The focal of the discussion so far has been the trustworthiness of our protagonist and whether or not she is a marionette controlled by a higher power. At this point, the discussion shifts its focus from Helen to her association with the mistress of allure and how their supposed family ties make her role in the conflict as a whole questionable.
Thus, making her supposed half-sister her accomplish seems to work both for and against the claim that Helen is a damsel in distress.
For instance, many scholars see her as being the mortal equivalent to Aphrodite and the debate the village elders have concerning her charm seem to agree with this sentiment. Indeed, their comparison of these two wicked ladies is explained as follows: Terrible is the likeness of her face to the immortal goddess. Besides comparing Helen to her supposed half-sister, Homer also alludes to her alleged heavenly roots by stating that she is descendant of the all mighty Zeus.
By doing such, he suggests that Helen and Aphrodite are related, but it also suggests that she is a demigod. The resemblance of the two ladies is especially prominent when they are in the same scene and a certain item is referenced: daughter of Zeus of the aegis.
The aegis is a rather exciting item since it is an attribute of his favourite daughter Athena. In many a picture, the aegis is shown as being a goatskin shield. Mythically, it suggests that Athena exchanged her feminine beauty and frailness for the masculine trades such as logic and strategic know-how.
Her exchanging certain feminine trades for certain masculine trades may be the reason why she is associated with this shield.
On a more literal level, the shield can be seen as a form of protection which is the definition of aegis. Fathers become especially protective when their daughters are young and beautiful and thus one may conclude that one sees the reference to the shield. As mentioned previously, Helen is often compared to her half-sister Aphrodite and the retelling of the myth where this is most prevalent in Apollodorus iteration of the quarrel in Olympus. His iteration of the tale that these two intriguing maidens are not just strangers but acquainted. By way of contrast, Homer’s retelling portrays them simply as strangers. The two authors agree that when offering Helen, Aphrodite offers desire more than anything. Plus, both women use their knack for manipulation and the danger of allure to get ahead. In this instance, the allure disguised as beauty.
Many an ancient writer seem to paint Helen as the villain of the story, yet there seems to be one who admires her for her decision, namely Sappho. In his fragment 16, he tells a compelling story about desire colluding with the notion of right and wrong.
Some say an army of horsemen, some of foot soldiers, some of ships is the fairest thing on the black earth but I say it is what one loves It’s very easy to make this clear to everyone, for Helen by far surpassing mortals in beauty, left the best of all husbands and sailed to Troy, mindful of neither her child nor her parents.
Here, one gets the story of Helen running away with her beloved Paris to Sparta. If one does not take the last two lines of the poem into account, one can easily see it as merely a warning against reverting to our animalistic ways. This interpretation also sees through the fact that in Homer’s iteration, both the Trojan elders and the ageing king seem to be okay with blaming the gods, the soldiers or both for the conflict rather than the beautiful maiden herself.
Thus, the blame is shifted from Helen herself to merely the desire to be with the reincarnation of Aphrodite. Therefore, one can easily claim that desire is the sole cause of war. It is not only the desire for her but also glory, honour, fame or even retribution. Hence, every mortal man in the Iliad has a reason for engaging in the fighting and these reasons eventually lead to the downfall of Troy. If Sappho is warning humanity about following their desire, even if it leads to abandoning one’s responsibilities, will lead to disaster for your loved ones. Then again, what is it Helen truly desires, was it Paris or something entirely different? In Homer’s version of events, it does seem like Helen wishes for something more and Sappho’s comparing her desire to military excellence may be accurate. When the reader first encounters Helen, she is working on this elaborate tapestry which exactly glorifies the victories Sappho is referring to in the poem’s intro.
Additionally, in the Iliad one also hears of Helen wish to be immortalised in song. At times, it seems as if Helen wishes to get the same recognition as her male counterparts, and thus achieving heroic glory. Comparing her need for heroic glory to those achievements Sappho mentions, in the beginning, is quickly done. In book 6 she even tries to convince Hector that one can get something out of war and suffering. If there is any truth to this, the Trojan princess was seeking importance in the same manner as the males surrounding her, namely through the immortalisation of war. Thus, she did not go with Paris because there was any sexual gain but instead because the only way, she could gain glory was by playing the victim of war. By doing so, she was immortalised not only in song but in many other media as well. Despite this, she is nothing more than a minor character remembered through the men who fought the because of her and subsequently the city that fell because of her.
On a final note, the discussion of love and war echoes throughout the countless iterations of this tale, this comparison in itself is quite intriguing. However, in this context, it may be seen as a physical representation of the inner struggle Aphrodite’s former self has with her present self. As far as Helen goes Sappho coax the reader into believing that praising Helen for following her heart rather than her head is right. Rather than, staying in a loveless marriage back in Greece, she runs away with her beloved Paris. Thereby, seeing this young maiden as someone agreeing to the kidnapping or at least at least an individual driven by desire.