shall wait here for the master of the house.He poses me two choices: if he's savage,I'll hide, then make my way back to the wreck; S3°if he shows signs of tenderheartedness,I'll ask for supplies to meet our needs. This, then,was the ultimate indignity for me—that I, a king myself, should have to begfood from my fellow-kings to stay alive.Still, what must be must be. It was a wisephilosopher, not I, who coined the phrase,"Nothing's as strong as brute necessity."

The CHORUS re-enters center; MENELAOS remains onstage, partly concealed by the tomb of Proteus.

CHORUS Within the palace we have heardthe virgin prophetess speak. Her word 54°-was unambiguous: she saidthat Menelaos has not gone to his grave,to the darkly glimmering cavern of the dead,but has been a wanderer, hard-drivenover the heaving wave,since he left Troy with his splashing oar,never anchoring in his native havenand skirting every shorefrom here to the world's ends,miserable, hungry, friendless, far from friends. 55°

Re-enter HELEN center; she begins to move toward thesanctuary of the tomb.

HELEN Now back to my station at the sanctuary,having heard Theonoe's welcome revelation.She knows the truth of all things, and she saysthat my husband is alive, lives, sees the daylight,


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H E L E N [532-56]

that having weathered countless passages,no novice in the school of travel, and afterwandering about the world, he'll find at lastthe appointed end of all his sufferings—here.One thing she didn't mention: when he arrives,will he be spared? For, overjoyed at hearing m

that he lived, I failed to press home the question.She also said that he's escaped a shipwreckwith a few friends and at this very momentis somewhere near. Dear husband, when will you come?And if you come what a void in my heart you'll fill!

HELEN catches sight of the crouching, semi-hiddenMENELAOS and at once hurries to the tomb. Until line

591 she adopts an attitude of extreme caution.

Help! Who's this man? Is this a plot, some ambushlaid by the sacrilegious son of Proteus?Quick as a racehorse or a bacchanalto the tomb, with flying feet! He looks so savageI think he means to hunt me down for prey. 57°

MENELAOS Stop! Why this desperate, frantic struggle to reachthe floor and smoke-warmed pillars of the tomb?Don't run away. When you revealed your faceit struck me speechless with astonishment.

HELEN Friends, I arn being outraged. This man is barringmy way to sanctuary. He wants to seize meand force me to accept the king's embrace.

MENELAOS I'm not a bandit or a hired abductor.

HELEN The clothes you're wearing, though, are ugly enough.

MENELAOS Stand still. Stop darting away. Don't be afraid. 58°

HELEN Very well, I'll stand here, now I've reached the tomb.


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H E L E N [557-78]

MENELAOS Lady, who are you? Whose face am I looking at?

HELEN And who are you? Our questions are the same.

MENELAOS I never in my life saw such a resemblance—

HELEN You godsl For recognition is a god—

MENELAOS Are you a Greek or a native of this country?

HELEN A Greek. And you? I long to know as well.

MENELAOS Lady, you look uncannily like Helen.

HELEN And you like Menelaos. What does it mean?

MENELAOS The truth. I am that most unhappy man. 59°

HELEN O long-lost husband, come to your wife's arms!

MENELAOS What do you mean—wife? Don't finger my clothes.

HELEN The wife that Tyndareus, rny father, gave you.

MENELAOS Torch-bearing Hekate, send me kinder visions!

HELEN I am no moonlight ghost of the crossways goddess.

MENELAOS No more than I am the husband of two women.

HELEN Who is this other woman whose lord you are?

MENELAOS The wife I brought from Troy and hid in the cave.

HELEN I am your wife; you have no other queen.

MENELAOS My mind is clear enough—but are my eyes? 60°

HELEN Yes; for surely you recognize your wife?


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H E L E N [579-96]

MENELAOS You look like her, indeed I won't deny it.

HELEN Whom should you trust for proof if not your eyes?

MENELAOS They fail me here: I have another wife.

HELEN But I never went to Troy. That was a phantom.

MENELAOS Come, who on earth can make a living likeness?

HELEN She was formed of air by the gods, to be your bride.

MENELAOS And which god modeled her? It's past belief.

HELEN Hera—in order to palm her off on Paris.

MENELAOS You were here, then, and in Troy, at the same time? 61°

HELEN A name can travel where a body can't.

MENELAOS Let me alone. I'd troubles enough before.

HELEN Will you leave me, then, to go with your shadow-wife?

MENELAOS Yes, it's farewell. Good luck, since you're like Helen.

HELEN Those words destroy me. A husband found—and lost!

MENELAOS The pain I felt at Troy outweighs your talk.

HELEN Alas, was ever woman so unhappy?My dearest ones desert me; now I'll neverfind my way back to Greece and home again.

Enter a MESSENGER right, one of MENELAOS' seniorhenchmen. He is agitated and out of breath; he

intercepts MENELAOS.


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H E L E N [597-621]

SERVANT Menelaos! I've been wandering all over 62°this barbarous country looking for you, sentby the men you left. Finding you's been hard work,

MENELAOS What's happened? The foreigners haven't robbed you,have they?

SERVANT A weird thing. But words pale beside the fact.

MENELAOS Go on. This urgency must mean strange news.

SERVANT The hardships you endured were all for nothing!

MENELAOS You're harping on old sorrows. What's new, though?

SERVANT Your wife's gone. She vanished, she was spiritedout of the special cave which we were guardinginto the folds of the air, some hiding-place M0

in the sky. Before she went, she just said this:"O poor, long-suffering Trojans and all you Greekswho fought at Troy, it was because of methat you died on Skamander's banks, as Hera planned,imagining Paris had Helen in his bed,when he never did. The time's arrived for me,having done iny duty here as Fate ordained,to return to my father, the sky. I pity Helen,daughter of Tyndareus, who's heard her namebaselessly slandered though she's innocent." M0

He sees HELEN and continues rather crossly.

Greetings, daughter of Leda. So you've been here?I've just reported that you'd disappearedinto starry space, being quite unawarethat you'd sprouted wings. Next time I shan't allow youto fool us with another trick like this:you gave your husband and his followersmore than their fill of trouble over in Troy.


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H E L E N [622-^5]

MENELAOS At last the answer! It all fits together—what she said was true. O dearly longed-for daythat brings you to my arms, my close embrace. 6M

MENELAOS embraces HELEN; the SERVANT looks on insurprise.

HELEN Menelaos, dearest of men,our time of waiting has grown grey and old,but our joy now is fresh and bright.Women, I have my husband againto cherish and to hold.After long wheelings of the sun,bringer of daily light,in a rapture I clasp my beloved one.

MENELAOS And I've found you. Since we have been apartthere's so much to tell between us, where shall I start? 6M

HELEN For joy the hairs on my headrise and shiver, for joy I shedtears, and for joy I windmy arms round your body fast,happy, O dearest husband, happy at last.

MENELAOS O precious face, I have no fault to find:the daughter of Zeus' and Leda's bedis mine again, is mine-she whom the twin brothers who ridewhite horses brought me as a bride 67fl

with double blessings under the shineof torches on that long-ago day.And now the god who stole you awayfrom me and my house is leading us onto better things, and the dark times are gone.

HELEN Lucky misfortune, husband, has brought us togetherafter a long, long storm; but now that it's fairI pray to enjoy the weather.


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H E L E N [646-65]

MENELAOS May you enjoy it—I repeat your prayer.With two like us, who must share, 68°joy and sorrow cannot be separated.

HELEN Dear, good friends, I no longer regretthe past or begrudge its misery.I have my husband, he belongs to meafter the many years I waited—oh, how I waitedfor him to return from Troy!

MENELAOS I am yours, you are mine:we have each other again.Having watched thousands of sad suns setin my delusion, only now can I guess 69°Hera's design.But now my tears are of joy,now I have far more happinessthan ever I had pain.

HELEN What can I say?Who could have ever hopedfor such unhoped-for bliss—to hold you in my arms like this!

MENELAOS As I hold you—you who I thought had elopedto the city of Ida, those grim, doomed towers. 70°Tell me, by all the holy powers,how did you steal from my house that day?

HELEN A cruel question which gives me pause:you probe cruelly back to the first cause.

MENELAOS Tell me, for what the gods on highgive we must hear and bear below.

HELEN I spit away the words I have to speak.

MENELAOS But speak you must;for my sake try—there's pleasure in hearing of an ancient woe. 71°


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H E L E N [666-85]

HELEN I never ran away to seekthat foreign prince's bed of shame,hurried away by oars, carried away by lust.

MENELAOS What god or power, though, bore you like a prizefrom your own land?

HELEN Husband, it was the son of Zeus, Hermes, who came,decoyed meand brought me to the Nile.

MENELAOS Incredible! At whose command?This is a tale too wild to understand. 72°

HELEN I have wept and wept, and my eyesare wet with tears still. The wife of Zeus destroyed me.

MENELAOS Hera? But why should she bear us spite?

HELEN Alas, the source of my sufferingswas Ida's source—the bathing springswhere the three goddesses washed their bodies brightand beauty came to trial.

MENELAOS And why did the trial make Hera work you ill?

HELEN Why? She robbed Paris of ... MENELAOS Of what?

HELEN Of me, whom Aphrodite had guaranteed 73°as his future bride.

MENELAOS Cruel goddess! HELEN Cruel indeed!And so she brought me to Egypt, here. MENELAOS And so,as you also told me, she supplieda phantom image to take your place.

HELEN But in your house there is more, oh, more grief still.My mother . . . MENELAOS Yes? HELEN Is dead.


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H E L E N [686-708]

Believing in my disgrace,with her own hands she tied the noose's knot.

MENELAOS Poor woman. And what of Hermione, our child? 74°

HELEN The imagined dishonor of my marriage-bedhas left her stricken—childless and unwed.

MENELAOS O Paris, you have ruined and defiledmy house from roof to base;yet you yourself were killedand the bronze-armed Greeks in thousands had to die.

HELEN Accursed and star-crossed,I was robbed by Hera of rny country, bereftof city and friends; above all, I lostyou on the day when I left 75°your home and bed—and all for a lie,for it was only my name, only my namethat earned me an adulteress's shame.

CHORUS If only from now on you meet with luck,that will be compensation for the past.

SERVANT Menelaos, let me deeper into your joy,which I glimpse but don't yet fully understand.

MENELAOS By all means, old one, share the news with us.

SERVANT But isn't this the lady who presidedover the agony of the men at Troy? 76°

MENELAOS No. We were tricked by the gods. The Helen we seizedwas only a mischievous phantom made of air.

SERVANT What! All that pain endured for a mere ghost?

MENELAOS That was the work of Hera and her rivals.


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H E L E N [709-38]

SERVANT And so this lady here is your real wife?

MENELAOS She is. I say so; take my word for it.

SERVANT Daughter, the ways of God are intricateand hard to fathom. With a curious wisdomhe disarranges everything to makenew patterns. Some attempt and strive and fail, 77°others effortlessly prosper, then one dayrun into ruin, for no man is certainof holding fortune steady in his hands.You and your husband have had more than your shareof suffering—you had to stand againsta storm of words, and he a storm of spears.When he fought hard he won nothing, and yet nowhappiness of its own accord is his.And so you never shamed your aged fatherand your divine twin brothers, nor did you do 78°what the world said you did. In my mind's eyeI can see the day of your marriage, I rememberwaving a torch and running beside the wheelsof the four yoked horses when you were a bridebeing charioted by your husband Menelaosfrom your grand house. You know, it's a bad servantwho doesn't take his master's life to heart,share in his grief and celebrate his joy.Though I was born a slave, with a slave's name,my mind is my own and I should like to be ranked 79°among the noble slaves. Far better that waythan for one man to be twice handicapped-having to obey the people round about himand to be cursed with a servile spirit too.

MENELAOS Old fellow-soldier who with shield and spearhave done your stint of hardship in my serviceand are now due for a ration of my luck,go and report to the friends I left behindour situation as you see it, the ticklishcorner we're in; tell them to go to the shore wo


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H E L E N [739-67]

and wait in readiness for the trial of strengthI can see coming, and to keep alertto find some means of rescuing my wifeand escaping the barbarians, if we can,to unite our strength and fortunes once again.

SERVANT It shall be done, my lord. I do now seehow full of lies, how rotten the whole businessof prophecy is. There never was any sensein watching sacrificial flames and listeningto the cries of birds—in fact the very notion 81°that birds help men is plain ridiculous.Kalchas, our seer, looked on while his friendsdied for a phantom, yet he gave the armynot a word, not a sign; and the same goes for Helenoswhose city it was we stormed and seized for nothing.You may reply, "God willed it otherwise."Then why do we mix with oracles? Much betterto sacrifice and pray to the gods and leaveprophets alone. Prophecy was inventedas a bait for gullible man, but no one ever 82°got rich without hard work by studying magic.The best prophets are care and common sense.

LEADER I heartily go along with the old man there.Whoever makes the gods his friends has morethan a mere oracle inside his house.

Exit SERVANT right to pass the news along to hisshipmates.

HELEN Well, then, so far so good. But now, my poor husband,tell me how you've survived since Troy. I may notprofit by learning, but when your heart's involvedyou long to share the troubles of those you love.

MENELAOS One single question, yet it begs a hundred. 83°Must I describe our shipwrecks in the Aegean,the false fires Nauplios kindled in Euboia,


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H E L E N [768-90]

the ports of Crete and Libya we put into,and Perseus' lookout rock? Were I to give youyour fill of words I'd suffer in the tellingthe same pains I suffered once in earnestand double my sorrows by recalling them.

HELEN Your answer's better than my question was.Leave all the rest, tell me just this: how longdid you wander driven over the sea's back? 84°

MENELAOS We spent ten years at Troy; add on to thoseseven summers and seven winters voyaging.

HELEN A long, grim time for you! And you've escapedand reached here only to be faced with death!

MENELAOS Death? What do you mean? You chill my blood.

HELEN The master of this palace means to kill you.

MENELAOS What have I done to deserve to lose my life?

HELEN Your surprise arrival puts a stop to our wedding.

MENELAOS What? Someone here trying to rnarry my wife?

HELEN Yes, and to take me by force. I had to bear it. 85°

MENELAOS What force? His own—or has he royal power?

HELEN He is the ruler here, the son of Proteus.

MENELAOS So that was what the old woman at the door meant!

HELEN What doors have you been knocking at in Egypt?

MENELAOS points at the doors of the palace.

MENELAOS These doors. And I was chased off like some beggar.


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H E L E N [791-810]

HELEN Not asking for charity? Oh, I feel the shame!

MENELAOS It amounted to that, though the word wasn't used.

HELEN Evidently you know the whole story.

MENELAOS I do. What I don't know is how far you've foiled them.

HELEN Then learn: rny body's been kept chaste for you. "60

MENELAOS But how can I be sure? Sweet news if true!

HELEN You see this tomb, the seat of my despair?

MENELAOS Yes, and a couch of straw too. What's it for?

HELEN I sit there praying to escape this marriage.

MENELAOS Have you no altar? Or is this their custom?

HELEN I've been as safe as in our own gods' temples.

MENELAOS Then can't I bring you aboard and sail for home?

HELEN You'd be nearer to your grave than to my bed.

MENELAOS And so the most unhappy man alive.

HELEN Escape and save yourself. Don't be ashamed. 87°

MENELAOS And leave you—when I sacked Troy for your sake?

HELEN Better than that my love should cause your death.

MENELAOS Cowardly advice to a veteran of Troy!

HELEN I suppose you want to kill the king. You couldn't.

MENELAOS And why not? Is his body weapon-proof?


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H E L E N [811-30]

HELEN You'll see. To attempt the impossible is folly.

MENELAOS So I meekly hold both hands out to be bound?

HELEN You're cornered. We must think up some way out.

MENELAOS I'd rather be killed in action than die tamely.

HELEN There's just one hope for us, a single chance. e80

MENELAOS Persuasion? Bribery? Or a stroke of daring?

HELEN If the king never learns of your arrival—

MENELAOS Who's going to tell him—even know my name?

HELEN He has an ally inside, with the power of a god.

MENELAOS You mean some private oracle in the palace?

HELEN I mean his sister, whom they call Theonoe.

MENELAOS An oracular-sounding name—but what does she do?

HELEN She knows all things. She'll tell her brother you're here.

MENELAOS And I shall be killed. I have no way of hiding.

HELEN But if we both appealed to her as suppliants— 89°

MENELAOS To do what? What hope are you leading up to?

HELEN Not to inform her brother of your presence.

MENELAOS If we won her over, could we get away?

HELEN With her help, easily; in secret, no.

MENELAOS That's your task: woman to woman's the best way.


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H E L E N [831-56]

HELEN I'll get to her and clasp her knees, I promise.

MENELAOS But wait, what if she's deaf to our appeals?

HELEN You die, and I am miserably forced to marry.

MENELAOS Betrayer! The word "forced" is mere excuse.

HELEN No! For I've solemnly sworn by your own head— 90°

MENELAOS Sworn what? To die? Never to swerve in love?

HELEN To die by the same sword as you, and lie by you.

MENELAOS To seal that pledge hold my right hand in yours.

HELEN I do, and swear, if you die I die also.

MENELAOS And I, if I lose you, shall take my life.

HELEN How can we make an honorable ending?

MENELAOS Here on this tomb. I'll kill you, then myself.But first I'll put up an almighty strugglefor you and our marriage. Let who dares come near!I won't dishonor the name I won at Troy 91°nor go back home to Greece with a great bloton my reputation. I was responsiblefor Thetis losing Achilles, I saw Ajaxbleed on his own sword, I was there when Nestorwas left without a son—am I the man, then,to count my wife not worth the price of death?Not I. If there are gods above and wise ones,they let the earth lie lightly on the brave manslain by his enemies, but the corpse of a cowardthey cast unburied on some barren reef. 92°

LEADER Dear Heaven, may the house of Tantalosbe happy at last and freed of all its sorrows.


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H E L E N [857-82]

The doors of the palace begin to open, in preparationfor the arrival of the priestess and princess THEONOE.

HELEN O endless misery! Bad luck dogs me still.Menelaos, we are trapped. Theonoethe prophetess is coming out of the house—I hear the sound of the doors being unbarred.Fly! But what good will that do? Whether she's hereor somewhere else she can divine your presence.I'm in despair—I am ruined. You escapedfrom Troy, from one barbarian country, only 93°to meet with other, equally savage swords.

Enter THEONOE, center, solemnly, in the robes of apriestess. She is preceded by two handmaids, one ofwhom carries a stemmed bowl in which a flame is visible,and the other a torch. THEONOE addresses them in turn

at 932 and 935 before turning to HELEN at 940.

THEONOE Lead on. Hold the bright torches up. Bring sulphurto purify the air by holy ritualthat I may draw the untainted breath of heaven;and if anyone with unhallowed foot has fouledmy path, be sure to purge the floor with fire,grinding the pine-torch in, so I may pass.Your holy chores completed, then take backthe flame to the palace hearth from where it came.

Helen, what do you think of my prophecies now? 94°Without his ships, without his phantom wife,Menelaos manifestly stands before you.Unhappy man, to escape so many dangersonly to end up here without even knowingwhich it's to be—sweet home or bitter Egypt.This day the assembly of the gods will argueyour case in the court of Zeus. Your old foe, Hera,is now your friend and wants to bring abouta safe return for you, and Helen with you,that Greece may learn how Aphrodite's gift 95°


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H E L E N [883-910]

to Paris was no gift, his bride no bride.But Aphrodite wants to foil your journeythat the world may never know that when she purchasedthe beauty-prize she paid for it in false coin.It lies in my power either to destroy you,as Aphrodite hopes, by telling my brotherof your arrival, or to side with Heraand save your life by keeping it dark from him—although my strict instructions were to reportif you touched Egypt on your voyage home. ^

THEONOE turns to the CHORUS, but the request she makesis ignored and soon lapses.

Will someone go and make known to my brotherMenelaos' presence, and so assure my safety?

HELEN adopts an attitude of supplication toward THE-ONOE, which she maintains up to line 1016.

HELEN Maiden, I fall to the ground in supplicationand clasp your knees, and in this humble posture,for my sake and this man's—whom at long lasthaving won back I'm in immediate dangerof losing again, to death—ask you to spare us.Now that my husband's found my loving arms,save him, I beg you, don't inform your brother.Don't sacrifice your piety to buy 97°a bad man's gratitude with a shameful deed.God abominates violence; his commandmentto all of us is: get and enjoy possessions,but not by robbery. For just as the skybelongs to all men, so too does this earthwhere each may fill his house with goods, so long asthey are his own and not snatched from his neighbor.Although I've suffered in Egypt, in the endit's proved a blessed chance that Hermes gave meto your father to be kept safe for my husband, 98°


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H E L E N [911-46]

who stands here eager to reclaim his own.How can he if he's dead? And how could Proteuspay what he owes, a live woman, to a corpse?Consider the contract between man and god:wouldn't both Hermes and the dead king wishwhat's rightfully one man's to be given back?I know they would. You mustn't give more weightto a wild brother than an upright father.You are a seer, you believe in the gods-how can you break your father's just commitmentto keep the bad law of a lawless brother? "°Shame!—to be privy to the thoughts of Fatepresent and future, and not know what's wrong!You see me dogged by misery, ringed by dangers-save us, bestow this extra grace of fortune.For the whole world hates Helen. All Greece knows meas the wife who deceived her husband and elopedto live in the golden mansions of the East.But if I get back to Greece and Sparta again,if they hear and see the truth—that they were ruinedby the trick of a god, that I never betrayed my loves— 100°they'll restore me my good name: I'll see my daughter,whom no man wants now, married and enjoythe comfort and the wealth of my own housefar from this hateful beggary in exile.If Menelaos had been killed abroad,I should have rendered rny service to the deadwith loving tears, in his absence. But he's hereand he's alive. Must he be taken from me?No, prophetess. As a suppliant I implore you,grant me this favor and in so doing follow 101°your noble father's footsteps; for the childof a fine man can win no glory greaterthan matching the example of his life.

LEADER The words you have spoken, and you yourself still more,arouse my pity. But how will Menelaosargue to save his life? I long to hear.


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H E L E N [947-74]

MENELAOS remains standing.

MENELAOS I cannot bring myself to fall to the groundand hug your knees and let loose floods of tears-such abject, weak behavior would disgracethe memory of Troy. And yet they say 102°that high-born men in deep distress have weptwithout dishonor. All the same, I spurnthis doubtful style of manhood. I choose courage.If it seems right to you to save a stranger—-what's more, a man attempting to reclaimhis rightful wife—then give her back to meand help us to escape. If not, it won't bethe first grief I've endured, or the last either;but you will be seen to be an evil woman.What I consider my rights and my deserts 103°I'll tell you now, adding what seems most likelyto touch your heart—here, by your father's tomb.

MENELAOS turns toward the tomb of Proteus.

O ancient spirit, inmate of this marble,I claim my debt from you—restore my wifewhom Zeus sent here to rest in your safe-keeping.I know that, being dead, you'll lack the powerto hand her over yourself, but surely your daughterwill never deign to let her once great fatherbe summoned from his grave to hear his nameexecrated? Now we are in her hands. 104°

Hades, lord of the underworld, you tooI call upon for help. You have receivedhundreds of men who fell before my sword,all for this woman's sake: you have had your payment.Now give me back those warriors aliveor else compel Theonoe to surpassher father's piety by giving me Helen.

He turns away from the tomb and addresses THEONOE.


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H E L E N [975-1006]

If you and your brother steal my wife from me,I'll tell you, as she failed to, what will happen.Prophetess, you should know we're bound by oath: 1050

I've vowed to fight your brother to the death,it's him or me—that's all there is to it.

MENELAOS wields his sword demonstratively.

If he won't meet me man to man and triesto trap and starve us in our sanctuary,I've sworn first to kill Helen and then thrustthis two-edged sword into my heart on the grave-slabof Proteus here, till the gushing blood drips down;and so we'll lie, two corpses, side by sideon the marble monument, to torment your conscienceforever and pollute your father's name. 1060

Neither your brother nor any man aliveis going to marry her—I shall take her with me,home, if I can, and if not, to the dead.But why am I saying all this? I should have wonmore pity by recourse to woman's tearsthan by this forceful speech. If you wish to, kill me—but you will not kill your shame. Far better choiceto be persuaded by my arguments:then you'll act justly and I'll have my wife.

LEADER Maiden, it rests with you to judge the case: 1070

judge it so that all of us here feel pleased.

THEONOE By nature and vocation I love piety;I cherish myself, and I would never sullymy father's name or do my brother a favorat the cost of my own dishonor. In my heartthere's a great shrine of Justice: I inherit itfrom my grandfather Nereus, and, Menelaos,I mean to keep it holy all my life.Since Hera wants to aid you, I shall castmy vote with Hera's. As for Aphrodite 1080


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H E L E N [1007-36]

(may Love not be offended!), she has neverbeen a friend of mine, for I propose to staya virgin to the end. The reproach you aimedat my father by this tomb hits me as well:not to repay would be wrong. Were he alive,I know he would restore you to each other.For all the world, the dead as well as the living,agrees that good and evil are rewarded.The dead may not have living minds like ours,but having once mixed with immortal ether 109°they have immortal consciousness. Therefore,not to prolong my speech, I shall keep silenceon the subject of your plea, I shall not becomean accomplice to my brother's wicked folly.Indeed, however it may seem to the world,in trying to steer him from impietyto godliness I'm doing him a service.As for escape, you must find some way yourselves:I'll stand aside, aloof, and hold my tongue.Begin with the gods. First pray to Aphrodite 110°to allow you a safe journey home, and thenask Hera to stay constant to you bothin her goodwill, on which deliverance hangs.

O my dead father, while there's strength in meyour sacred memory shall not be profaned!

Exit THEONOE, center, with her retinue into thepalace.

LEADER The wicked never prosper in their ways:our hope of safety lies in doing right.

HELEN We're safe as far as she's concerned, Menelaos.As for the rest, you must come up with a planby which we can effect our joint escape. 111°

MENELAOS Then listen to me. You've been here a long time—you've grown familiar with the palace servants?


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H E L E N [1037-62]

HELEN Why do you ask? You seem to raise the hopeof doing something positive.to help us.

MENELAOS Could you persuade one of the grooms in chargeof the four-horse chariots to give us one?

HELEN I could; but how can we escape by landover the huge, unknown Egyptian plains?

MENELAOS You're right, we can't. Well, then, I'll hide in the palaceand kill the king with this sword. What do you say? 112°

HELEN Theonoe wouldn't sanction that; she'd breakher silence rather than let you kill her brother.

MENELAOS What's more, we haven't even got a shipfor our flight. The sea has claimed the one we had.

HELEN Listen—a woman can plan wisely too.Will you let me, as a ruse, report you dead?

MENELAOS Ominous word! But if I'll be the gainerI'm willing to be called dead when I'm not.

HELEN Good; then I'll act the woman's part, with dirgesand a shaved head, for the irreligious king. 113°

MENELAOS But how will this trick help our combined escape?It's rather an old-fashioned one, you know.

HELEN I'll tell him you were drowned at sea and ask himfor permission to erect a monument.

MENELAOS Suppose he agrees, how can we save ourselveswith an empty tomb when we haven't got a ship?

HELEN I'll insist on a ship, so that your robes and jewelscan duly be consigned to the sea's hands.


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H E L E N [1063-88]

MENELAOS Perfect—except for one thing: if he ordersa ceremony on land, your pretext fails. 114°

HELEN But I'll make out that it isn't the Greek customto bury ashore those who were lost at sea.

MENELAOS Another good idea. And I shall join youon board the ship to help you with the ritual.

HELEN Of course you must, you above all, and with youthose of your sailors who survived the wreck.

MENELAOS Once I've a ship at anchor, I'll have my menembark, armed with their swords, in fighting order.

HELEN You must arrange all that. I'll simply prayfor favorable winds. Let the ship run! 115O

MENELAOS It shall. The gods are about to end my troubles.But who will you say told you that I was dead?

HELEN You! I'll pretend you were the sole survivorof Menelaos' crew, and saw him drown.

MENELAOS Yes, and these rags of sail I've got wrapped round mewill lend color to your story of the wreck.

HELEN They're handy now, though your clothes were a sadloss then.

That ill wind could still blow us some good.

MENELAOS Shall I go indoors with you, or would it be betterto sit here quietly beside the tomb? 116°

HELEN Stay here. If he resorts to viciousnessthe tomb, as well as your own sword, will protect you.Meanwhile I'll enter the palace, cut my hair off,change this white robe for mourning black, then scratch


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H E L E N [1089-1116]

my cheeks with my nails till the skin shows blood.For now everything hangs in the balance; the scalesmust tilt one way or the other, as I see it:either I die, caught out in my deception,or else we reach home, and I have saved your life.

O Hera, queen of heaven, you who lie 117°in the bed of Zeus, we two pitiful creatureslift up our hands to your star-embroidered hallsand beg for a calm after our storm of troubles.And you, Dione's child, great Aphrodite,who gained the prize of beauty for the priceof my false marriage, please do not destroy me.You loaded me with enough shame before,when you lent my name, not me, to an alien people.If you desire to kill me, let me diein my own land. You deal in passions, lies, 118°crooked intrigues, love-charms, and drugs that leadto murder in families—why are you never satedwith working mischief? If you could only bereasonable, there'd be no other godso sweet to mortals. I acknowledge it.

Exit HELEN, center, into the palace; the CHORUS this timeremains, as does MENELAOS.

CHORUS Perched among leafy tressesof olive or of oak,from deep in your melodious recesses,sweetest and saddest of birds, you I invoke.Come, nightingale, summon a note 119°from your brown, rippling throatto match my voice as I singof unhappy Helen's tearsand the lamentable sufferingof the men of Troy who faced the Grecian spearswhen Paris, fatally wedbut favorably spedby Aphrodite, drove his intruding oar


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H E L E N [1117-47]

over the plains of foam,taking you, Helen, far, far from home 1200

to prove a murderous bridefor all the sons of Priam who have diedin war, in war.

Spears were thrust, rocks were hurled,and thousands of Greeks now haunt the underworld,whose desolate wives have shorntheir hair, whose widowed homes still mourn.And Nauplios, single-handed in his skiff,when he lit up with his bright beacon-firesea-girt Euboia—star that proved a liar— 121°wrecked many more,doom-dashed on every rock and cliffaround Kaphereos on the Aegean shore.And harborless and unkindto Menelaos were the bluffs of Malea when the windof winter drove him from Sparta with, on board,the prize of his foreign raid(oh, unrewarding reward-war with the Greeks!), the mocking shade,the phantom Helen that Hera made. 122°

What is god, what is not god, what lies in betweenman and god? Who on this earth, after searching,can claim to have beento the end of that question's tortuous lane?For every man has seenthe plans of the gods lurchinghere and there and back againin unexpected and absurdvicissitudes. O Helen, you were conceivedin Leda's womb by Zeus winged like a bird, 1230

yet from the rooftops of Greece you have beenproclaimed

a wicked woman who deceivedher husband, shamed


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H E L E N [1149-70]

honor, and erredagainst the laws of God and man.Discover who cancertainty in the utterance of mankind.For myself, I findtruth only in God's word.

Madmen, all who seek glory in war, 124°trusting in ignoranceto the sheer weight of the lanceto end mortal debate!If battle and blood are to settle the score,grief and hatewill never leave the cities of men. Through strifesuch men have foundcramped sleeping room, a Trojan burial mound,who might by words have learntsome way to compound 125°the quarrel over Menelaos' wife—you, Helen! Now they lie in the domainof the god of death, and pouncing fire has burnt,as if Zeus had hurled his bolt, those walls to the ground,while you endure a pitiable lifeof pain, of pain.

Enter THEOKLYMENOS, left. He is accompanied by at-tendants who are carrying hunting gear; there are houndson the leash. The retinue is speedily dispatched into thepalace (at 1261-62). THEOKLYMENOS first stops at thetomb of his father, and soon notices (1271-72) that

HELEN is not to be found.

THEOKLYMENOS Hail, monument of my father, which I sitedat my main gateway for this very purpose-that, entering or leaving, I, your son,Theoklymenos might thus salute you, Proteus. 126°

You servants, take the dogs and hunting-netsinside the palace, to their proper places.


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H E L E N [1171-98]

I've often criticized myself: I've failed,feebly, to punish criminals with death.And now I discover some Greek has landed herein broad daylight and given my scouts the slip—a spy no doubt, or somebody trying by stealthto kidnap Helen. He's a corpse as soon as he's found!Hah!It seems I've arrived too late. The plot's accomplished. 127°There's no one here—the daughter of Tyndareushas left the tomb and been smuggled out of the country!

THEOKLYMENOS bangs on the doors of the palace; ser-vants appear, and disappear, to do his bidding.

Ho, there, unbar the doors, open the stables,bring out the chariots! My hoped-for brideshall not escape for lack of hard pursuit.

Re-enter HELEN, center.

But hold! The woman I was looking forhasn't got away. She's here, in the palace doorway.

Helen, you've changed from white clothes intoblack!

And why have you put iron scissors to your headand cut short your proud hair? Your cheeks are running 128°with fresh tears—why are you weeping? Has a dreamovershadowed your mind and made you sad?Or have you had heartbreaking news from home?

HELEN My lord and master—as I must call you now—I'm lost. My hopes are dead, and so am I.

THEOKLYMENOS What sort of trouble are you in? What's happened?

HELEN My Menelaos—oh, how can I say the words?—is dead.

THEOKLYMENOS Though the news gives me hope, I cannot rejoice.How do you know this? Did Theonoe tell you?

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H E L E N [1199-1216]

HELEN Yes—and a witness too, who saw him die. 129°

THEOKLYMENOS Somebody who can vouch for it—is he here?

HELEN He's here; but how I wish him somewhere else!

THEOKLYMENOS Who is he? Where is he now? I want the facts.

HELEN There he is—there, cowering beside the tomb.

HELEN points to MENELAOS who, once again, is partiallyconcealed near the tomb and is cringing there pitiably.

THEOKLYMENOS By Apollo, what a sight! The man's in rags.

HELEN Alas, my husband must have looked as wretched.

THEOKLYMENOS Who is this man? Where did he come here from?

HELEN He's a Greek, from aboard the same ship as my husband.

THEOKLYMENOS How does he say that Menelaos died?

HELEN The saddest death—drowned in the deep, salt sea. 130°

THEOKLYMENOS In what wild waters was he voyaging?

HELEN He was wrecked on the harborless cliffs of Libya.

THEOKLYMENOS How comes it that his shipmate here survived?

HELEN Sometimes the low- are luckier than the high-born.

THEOKLYMENOS Where did he leave the wrecked ship before landing?

HELEN Where I hope it may rot. (Half aside) Forgive me,Menelaos.

THEOKLYMENOS Menelaos is dead. What boat did this fellow come in?


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H E L E N [1217-36]

HELEN Some sailors found him and picked him up, he says.

THEOKLYMENOS And the evil phantom sent in your place to Troy . . . ?

HELEN The image of air? It has vanished back to air. 131°

THEOKLYMENOS O Troy and Priam, all destroyed for nothing!

HELEN I, too, shared disaster with the Trojans.

THEOKLYMENOS Did he leave your husband's body unburied, or—

HELEN Unburied, unburied. And I weep for that.

THEOKLYMENOS So this is why you've cut your yellow curls?

HELEN I loved him and still do, wherever he is.

THEOKLYMENOS Should I believe you? Are these tears sincere?

HELEN Would it be easy to deceive your sister?

THEOKLYMENOS It wouldn't. . . . Well, is this tomb to be your home?

HELEN In avoiding you I keep faith with my husband. 132°

THEOKLYMENOS Why taunt and tease me? Let the dead man be.

HELEN I shall. I do. Prepare now for our wedding.

THEOKLYMENOS Consent was long in coming, but I'm glad.

HELEN Do you know what we ought to do? Forget the past.

THEOKLYMENOS On what terms? For one gift deserves another.

HELEN Let us conclude a truce. Give me your friendship.

THEOKLYMENOS I hereby consign our quarrel to the winds.


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H E L E N [1237-53]

HELEN Since you're my friend, I fall at your feet and beg—

HELEN falls to her knees.

THEOKLYMENOS What do you beg, as a suppliant on your knees?

HELEN I wish to ... may I bury my dead husband? 133°

THEOKLYMENOS What, a grave without a corpse? Bury a shadow?

HELEN In Greece, when a man is lost at sea, the custom—

THEOKLYMENOS Yes? Pelops' people are expert in these matters.

HELEN Is to perform the rites with an empty shroud.

THEOKLYMENOS Give him a tomb by all means. Choose a site.

HELEN That's not our way of burying the drowned.

THEOKLYMENOS What is, then? I'm quite ignorant of your customs.

HELEN We take the gifts we owe them out to sea.

THEOKLYMENOS How can I help? What do you need for the dead?

MENEI.AOS stands up and prepares to take part in thedialogue.

HELEN This man knows, I don't—I've been lucky till now. 134°

THEOKLYMENOS Well, stranger, you have brought me news that'swelcome.

MENELAOS Not welcome to me—nor to the dead man either.

THEOKLYMENOS But tell me: how do you bury those that are drowned?

MENELAOS It all depends how rich or poor they are.


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H E L E N [1254-73]

THEOKLYMENOS For Helen's sake no expense shall be spared.

MENELAOS First we offer the powers below some blood.

THEOKLYMENOS Which animal's? Tell me and I shall oblige.

MENELAOS You choose. Whatever you provide will do.

THEOKLYMENOS In Egypt a horse or bull is customary.

MENELAOS Make sure, though, that the beast you offer is flawless. 135°

THEOKLYMENOS We have plenty of those among our splendid herds.

MENELAOS We need a bier, too, for the absent body.

THEOKLYMENOS You shall be given it. What else should one supply?

MENELAOS Bronze arms and armor: he was war's companion.

THEOKLYMENOS Panoply fit for a Greek king—I'll provide them.

MENELAOS And fruit and flowers, whatever your soil produces.

THEOKLYMENOS And then? How do you give all this to the sea?

MENELAOS There has to be a boat, and rowers too.

THEOKLYMENOS And how far from the land does it have to go?

MENELAOS Till the foam of the oars is hardly visible. 136°

THEOKLYMENOS Why? What's the purpose of this strange Greek ritual?

MENELAOS To avoid foul blood being washed back to the shore.

THEOKLYMENOS A fast Phoenician vessel's at your disposal.

MENELAOS That's kind of you—and kind to Menelaos.


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H E L E N [1274-1300]

THEOKLYMENOS But can't you manage this? Do you need her help?

MENELAOS His mother, wife, or child must see it done.

THEOKLYMENOS You mean, this burial is her painful duty?

MENELAOS To cheat the dead of their due offends the gods.

THEOKLYMENOS She may go, then. I would wish my wife to be pious.Enter the palace, select your gifts for the dead; 137°I shall not send you from Egypt empty-handedif you help Helen. You have brought me heartening

news:in place of these rags—for I note your sorry state—you shall have food and clothes for your passage home.And you, unhappy Helen, don't weary yourselfwith useless tears. Menelaos has met his doom.Crying won't bring your husband back to life.

MENELAOS You know your task now, lady. You must show loveto the husband you have and let the other go.Things being as they are, it's your best course. 138°If I manage to get safely back to Greece,I'll kill the old slanders about you. Only bethe true wife to your husband that you should be.

HELEN I shall; and you will be close enough to seethat my lord will have no reason for complaint.But now, poor man, go indoors, take a bathand change your clothes. You won't have long to waitfor your reward—for you'll be that much keenerto serve my dearest Menelaos, knowingthat I am ready to give you what I owe you. 139°

Exeunt HELEN, MENELAOS, and THEOKLYMENOS, center,all into the palace. There is a pause in the action while

the CHORUS sings a long ode.


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H E L E N [1301-36]

CHORUS Long agothe Mountain Mother of the gods ran to and froon frantic feet, combing the forest glades,the brooks and rivers and cascades,even the waves of the thunder-throated sea,anguish-wild,to find her stolen childwhose unutterable name is mystery.Shrilly clamored the bronze, sonorouscymbals when the goddess yoked her lion-drawn car 140°in search of Persephone, the maidravished from the circles of the dancing-chorus;and whirlwind-footed to her aidrushed Artemis with her arrows of war,Athene with her spear and Gorgon's eyes.But watching from his throne in the skies,Zeus ordained things otherwise.

When the Great Mother ceased her hard,sore-footed, world-wandering questfor her daughter and her daughter's cunning thief, 141°she climbed Mount Ida, she crossedthe snow-blooming crestwhere the upland nymphs keep guard,threw herself down among the winter-white,rock-strewn thickets, and in her griefunleashed a universal blight.She .scorched the ungreen fields,starving men of the yieldsof each expected crop;to injure the flocks she dried 142°the juicy fodder of the curling leaf;through her, the child in the womb died,life in the cities came to a stop,gods were deniedtheir rites, and altars their burnt offerings;at source she choked the springsof their jetting, shining water—


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H E L E N [1337-68]

all in bitter, insufferable grieffor her lost daughter.

But then, 143°when she had brought to a halt the feasts that menshare with the gods, Zeus, to assuageher black, impassioned sense of wrong,spoke out: "Demeter is savage with ragefor her lost child.Go, sacred Graces, go, Muses, and with your art,with the shock of music, with dance and with songshift the mood of her heart."The first of the immortals then to comewas the loveliest. Aphrodite seized 144°the rumbling, bronze-voiced cymbal and the hide-

stretched drum,and the Mother smiledand took the flute in her hands and, beguiledby its deep, loud throb, was eased.

Helen, you did not do right,you committed a sin:in your chamber you lit an unholy flameand, child, you failed to honor the nameof the Great Mother, and she avenged the slight.For great is the power of the dappled skin 145°of the fawn which her worshippers wear,of the vivid greenof the ivy wreath on the sacred wand they bear,of the frenzied tambourinewhirled and brandished high in the air,of the wild tossed hairwhich her reveling devotees shake,of their nights spent rapt and awake . . .Your beauty, Helen, was all you gloried in.

Re-enter HELEN, center.


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H E L E N [1369-93]

HELEN Friends, things have gone well for us in the palace. 146°The daughter of Proteus, questioned by her brother,acted her part in our plot and said not a wordabout my husband's presence; indeed, to help me,she said he was dead, out of the sunlight, buried.Meanwhile my lord has made a lucky haul:the arms that he was supposed to sink in the seahe's wearing himself, his strong left arm in the

shield-band,his right hand with a spear, to all appearanceas if he were about to play his rolein the burial ceremony. 147°

Re-enter MENELAOS, center. He has shed his rags andnow stands in the panoply of fhe warrior he is about

once again to become.

So here he comes,conveniently armed, spoiling for battlelike a man who means to hang victorious trophiesover the corpses of a thousand Egyptiansthe moment we get aboard and use our oars.1 myself, in place of those rags from the wreck,have given him new clothes as well as the bathhis body had long craved, in sweet, fresh water.But look! Here is the prince who thinks he holdsmy instant marriage in the palm of his hand.I must be silent. I beg you, be my friends 148°and guard your tongues; and then, if we escape,one day we may contrive to save you too.

Re-enter THEOKLYMENOS, center, again attended by aretinue of slaves bearing gifts for the "funeral," whohowever mostly immediately leave the stage to the right.

THEOKLYMENOS To your work, men. Do as the stranger tells youand take the funeral offerings to the shore.Helen—don't take these words amiss—stay here,be ruled by me. Whether or not you're present


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H E L E N [1394-1417]

at the rite, you honor your husband just the same.My fear is that, driven mad by memoriesof love, in a fit of passionate devotionyou'll throw yourself in the sea; for the grief you show 149°for a man who's dead elsewhere is too intense.

HELEN My new-found husband, I am duty-boundto revere the memory, the intimacyof my first marriage. I've loved Menelaosso much that I could die with him—but thenwhat benefit would my death bring him in death?No, let me go in person and offer the giftsdue to the departed. May the gods reward you—and this stranger too, since he's been helping us—with all I could wish for you both. And for your 150°

kindnessto me and to Menelaos you shall find meexactly the sort of wife that you deserve;for all that's happening points to a good end.Now, please give someone orders to put a shipat our disposal for the funeral rite,and then my gratitude will be complete.

THEOKLYMENOS turns to an attendant.

THEOKLYMENOS You there, go and get ready a fifty-oaredSidonian galley with a crew of rowers!


HELEN This stranger will be in charge of the sea-burial—won't he have command of the ship as well? 151°

THEOKLYMENOS He will indeed; my sailors must obey him.

HELEN Repeat that, so that it's clearly understood.

THEOKLYMENOS They must obey him. Shall I say it a third time?


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H E L E N [1418-40]

HELEN Blessings upon your hopes—and my hopes too!

THEOKLYMENOS Don't spoil your beauty now with too much crying.

HELEN Today will show how grateful to you I am.

THEOKLYMENOS The dead are nothing; tears are wasted effort.

HELEN I'm thinking of this world as well as the other.

THEOKLYMENOS You will find me as good a man as Menelaos.

HELEN You have been good. Now all I need is luck. 152°

THEOKLYMENOS That lies with you. Be friends with me, you'll have it.

HELEN I don't need to be taught how to love my friends.

THEOKLYMENOS Shall I help you by accompanying you myself?

HELEN No, sire. A king should never serve his servants.

THEOKLYMENOS Very well. I need not bother myself furtherwith your Greek ceremonies. My house is clean-it wasn't here that Menelaos died.Go, one of you, and tell all my chief subjectsto bring their wedding-gifts inside the palace.Let the land ring with music and with songs 153°in celebration, in congratulationof the marriage between Helen and myself.Meanwhile, stranger, put all this in the handsof the sea, in honor of her former husband,then hurry back again, bringing my wife,and share in our wedding banquet; after whicheither sail home or stay here at your pleasure.

Exit THEOKLYMENOS center into the palace.


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H E L E N [1441-76]

MENELAOS O Zeus, known as our father, wisest of gods,look down on us, grant us respite from pain.As we drag our difficulties up the slope 154°reach us your hand—one touch of your fingertipand we're there, at the summit, where we hope to be.I've done my share of suffering in the pastYou gods, I've called upon you many timesin tones that may have pleased you or displeased you,and I don't deserve to spend my whole life staggeringunder catastrophe, I ought to be ableto walk upright. Indulge my prayer this onceand I shall live a happy man forever.

Exeunt HELEN and MENELAOS right, toward the waitingship.

CHORUS Speed home, speed home, 155°galley of Sidon, mother of oars loved by the foam,dance-leader when the dolphins reveland the winds are fair and the waves lie level.May Galaneia, goddess of calms, the sea'sgrey-green daughter, speak words like these:"Spread the sails wide to the salt breeze,sailors, tug at the oars,tug at the oars till you have groundedthe ship, with Helen, on kind Greek shores,in the city that Perseus founded." 156°

There, Helen, you may meetyour brothers' wives beside the swirling waterof Eurotas; you may come in time to join the dancebefore Athene's temple, or to share the night of joywhen Spartans celebrate the boywhom, challenged to compete,Apollo killed with the discus by mischance,and for whose sake the son of Zeus proclaimedthroughout the land a dayof revelry and sacrificial slaughter; 157°and the child you left when you went away,


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H E L E N [1477-1511]

for whom no bridal torch has ever flamed—you may see her, Hermione, your daughter.

Oh, to have wings! Our prayeris to be high in the airover Libya with the flocks who escape the rainsof winter and in close ranksfollow the eldest, the captain bird,whose clear whistle, always heard,leads them over the deserts and the corn-green plains. 158°O long-necked voyagers, O cranes,who partner the clouds in their sky-races,travel through the starry spaces,under the Pleiads at their zenith, under Orion burningin the middle of the night,and when you reach the banksof Eurotas, alightand trumpet the tidings of joy-that Menelaos has taken the city of Troy,that Menelaos is returning. 159°

Come with the speed of your horses,O sons of Tyndareus, sky-inhabiting pair,rush through the air,under the glittering, whirling coursesof the stars; champions of Helen, rideover the grey-green swell of the tide,over the dark-skinnedbacks of the waves and the white jags of foam,bringing the fresh and welcome windthat comes from Zeus and takes the sailor home; 160°banish the cloud of ill-famethat has shadowed your sister ever sincemen's tongues coupled her namein scandal with a foreign prince;dissolve the guiltshe has borne as punishmentfor the quarrel on Ida, even though she never wentto Troy and never saw the towers Apollo built.


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H E L E N [1512-37]

Enter THEOKLYMENOS center from the palace, as a MES-SENGER bursts in right, from the shore. Before THEOKLY-MENOS can speak, the agitated MESSENGER bursts into

breathless speech.

MESSENGER My lord, the news I'm just about to tell youis utterly unexpected—and disastrous. 161°

THEOKLYMENOS What is it? MESSENGER You may as well start lookingfor a new bride. Helen has left the country.

THEOKLYMENOS Left! On wings, I suppose? Or did she walk?

MESSENGER She was carried off in a ship by Menelaos—the man who brought the report of his own death.

THEOKLYMENOS This is appalling news. What sort of transportdid they get away in? It's unbelievable!

MESSENGER The transport you supplied him with. In short,he went off with your sailors in your ship.

THEOKLYMENOS How? I want to know how! For it surpasses 162°the bounds of my belief that a lone mancould outwit a whole crew—and you were one of them!

MESSENGER When the daughter of Zeus had left this royal houseand was being escorted seawards, she adopteda graceful, mincing walk—it was clever acting—and set up a widow's wailing for the husbandwho, far from being dead, was right beside her.At last we reached your dockyard and hauled downa brand-new, fifty-oared Sidonian galleycomplete with benches. Each man did his job: 163°one fitted the mast in position, one arrangedthe oars, one furled the white sails, and the steersmanlowered the rudders by the guiding-ropes.While all this work was going on, some Greeks,


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H E L E N [1538-73]

sailors of Menelaos—they must have beenwatching and biding their time—approached the shore:fine-looking men, but dirty and disheveled,wearing the rags of castaways. Seeing them,the son of Atreus put on for our benefita show of commiseration. "Men," he called, 164°"you have my sympathy. You look like Greeks.What ship? How were you wrecked? Since you've

arrived,would you be willing to help in the burialof Menelaos, lost at sea, whom Helen—this lady here—is honoring with a tomb?"Next thing, they'd shed some hypocritical tearsand come on board, carrying the sea-giftsfor Menelaos. Now we got suspiciousand muttered to one another about the crowdof extra passengers, but all the same, 165°remembering your orders, we kept quiet:your guest was to be in absolute command,you'd said—the whole disaster's due to that.Anyway, the cargo being fairly light,we easily hauled it aboard—but not the bull,who pawed and slithered and balked at the straight

gangplank,bellowed and rolled his eyes and humped his backand squinted down his horns and wouldn't allowanyone to touch him. At which Helen's husbandshouted, "Takers of Troy, come on, why can't you 166°lift up the bull the Greek way, on strong shoulders,and carry him for'ard? He's our sacrifice."And he drew his sword. They obeyed. They seized,

hoisted,and manhandled the bull onto the deck.

At last, when the ship had taken on all cargoand Helen with her dainty feet had mountedevery rung of the ladder, she sat downon the quarter-deck, with her so-called "dead" husband.The rest of the Greeks ranged themselves, two in a row,


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H E L E N [1574-1611]

on either side along the bulkheads, hiding 167°swords under their clothes; and soon the wavesechoed as we took up the bosun's chant.When we'd got out to sea—not too far out,yet not too near the shore—our steersman asked,"Shall we keep going, sir, or will this do?You're in command here." Menelaos answered,"This is far enough," and, taking his sword in hand,worked his way to the prow, stood poised to strike,then without mention of any dead man's namecut the bull's throat, with a prayer: "Lord of the ocean, 168°Poseidon, and you stainless Nereids,convey me safely, and my wife with me,away from Egypt to the shores of Nauplia."A stream of blood jetted into the water—a good omen for the Greek. Then one of usspoke up and said, "There's treachery aboard!Let's make for the shore. Row about to the right!Put the helm over, someone!" The son of Atreus,standing there after slaughtering the bull,yelled to his men, "What are you waiting for, 169°heroes of Greece? Kill these Egyptian dogs,cut them to bits and throw them in the sea!"In reply our captain roared out to your sailors,"Come on! Find weapons, grab the end of a spar,break up a seat, wrench an oar out of the rowlocksand smash the heads of these accursed strangers!"Every man sprang to his feet, we with nothingbut timber from the ship, they with their swords.Soon the decks were awash with blood, while Helenshouted encouragement from the stern: "Where now 170°is the reputation that you won at Troy?Show these barbarians!" It happened quickly:some fell, some kept their feet, and you could seedead men lying all round. Be,ing fully armed,Menelaos, wherever he saw his friends hard-pressed,brought his sword-arm into play. In the end he sweptthe benches clear of rowers, went to the rudderand ordered the helmsman to steer straight for Greece.


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H E L E N [1612-34]

They hoisted sail, and the wind blew in their favor.And so they've escaped from Egypt. I myself 171°

avoided death by climbing down the anchorinto the sea. I was half-dead when a fishermanpicked me up and brought me ashore; and soI give you the news. Healthy mistrust, I've learnt,is the quality that stands one in best stead.

LEADER I would never have dreamt, my lord, that Menelaoscould have been here unknown to you and me.

Exit MESSENGER, Tight.

THEOKLYMENOS Shame and misery, to be outwitted by a woman!My bride has escaped. If pursuit could overhaul them,I'd spare no effort, I'd soon seize those Greeks. 172C

As it is, I'll take revenge on my treacherous sister,who saw Menelaos in the house and said nothing.Never again will she cheat men with her prophecies!

THEOKLYMENOS starts toward the palace, but the CHORUSstands in his way.

LEADER Where are you going, my lord? To commit a murder?

THEOKLYMENOS Where justice beckons me. Out of my way!

CHORUS A hasty, terrible crime! We clutch your robes.

THEOKLYMENOS Does a slave command his master? LEADER We are right.

THEOKLYMENOS But you do me wrong. Unless you let me—LEADER No!

THEOKLYMENOS Kill my vile sister—LEADER God-fearing, not vile.

THEOKLYMENOS Who betrayed me—LEADER Noble betrayal! A good 173°deed!

THEOKLYMENOS And gave my bride to a man—LEADER Who had firstclaim.


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H E L E N [1635-62]

THEOKLYMENOS Over what's mine? LEADER Her father gave her to him.

THEOKLYMENOS Fortune gave her to me. LEADER And Fate removed her.

THEOKLYMENOS You're not my judge. LEADER I am, if I judge better.

THEOKLYMENOS So I'm overruled as king? LEADER Not when you're just.

THEOKLYMENOS You seem in love with dying. LEADER Kill me, then.While we stand here you shall not kill your sister.Kill me! The noblest thing a slave can dois die with honor for the sake of his master.

The DIOSKOUROI, KASTOR and POLYDEUKES, appear in theair above the palace, swung forward by the mechane, akind of crane fixed to the top of the stage buildings; inthis case, they may have been represented as riding on

horses. KASTOR alone speaks.

KASTOR Theoklymenos, King of Egypt, moderate 174°your wrath: it is wrongly aimed. We who address youare the Heavenly Twins, whom Leda once gave birth towith Helen, who has now fled your house.The lost marriage at which you rage was neverdestined to be, nor did Theonoe,the Nereid's daughter, wrong you when she honoredthe command of both her father and the gods.Until this day it had always been ordainedthat she should live in your palace; but once Troy'sfoundations were uprooted, she was meant 175°to return home and share her husband's roof.So sheathe that black sword pointed at your sister,and own that what she did was wisely done.We who were given the power of gods by Zeuswould have rescued her long ago had we not beenweaker than Destiny and the other gods,who both alike willed that these things should be.

Those words were for you. Now I shall speak toHelen.


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H E L E N [1663-92]

Sail with your husband; you shall have fair winds;we, your brothers, the Guardians, will escort you, 176°skimming the waves on our horses. And one day,when you complete the course of human life,you shall be called divine along with us,share our libations and be entertained,like the Dioskouroi, with feasts and worshipfrom the race of men. For that is Zeus's will.Where Hermes, when he snatched you up from Sparta,marked the first stage of your skyborne flight and hid youto foil your marriage to Paris—I mean the islandthat sits like a sentinel opposite Attica— 177°shall be known by the world as Helen, for its partin sheltering your god-abducted beauty.And the gods have granted wandering Menelaoslife after death in the Islands of the Blest.Heaven never hates the high-born, but it's true,they're given more trials than the nameless crowd.

THEOKLYMENOS O sons of Zeus and Leda, I abandonmy old quarrel with you over your sister.If it's the will of the gods, let her go home.Theonoe I spare. I recognize, 1780

and you should know, that you are both blood-brothersof the best, most virtuous sister in the world.Rejoice, therefore, in Helen's noble mind-there are few women like her—and farewell.

CHORUS The divine will showsitself in many forms. The gods disposemany things unexpectedly, and what we basecertainty on may never take place.God finds a wayfor the event no man foreknows. 179°So ends our play.

Exeunt omnes: THEOKLYMENOS and the CHORUS retireinto the palace as the DIOSKOUROI are swung back and out

of sight by the mechane.


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As noted in the Introduction, we have in general followed thetext of G. Murray (Oxford, 1913), as used and sometimes alteredor improved by A. M. Dale in her commentary (Oxford, 1967).In the case of significant divergences, brief comments will befound in these notes.

The notes do not, of course, constitute anything like a com-mentary. They mainly attempt to explain some points of difficultyor obscurity (textual or contextual); to draw attention to somematters of dramatic technique and stagecraft; and to show howEuripides constantly harps on the appearance/reality theme.


1. Pontos


Proteus == Psamathe

Theoklymenos Theonoe

2. Tantalos Oinomaos

I IPelops = Hippodameia

Thyestes Atreus = Aerope

Aegisthos = Clytemnestra = Agamemnon Menelaos = Helen

Orestes = Hermione


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3. Thestios

Leda = Tyndareus or Zeus

Kastor Pollux Clytemnestra Helen



I.Priam = Hecuba

Paris Helenos

c. Danaos


Danae — Zeus

Perseus = Andromeda

6. Poseidon




7. Psamathe = Aiakos Nereus

Phokbs Telamon Peleus = Thetis

Ajax Teucer Achilles



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1-172 Prologue The situation, with Helen standing or sitting by the tomb ofProteus, is similar to that with which Andromache opens, wherethe heroine has taken refuge at a shrine of Thetis. Necessary asthe prologue was at a time when, of course, there was no playbillor program (and this is especially true in a play such as Helen,where the author treats the myth in a decidedly unorthodox way,with a consequently greater need for explanation to the audi-ence), Teucer is a somewhat unsatisfactory figure, dramaticallyspeaking. He appears from nowhere, disappears into the samenowhere, and is not heard of again.

18 There's an old story Already the note of scepticism appears; the distinctionbetween appearance and reality, so crucial and central to this play,is made over two dozen times in the course of it.

26 Mount Ida Of course, the Trojan Ida rather than the perhaps better-knownCretan one.

j6ff. not the real me ... possesses only his belief These are the bones of thestory as told by Stesichorus; for a full and clear account, see Dale,Introduction, pp. xvii ff. The word for belief, dokesis, is not acommon one and may have something of a philosophical flavor.

4iff. relieve the cumbered earth The account of overpopulation as the cause ofthe Trojan War goes back a long way—in fact to the Cypria,ascribed to Stasinus, Euripides, ever the rationalist, seems to havefavored it: he refers to it both in Orestes and Electra. Themightiest Greek (43) is Achilles.

94ff. No wonder, then The dialogue, in stichornythia, is confused and almostcertainly corrupt between here and 96. It may be that a line hasfallen out and been clumsily replaced; we have omitted one linewhich is almost certainly an interpolation (86 in Murray's text).

107 one of Helen's suitors Although this is inconsistent with the general versionof the legend, it is not absolutely novel and gives an excuse forHelen's knowing of Achilles—which would otherwise be inexpli-cable, given her seventeen years' isolation in Egypt.

no Another man Odysseus; see, e.g., Sophocles' Ajax, passim.


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127 the gods made you imagine it all Again, Euripides uses the word doke~sis;again we see the emphasis on appearance and reality.

129 We have omitted, with Dale, the two preceding lines (12 if. in the Greektext), as being redundant and obscure.

144 two different rumors And yet again Euripides cannot resist casting doubt asto what is real, what false.

152 Theonoe We must assume that her fame is indeed widespread for Teucer toknow of her.

171 home Euripides puts it more vividly ("to the streams of Eurotas") from thepoint of view of his—but not a present-day—audience.

173-270 The first lyric passage, with two strophes and antistrophes followed (244-70)by an epode; as prelude, Helen chants three dactylic lines (173-79in this translation). The meter, in Greek, is mainly trochaic. Al-though the text (as all too often in the choruses of the Helen)is frequently unclear or corrupt, the sense can normally be ascer-tained with confidence—which cannot always be said.

181 you Sirens Why Sirens? The Sirens are represented in art as winged (womenwith birds' wings, or birds with human heads), and regularly havea connexion with death: their images were often carved ontombs, and they may even have been painted here on the tombof Proteus.

i93ff. By the blue pool This passage (or parodos, marking the entry of theChorus) inevitably recalls the more famous "laundry" scene atHippolytus (121-30).

210 my ill-used name The familiar appearance/reality contrast is brought out, even in a choric ode, where it might seem especially inappropriate.

a rumor . . . that implies you sleep But how could the Chorus know this?Here and elsewhere Euripides is less than careful about what, inthe given circ*mstances, could be known by whom—as, on occa-sion, things are not known which, since Theonoe is omniscient,really ought to be known. Of course, too much should not bemade of this.



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243 Athene's brazen temple It is worth pointing out that this is the SpartanAthene, whose temple was lined with bronze plates; there is adescription in Pausanias (3.17.2,3).

270 in name Yet again Helen drives the point home.

271-403 The second scene, between Helen and the Chorus.

274 We omit lines 257-59 oftheofGreek text, with Murray and against Dale, asbeing "tastelessly grotesque"; but we recognize that, in this play,it is not impossible that Euripides wrote what he is alleged tohave done.

299):. My daughter . . . withers in spinsterhood Hermione is meant; the exag-geration—Hermione is perhaps nineteen or twenty—is pardonable.

314 Here again we have omitted several lines (299-302 in the Greek) with Murrayand Dale; they are silly, tasteless, and questionable Greek—a com-bination infrequently if ever found in Euripides.

32if. So we translate; but the Greek as transmitted is highly complex and com-pressed. While the general sense seems clear enough, we suspectcorruption. See Dale, ad loc. (Greek text, 308-10)

335 Yet again we have omitted (with Dale but against Murray) three lines of theGreek (324-26): "impossible to construe and wholly superfluous"(Dale).

339 At this point, Helen breaks into a lyric dialogue, or kommos, with the Chorus,which is followed by a solo lament (373), itself leading into(390) a complex and corrupt passage in a dactylic meter.

365 The Greek at this point (353ff.) is implausible and probably corrupt; see Dalead loc. But the sense, once again, is clear: various methods ofsuicide (hanging, cutting one's throat) are, not for the first time,being considered.

370 Priam's boy Paris.

392 The line of thought here is that other women whose beauty brought them low(Kallisto and the daughter of Merops) were relatively fortunate


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compared to Helen, whose beauty destroyed not only her but theGreeks and Trojans as well. But, once again, the Greek as trans-mitted is at best confused and several readings are doubtful. Forexample, the reference to Leda in 395 seems irrelevant; while thetext implies, too, that Kallisto was transformed into a lion ratherthan a bear (as is invariably stated elsewhere). The daughter ofMerops is unknown; animal metamorphoses are a commonthread—but do not apply to Helen. Incongruous as the stanzaappears to us, "certainly Euripides," as Dale says, "intends noburlesque here." For another interpretation, see Dale, ClassicalReview (New Series) x (1960), 194-95: lioness = beast ge-nerically.

404-538 The third scene: Menelaos and the Portress.This scene and the following one, with the great hero in ragsand being rudely rebuffed by, of all people, a portress, were amongthose which did no good to Euripides' reputation—at least in theeyes of Aristophanes. It is worth comparing the parody, consid-erable in length and quoting in extenso from Helen, which ap-peared the following year in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae:see 849-918.

462 loot like a Greek But how does she know?

507-21 Bemused reflections on his predicament and the possibility of coincidence—-what, a second Helen, Zeus, Sparta, Tyndareus, Troy? The im-pression is one of naivete and bewilderment—with a degree ofblustering recovery of confidence in 52iff.

539-922 The fourth scene, extended to the length of an "act" (of course, theGreeks did not think in those terms, nor did time pass betweenscenes or "acts" as it may well do in a modern play). For asuperlative account of how the Greeks handled stagecraft, seeThe Stagecraft of Aeschylus, by Oliver Taplin (Oxford, 1977),or, more accessibly, the same author's Greek Tragedy in Action(London, 1978).

This act, including the standard recognition (anagnorisis)scene, is of course one of the central sections of the play. Wehave Menelaos, Helen, a Messenger, and the Chorus.

539-50 Essential reportage by the Chorus—not a full-scale choric ode.


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553 knows the truth of all things In that case, there is a lot that, she has notpassed on to Helen!

586 This line does not appear in the manuscripts of Euripides, but is supplied—essentially—from the parody in Thesmophoriazusae.

592ff. Menelaos' bewilderment, remember, is understandable. He has absolutelyno reason to believe that this person is the "real" Helen.

601 We omit two otiose lines (following Dale) after this line.

611 A name The familiar onoma-soma dichotomy.

615ff. An unexpected end, it seems, to a recognition scene! But help is on the way,via what A. Pippin Burnett has usefully called a "manipulatedrevelation, so different from an internally necessary discovery ofthe truth." (Catastrophe Survived, Oxford, 1971, p. 84.)

641 So you've been here The Servant is understandably annoyed at what he takesfor a trick.

651-753 The Recognition Duet is composed in a mixture of meters, includingstandard iambic trimeters; trimeters are mainly given to the male,lyric meters to the (more emotional) female. The main problemin this scene lies in the ascription of lines to the right speaker;see, especially, G. Zuntz, Inquiry into the Transmission of thePlays of Euripides (Cambridge, 1965), chapters 4 and 5. Certaintyis, as so often, unattainable, and agreement has not yet beenreached. We offer our version with no more than moderate con-viction that it approaches what Euripides wrote, and, in particu-lar, draw attention to Anne Pippin Burnett's version of 676ff.:

MENELAOS But this splendid disaster has brought me to you—a tardyhusband, indeed, but all the same, I mean to enjoy myluck!

HELEN Do, by all means! I pray for the same thing that you do;it would be wrong, in a married pair, for one to sufferwhen the other was content.

(Catastrophe Survived, p. 85)

Burnett's view is that this is an "erotic sous-entendu."


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655 Taplin (Greek Tragedy in Action, p. 72) well comments:

Recognition scenes naturally culminate in the heartwarming embraceof the long-separated kin, and in Greek tragedy this is usually the cuefor a lyric duet which squeezes the last tear from this favourite epi-sode. But before this satisfaction is allowed the recognition is oftenlong delayed by incredulity, misunderstanding, the production ofproof and so on. The plays where the embrace is most skilfully de-layed and the longing for reunion most tantalizingly drawn out areprobably Euripides' Iphigenia (among the Taurians) and Helen.

679 Whether Helen or Menelaos should be speaking here, it is at least clear thatwe should not (as Murray does) attribute the lines to the Chorus.

754 The action resumes.

767 Note the homely thoughts, the limited perspectives of the stunned but loyalservant—and his more telling remarks which will follow shortly.

803-5 The Greek as transmitted contains some hopelessly otiose material; we haveomitted, with J. Jackson (Marginalia Scaenica, Oxford, 1955,p. 240) part of lines 741-42 of the Greek text.

8o6ff. Why this sudden attack by the Servant on the art of prophecy? Most ob-viously, because Euripides wished to lash out at divination and theimportant part it had been playing in the contemporary scene—especially before and during the Sicilian Expedition (Thucydides,viii. i). Dale points out that Euripides attacks divination else-where (Elecrra, Phoenissae, Bacchae, the two Iphigeneias) inunvarying tones of hostility and contempt.

More particularly, here, we may feel (with Burnett, op. cit.,p. 87) that these are reflections on the result of the gods' deceitas the first fact of one's universe. In that case, prophecy will nothelp—rather, lead your life according to the most sensible rulesof mortal men. "Which is not to say that Euripides was not rid-ing a favorite hobby horse at a time when his views would belikely to command exceptionally widespread consent.

826 With the end of the Recognition Scene, the action moves on toward theIntrigue (843ff.).

832 As a result of the treacherous murder of Palamedes at Troy, his father Nauplioshad lit misleading beacons in revenge on a promontory of Euboia


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in order to lure the Greek ships to destruction. Plays were writtenon this subject by both Euripides and Sophocles, but neithersurvives.

834 Perseus' look-out rock According to Herodotus (ii. 15) this place marks thewestern limit of the Nile Delta, corresponding to the modernAboukir. Here Andromeda was chained to her rock.

887 An oracular-sounding name Because Theonoe (see 13 ff.) means, roughly,"knowing divine designs."

914-15 when Nestor/was left without a son The death of Antilochos is meant,cf. Odyssey 4.187.

932-1185 The fifth "act" or scene: the nomenclature is irrelevant, but this is thecentral and crucial hinge of the play, on which all else depends.The presence of Theonoe lifts the action to a new plane of seri-ousness, and Theonoe's speeches are composed in a Greek alto-gether more elevated than is the case elsewhere in the play.Theonoe's character and language stand in sharp relief to thoseof the other dramatis personae; here at least, and at last, there isno sense of the comic or burlesque. Nor does Aristophanes everquote from her.

946 This day the assembly of the gods She is indeed well informed; the implica-tion of Dale's note ad loc. (Greek 878f is that Euripides was,consciously or unconsciously, transferring the scene in the epicmode to Olympus, where it would all be described in oratio rectaand in full.

g63ff. In the more usual version of what follows, the arbiter would be asked toconsider his or her verdict on two different and opposing pleas.Here, of course, two people plead for the same decision, but intwo wholly different ways.

1014 The words you have spoken Who speaks these words? The problem is adelicate one. Murray gives them to the Chorus; Pearson (C.U.P.,1903) similarly. Dale (at line 945 in the Greek) follows the manu-script tradition in giving them to Theonoe. This divergence high-lights one of the difficulties facing modern editors or translators ofGreek dramatists: who is speaking at a given moment? (Our manu-script traditions of who is speaking are the result of later scholar-


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ship. Papyrus discoveries show that scribes normally markedchanges of speaker only by a paragraphos (—) or dikolon (:), bothof which are sigla easily omitted.) In a case like this, it has to beasked how far back our tradition extends; and ultimately we havenothing better to go on than our own sense of the fitting, itselfpartly influenced by more or less parallel cases. Burnett (op. cit.,p. 90) reminds us, with justice, that "the two-line (here, three-line) interruption that in a sense passes the speaker's wand fromone character to another is a commonplace with the chorus, andso is this kind of frank curiosity (cf. e.g. [Aesch.] P.V. 631),whereas there is no precedent for such a speech from the magis-terial figure in this kind of scene." Moreover, as she points out,Athene never once interrupts while the two parties in theEumenides are in debate in the trial scene there. As usual, thereare arguments on both sides; we feel more comfortable, pace Dale,in attributing the lines to the Chorus. That said, it seems onlyfair to report Dale's comment: "both [Theonoe's] silence and theChorus's speech (at least in these terms) would be impossiblybad-mannered." (We, not Burnett, bracket the name of Aeschylusabove.)

1017ff. The blustering speech of Menelaos, wholly in keeping with his characteras displayed in the Helen, must have been a severe test ofTheonoe's patience. He even ends (l05off.) by threats of murder(of Helen and Theoklymenos, Theonoe's brother) and suicide. Itis not until he is seen from afar (later on, in the Messenger'sspeech) that Menelaos regains anything like his heroic stature.

1072-91 There is no more solemn or moving speech in the play; and in it (besidesthe striking "shrine of Justice," 1076), 1089-91 are especiallyworthy of remark, as implying life after death in a way morereminiscent of later religions than is commonly associated withAthens of the fifth century B.C. Dale says that the passage doesnot go far as "an anticipation of the Platonic doctrine of rewardsand punishments after death and of the immortality of the soul"but rather is a "piece of high-toned but vague mysticism appro-priate to Theonoe." And, of course, it would be quite inappropri-ate to draw any inference from this passage as to Euripides'beliefs, if any, in a future state. Rather, Theonoe here is makingan abstract of religious speculation, past and present—and tocome. What would be intriguing to know is whether there had


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been an upsurge of this kind of "theological" speculation follow-ing the enormous casualty lists of the Sicilian expedition; doTheonoe's words link in any way with the Servant's earlier dia-tribe on prophecy? After castigating the Athenians for theirgullibility over divination, is he now giving them a sop via apromise of a kind of immortality? Probably not: there is a re-markably similar passage at Euripides, Supplices, 531-4, and theidea may have been a philosophical commonplace of the time.

1115ff. Menelaos' ideas for their escape are characterized, it will be seen, by theirextreme implausibility.

1132 old-fashioned The immediate reference is probably to Sophocles' Electra, 56-64, where a similar idea is pondered over; as Dale says, the com-ment is a "rather mischievous interpolation" by Euripides. It isperfectly possible that Sophocles' Electra had appeared in theprevious year.

1178 my name, not me Once again, the Greek has onoma and soma in closejuxtaposition.

1186-1252 After the great central scenes of the play—the Recognition, the Trial(or agon), the Intrigue—comes at last relief in the form of a longchoral ode; as Dale says, the first proper stasimon of the play.

This stasirnon, in the fourth stanza (124off.), contains the onlyexplicit attack on war in the play. But, of course, implicit through-out is the anti-war atmosphere resulting from the knowledge thatthe Trojan War was fought for a phantom. Had not the Athe-nians first seen their own dream of Western expansion vanishhideously at Syracuse?

1191 brown, rippling The Greek word is xouthos, which, like some other Greekwords, manages to combine several notions in one—color, sound,and movement.

1208 Nauplios See note on 832.

1221ff. There are many textual uncertainties in this and the following stanza, andat times even the sense required cannot be established withconfidence.


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1257-1390 The sixth scene; Helen, Theoklymenos, and Menelaos.

1257-60 The effect, to a modern audience, of these lines is likely to be one ofawkwardness, even naivete.

1292 Note the double meaning. This scene allows maximum scope for such wordplay, with Helen frequently saying one thing and meaning an-other: very typical Euripides.

1294 cowering Poor Menelaos! Cowering, in rags, written off as dead.

1377 Crying We have adopted J. Jackson's admirable emendation (MarginaliaScaenica (Oxford, 1955), 13J-ff.), of goois (crying) for the otioseposi's (husband).

1391-1459 The second stasimon:It is hard to connect the story of the Great Mother, Demeter,plausibly in any way with the Helen. At the risk of seeming dis-respectful to Euripides, we have even ventured to wonder whetherthis lyric ("perhaps reflecting something of the style of contem-porary dithyramb"—Dale) was not, so to speak, in Euripides'stockpile and brought out here to fill the gap. Although a tenuousconnection with Helen emerges in the final stanza, the ode standson its own. The final stanza, it should be added, has come downto us in a particularly poor state.

Dale, p. 147, comments usefully on the content of the ode,saying (inter alia) that "this is the most explicit indication wehave in literature of the process of syncretism at work in fifth-century Greece." Here the din and wildness of Phrygian cults aregrafted on to the myth of the sorrowing Demeter. Verrall's argu-ment (Introduction, p. 17) makes good use of this stasimon.

1400 car The Greek word, sating, is relatively unusual and probably an importfrom the East.

1448 you failed to honor the name So we render the corrupt and obscure Greek.Whether Helen's offense was one of commission or omission isimpossible to determine; we have followed Dale's approach.

1460-1549 The seventh scene: Theoklymenos, Helen, Menelaos.It is unclear at what point Menelaos enters this scene; it must

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always be remembered that our only indications of who is on thestage of a Greek play at any moment come from the text itself.Here a lacuna has been posited after 1464 (which might haveprovided us with the answer); otherwise, we must wait for 1470.The words which we have rendered "So here he comes" could aswell bear the sense, in effect, "So here he is"; but it seems to usperhaps more likely that he enters with Theoklymenos and theattendants. These dramaturgical points are of importance every-where, but especially at places like this where they affect one'sjudgment of the play's degree of burner: is Menelaos beingpointed to or talked about?

1550-1608 The third stasimon: the meter, as in the preceding stasimon, is predomi-nantly aeolo-choriambic (Dale, p. 158). Textually this ode is per-haps less obscure and corrupt than the others.

1560 the city that Perseus founded Mycenae—but not specifically intended as thepoint of disembarkation.

1565-67 the boy whom . . . Apollo killed Hyacinthos.

1607-8 These lines are very reminiscent of what remains to us of Stesichorus'palinode (see Introduction, p. 4).

1609-1791 The eighth, and final, scene or "act": Theoklymenos, Messenger,Dioskouroi, Chorus.

1613 Ironic, and rather reminiscent of the Servant's words at 644.

1623-1715 This superb Messenger's speech deserves the closest attention; in force,speed, directness, vigor it ranks with the very best of Euripides.There are occasional textual problems, but these cannot obscurethe splendid liveliness with which the tale of deceit and disasteris unfolded.

1631f. A passage of notorious difficulty and corruption: we are fairly confident ofhaving provided the sense required by the context.

1661 It must have been a very small bull. After 1664, the Greek appears to referto a horse as well; but this animal makes no subsequent appear-ance of any kind, and we have banished it back to the mind of


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the interpolator whence it sprang. There is no room for super-fluous material in so taut and dramatic a narration.

1687 Row about to the right A probable interpretation of a vexed passage.

1716 The nervous disingenuousness of the Chorus is, to say the least of it, under-standable.

iyi8ff. From here to 1739 the meter changes to the trochaic tetrameter catalectic—a vigorous rhythm which also allows the rapid interchange be-tween Theoklymenos and the Chorus to take place within theconfines of single lines.

1740 The deus (or, rather, dei) ex machina makes a timely appearance.

1771 An example of Euripides' favorite practice of explanatory rationalization. Thelong island which guards the coast of Attica (here called Acte inthe Greek) is Makronnisi, off Sounion.

1776 The most promising and plausible meaning of the line, but one which isdifficult to extract from the Greek.

1785-91 The anapestic finale of Alcestis, Andromache, Bacchae, and (almost)Medea; the equivalent of ringing down the curtain—the Chorusleaves the Orchestra.


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ACHAEAN, synonym for Greek in Homer and later writers. Achaiawas originally a region including southeast Thessaly andpart of the northern Peloponnese.

ACHILLES, greatest warrior among the Greeks at Troy, Prince ofPhthia, and suitor of Helen. His quarrel with Agamemnonand its consequences are the subject of the Iliad of Homer.See also THETIS. Family Tree 7.

AEGEAN, sea between Greece and Asia Minor. The Greeks derivedits name from Aegeus, King of Athens and father ofTheseus, who drowned himself in it.

AEROPE, Family Tree 2.AGAMEMNON, King of Mycenae and traditionally supreme captain

of the Greeks at Troy. On his return he was murdered byClytemnestra and her lover Aegisthos. Family Tree 2.

AIAKOS, King of Aegina. Because of his outstanding piety he wasmade a judge of souls and keeper of the keys of Hades onhis death. Family Tree 7.

AJAX (AIAS), famous leader of the Salaminians at Troy. He killedhimself out of rage at the award of Achilles' arms toOdysseus, another Greek captain. See Family Tree 7.


APHRODITE, daughter of Zeus and Dione, goddess of love and giverof gaiety, beauty, and all attractions which inspire it. Sherepresents irrational overwhelming passion, which runscounter to the moderation admired by the Greeks. Aftera quarrel had broken out at the wedding of Peleus and


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Thetis among Aphrodite, Athene, and Hera about whichof them was the most beautiful, Hermes brought the god-desses to Paris on Mount Ida for him to judge. Aphroditewon by offering him Helen as a bribe. In this way shecaused the Trojan War (see HELEN) .

APOLLO, son of Zeus and Leto, twin brother of Artemis, god ofmusic, the sun and prophecy—especially at his oracle inDelphi. See also HYACINTHOS.

ARCADIA, mountainous region of the central Peloponnese, inhab-ited by peoples with a pastoral way of life.

ARGOS, poetic synonym for Greece. Argos was a city on the eastcoast of Greece, and, more generally, the area under Aga-memnon's rule.

ARTEMIS, virgin goddess of the hunt, fertility and the wilderness.See APOLLO.

ATHENE, favorite daughter of Zeus. She is said to have sprung, fullyarmed, from his head, but she is warlike only in protectionof her chosen heroes and cities, especially Athens. Atheneis also the virgin goddess of wisdom, crafts, and birds.

ATREUS, King of Mycenae. He served up the flesh of the childrenof his brother, Thyestes, at a banquet in revenge forThyestes' theft of a golden ram, which was an heirloom oftheir house. See Family Tree 2.

CRETE, island in the Aegean.CYPRIS, title of Aphrodite from her famous shrine in Cyprus.CYPRUS, island at extreme eastern end of the Mediterranean.

DANAOS, King of Argos. For this reason "Danaan" is a synonymfor "Argive" and hence for "Greek." Family Tree 5.

DARDANOS, ancestor of Priam and founder of Troy. Family Tree 4.DIOSKOUROI, the Heavenly Twins who sailed with Jason in the Argo,

rescued Helen from Theseus, and were eventually trans-formed by Zeus into the constellation of Gemini. The storythat they killed themselves for their sister's shame is Eu-ripides' invention. See also LEUKIPPIDES, LEDA. FamilyTree 3.

EGYPT, westernmost of the African lands on the Mediterranean,nearest to Greece but an exotic and little-known countryto the ancient Greeks.


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EIDO, see THEONOE.ENODIA, title of Hekate (the Roadside Goddess) from her shrines

at crossroads.EUBOIA, large island on eastern coast of Greece.EUROTAS, river of Sparta.

GALENEIA, a sea-nymph personifying calm.GORGOPIS, title of Athene, meaning "of the terrible eyes."GRACES, daughters of Zeus and attendants of Aphrodite. They

were the three goddesses of charm and beauty.GREAT MOTHER (Demeter), goddess of agriculture and fertility.

Euripides gives her the attendant wild beasts and moun-tain home of the Phrygian earth-goddess Kybele. SeePHERSEPHASSA.

HADES, brother of Zeus and king of the Underworld, which oftenbears his name. It was set in the center of the earth belowthe region of darkness called Erebus. There souls afterdeath led a shadowy existence with no pleasure or pain.Only the outstandingly wicked were punished in Tartarus,and only heroes were permitted to enter Elysium or theIsles of the Blest.

HEKATE, goddess of the Underworld, of the moon, and of magic,often attended by phantoms and ghosts. See also ENODIA.

HELEN, the most beautiful woman in the world, especially ad-mired by the Greeks for her blond hair. Many of the great-est men in Greece were her suitors, and swore to supporther husband, whoever he might be. Thus Paris' kidnappingof her from Sparta, with Aphrodite's help, led to an ex-pedition against Troy, drawn from all Greece. After herdeath she was made divine, as were her brothers. See alsoAPHRODITE, MENELAOS, LEDA. Family Trees 2 and 3.

HELENOS, Trojan warrior and prophet. Family Tree 4.HELLAS, The Greeks' own name for their country (and hence,

Hellenes for themselves). It was originally part of SouthThessaly.

HERA, goddess of marriage and all female concerns, wife and sisterof Zeus, of whose mistresses and their children she is al-ways jealous.

HERMES, son of Zeus and Maia—Arcadian god of travelers andmerchants, guide of souls to Hades but especially mes-senger of the gods.


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HERMIONE, Family Tree 2.HYACINTHOS, son of Amyelas of Lakonia, eponym of Amyelai where

his festival is celebrated. Boreas, the North Wind, andZephyrus, the West Wind, jealous of Apollo's love forhim, blew so hard while he and Apollo were competingwith a discus, that Apollo's discus hit and killed him.Where his blood touched the ground, the hyacinthsprang up.

IDA (MOUNT), wooded mountain near Troy; there was anothermountain, of the same name, in Crete.


KALCHAS, prophet who accompanied the Greeks to Troy.KALLISTO, Arcadian nymph, loved by Zeus, whom Hera turned

into a bear out of jealousy. Zeus eventually set her amongthe stars as the constellation of the Great Bear.


LAKEDAIMON, usual name in prose for Sparta.LAKONIA, a region under Spartan rule.LEDA, said to have laid the eggs from which Helen and her broth-

ers were hatched after Zeus had come to her in the shapeof a swan. Helen herself, reflecting the scepticism of laterGreeks, prefers Tyndareus as her father. Family Tree 3.

LEUKIPPIDES, Phoebe and Hilaira, daughters of Leukippus. Ac-cording to one story, the Dioskouroi carried them off andwere killed as they fled by Leukippus' nephews.

LIBYA, Greek name for Africa.

MAIA, one of the Pleiades and mother of Hermes by Zeus.MENELAOS, King of Sparta. Euripides makes him leader of the

Greeks and sacker of Troy (see AGAMEMNON) but followsthe Odyssey in the Dioskouroi's promise of Elysium (seeHADES). He is said to have tried to kill Helen at the sackof Troy before she persuaded him to a reconciliation.Family Tree 2.

MEROPS, King of Ethiopia.MUSES, the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory),

goddesses of literature, music, and dance, attendants ofApollo. (Hence "museum.")


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NAIAD, river-nymph, possibly here Syrinx, whom Pan pursued invain, and so invented his pipes, which he called syringesafter her.

NAUPLIA, town near Korinth, named after ancestor of followingwith the same name.

NAUPLIOS, Greek warrior who helped to wreck the Greek fleet re-turning from Troy by lighting a false beacon on the cliffsnear Kaphereos in Euboia in revenge for the execution ofhis son Palamedes on evidence planted by Odysseus.

NELEUS, Family Tree 6. Antilochos was killed while defending hisancient father Nestor against Memnon, King of Ethiopia.

NEREUS, wise god of the Aegean sea, who had the gift of prophecy.Family Tree i.

NILE, river of Egypt. Euripides gives Anaxagoras' guess about theannual flooding: the main cause is in fact the summerrains on the Abyssinian plateau.

NYMPHS, female nature-spirits, usually young and beautiful.

OINOMAOS, King of Pisa, a town east of Olympia in the Pelopon-nese. He pursued and killed all suitors of his daughter, asthere was a prophecy that her husband would kill him,which was fulfilled when, in pursuit of Pelops, he wasthrown from his chariot. See also PELOPS. Family Tree 2.

ORION, Boeotian giant and great hunter. He was eventually turnedinto a constellation with his dog, Sirios.

PALLAS, title of Athene.PAN, Arcadian son of Hermes; a rustic shepherd god who could

inspire a feeling of "panic."PARIS, Hecuba had an ominous dream while carrying him, and

the child was exposed. He was found and brought up byshepherds on Mount Ida. Paris died in the sack of Troy.See also HELEN, APHRODITE. Family Tree 4.

PELEUS, after his banishment and adventures in Phthia andlolchos, he was given Thetis as a reward for his virtue. Seealso TELEMON, THETIS. Family Tree 7.

PELOPS, won Hippodameia by bribing her father's charioteer toremove the linchpins of his chariot, so that he would notbe pursued. See also TANTALOS, OINOMAOS. Family Tree 2.

PERSEUS, Arisius, King of Argos, shut Danae up in a subterraneanprison after the oracle of Delphi had declared that her sonwould kill him, but Perseus was born after Zeus had visited


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her in a shower of gold. After killing the Gorgon Medusawith the help of Hermes and Athena, and rescuing An-dromeda from a sea-monster, he returned to Argos andfulfilled the prophecy by accident.

PHAROS, an island in the bay of Alexandria at the mouth of theNile, later famous for its lighthouse.

PHERSEPHASSA (or PERSEPHONE), daughter of Demeter, carried offto the Underworld from among her friends by Hades.Demeter wandered over the earth, searching for her, andnot allowing anything to grow, or the streams to run, untilZeus decreed that Phersephassa must return. But as shehad eaten some pomegranate seeds, Persephone must staypart of the year in Hades as gueen of the Dead. Her namewas never spoken so as not to reawaken Demeter's grief.

PHOENICIA, coastal strip of Syria at the extreme western end of theMediterranean, country of the greatest trading and sea-faring nation known to the Greeks.

PHOIBOS, title of Apollo in his aspect as god of the sun.PHRYGIAN, synonym for Trojan. Phrygia was part of central and

western Asia Minor.PISA, kingdom of Oinomaos near Olympia in Greece.PLEIADES, seven sisters who appealed to Zeus when Orion pursued

them, and were turned into stars.PLOUTOS, riches personified.PONTOS, the open sea personified. Family Tree i.POSEIDON, brother of Zeus, god of earthquakes, horses, and above

all, the sea.PRIAM, King of Troy, famous for his piety and wisdom. He was

killed in the sack of the city. Family Tree 4.PROTEUS, King of Egypt, though he appears in the Odyssey as a

minor sea-god. Family Tree 1.PSAMATHE, a sea-nymph. Family Trees 1 and 7.

SALAMIS, 1. island in the bay of Eleusis, originally a possession ofAegina, kingdom of Telamon.2. Greek capital of Cyprus, kingdom of Teucer.

SIDON, great Phoenician city on the Syrian coast.SIMOIS, river of Troy.SIRENS, chthonian goddesses, half-woman, half-bird, who charmed

sailors onto their island by their song so that they coulddevour them. They also accompany the dead to Hadesand mourn for them and for Phersephassa.


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SKAMANDER, river of Troy, also called Xanthos.SPARTA, poetic synonym for Lakedaimon, a Dorian city in the


TANTALOS, served up his son to the Gods at a banquet to see ifthey would realize what they were eating. He was pun-ished in Tartarus (see HADES) by being made to stand,hungry and thirsty, up to his chin in water, with fruithanging over his head, only to have it move out of hisreach whenever he tried to eat or drink—hence "tantalize."Family Tree 2.

TELAMON, banished with Peleus from Aegina by Aiakos for killingPhokos. He settled in Salamis. Family Tree 7.

TEUCER, banished by Telamon from Salamis for returning fromTroy without his brother (see AIAS). He founded Salamisin Cyprus by Apollo's direction. Family Tree 7.

THEOKLYMENOS, King of Egypt and a hater of Greeks. FamilyTree 1.

THEONOE, virgin prophetess. Family Tree i.THESTIOS, King of Aitolia. Family Tree 3.THETIS, a sea-nymph fated to bear a son greater than his father.

When they discovered this, Zeus and Poseidon gave uptheir courtships of her and bestowed her on Peleus. Sheleft Peleus for interfering when she was dipping Achillesin the Styx, a river of Hades, to make him immortal. Forthis reason, Achilles' heel, by which she was holding him,remained vulnerable, and he died when Paris' arrowwounded it. Family Tree 7.

TROY, city in Asia Minor close to the western entrance to theDardanelles, sacked by the Greeks after ten years' siege.See also HELEN, APHRODITE.

TYNDAREUS, King of Sparta. Family Tree 3.

ZEUS, "father of gods and men" in the Homeric formula. Thesupreme god of the Greeks, whose home was on MountOlympos, the highest mountain in Greece. His will isidentified with destiny; he is the maintainer of law andmorality and hence protector of the weak. But he has otheraspects as the lover of innumerable goddesses, nymphs,and mortals, the god of the weather, and the king of thelarge and disobedient community of the gods.


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