“Was this the face that Launcht a thousand ships
And burnt the toplesse Towers of Ilium? […]
O thou art fairer then the evenings aire,
Clad in the beauty of a thousand starres. ”

—Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus 1943–1944;1956–1957


  1. Introduction

1 Introduction

[closing speech of the Dioscuri in Euripides‘ Helen; line 1668: xénia!]



Ancient interpretations of Helen’s name

“Helen (Helénē), the heroine (hērōḯs),

  • “(is so named) from hélō, ‘to draw’: ‘she who draws people with her beauty’, because she attracted many with her beauty;
  • “or from Hellas (‘Greece’);
  • “or from being born in a marsh (hélos); she was thrown into a marshy place by (her father) Tyndareus, but by some divine providence, she was retrieved by Leda. So, Helen was named after the marsh.”

(Etymologicum Magnum, s.v. Ἑλένη)


star of Helen (cp. star of the Dioscuri)

[Isocrates‘ Helen (!), Gorgias‘ piece on her, Plato about Simonides, Philostratus, etc. Theocritus. Alcaeus.]

Catullus? (Theocritus?)
Ptolemy Chennus? Proclus, Athenaeus (Nemesis); egg-shell? Etc.
Scholia Eur. Or. 249
Cypria (Chennus, Proclus, Athenaeus). Pausanias,
Helenion, Anakeia, Helenês kratêr

φάντασμα δέ τι καὶ δαιμόνιον | συμπολιτεύεσθαι μετὰ τῶν θεῶν | ὅτι Ξείνης Ἀφροδίτης ἐπώνυμόν ἐστι | ἣν Ξένην Ἀφροδίτην ὀνομάζουσιν | ἐγεγόνει θεὸς ἡ Ἑλένη | τὸ τῆς Ἑλένης ἱρόν | ὁ μὲν Ἰλιεὺς θεὸν Ἕκτορα λέγει καὶ τὴν Ἑλένην Ἀδράστειαν ἐπιστάμενος προσκυνεῖ | Πόθεν δὴ ἐξέλαμψε τὸ τῆς Ἑλένης τῆς περιμαχήτου κάλλος, ἢ ὅσαι γυναικῶν Ἀφροδίτης ὅμοιαι κάλλει | τῶν γοῦν θεῶν ἐξ ἡρώων γενομένων Ἡρακλῆς τέ ἐστιν ὁ Διὸς καὶ Διόσκουροι καὶ Ἑλένη | Ὠοῦ ἐξῆλθεν | Ῥαμνοῦς δῆμος Ἀττικῆς

Status: under construction.