Helen of Rome? Helen in Vergil's Aeneid.
In the post-Trojan War world of Vergil's Aeneid, which chronicles the journey of Aeneas and his fellow Trojan refugees from a ruined Troy to the foreign land of Italy, what role does Helen play? At first glance, she does not factor into Aeneas's mission. The war has ended, Troy has fallen, and Helen has returned to Greece with her husband Menelaus. Directed by the gods and fate, Aeneas must wage war in Italy, defeat the natives, and establish there the remnants of Troy, where his descendants eventually will found the mighty city of Rome. Since Rome will rise, Aeneas must forget the past and focus on the future. In contrast to the Helen of the Iliad, the Helen of the Aeneid, for the most part, has been silenced and removed from view, as she figures most prominently in an episode in which she has hidden herself and whose authenticity is debated. As Sharon James (2002, 139-40) has noted, Aeneas "is restrained by his mother from killing Helen, who then vanishes from his sight and the reader's." Yet just as Helen lurks in the shadows of Vesta's temple during the fall of Troy, she lingers in the background of the Aeneid and Rome's founding and never completely disappears. (3) Regardless of Helen's agency or accountability, would the Trojan War, the fall of Troy, or Aeneas's journey to Italy have happened without her? Perhaps they would have, considering that fate has a mind of its own. (4) Yet as Helen (of Sparta, of Troy, of Rome?) resurfaces at several points throughout the poem and Aeneas's journey, Vergil reminds the reader of her importance to the fall of Troy and the establishment of Rome.
Scholarship on Helen in the Aeneid has focused primarily on the authenticity of the Helen episode in Book 2 and, to a lesser degree, on its sources. (5) Scholars also have attempted to reconcile the inconsistencies between Aeneas's Helen of Book 2 and Deiphobus's Helen of Book 6, emphasizing the verbal and/or thematic parallels between them. (6) Yet little attention has been paid to how Vergil (re)constructs Helen, in all her appearances, throughout the Aeneid. (7) How do Vergil and different characters view, judge, and construct her, and what purpose(s) does she serve within the poem? Furthermore, in a period headed toward legislation criminalizing adultery and touting the Trojan origins of Rome, how does Vergil handle her? Does he draw on Homer's depiction of Helen as a sympathetic and self-chastising pawn of the gods? Or does he rely more on Euripides' portrayal of her as a wicked and impudent adulteress?
Vergil rarely introduces his own viewpoint of Helen into the narrative and never allows the reader to directly meet her as a character in the poem. Rather, he has several characters (both men and women, mortal and divine) offer their perspectives of her. In this paper, I offer close readings, influenced by Irene de Jong's study of focalization in the Iliad and, to a lesser degree, by Charles Segal's discussion of viewpoint in the Aeneid (where he differentiates "authorial," the narrator's perspective, from the "participatory," the characters' perspective), of the direct references to Helen in the poem and examine how both a narrator's biases (based, e.g., on nationality, gender, the impact of Helen and/or the war) and narrative context (e.g., intended audience, rhetorical purpose) affect each representation of Helen in the Aeneid. (8)
Vergil's description of Helen's clothing, a gift from Aeneas to Dido, sets a negative tone for both Helen and Dido herself, and he uses these garments to associate adultery with war, Troy's destruction, and Aeneas's mission. In her ongoing grief, Andromache removes Helen from the picture yet blames her for her current plight. Influenced by her anti-Trojan bias and the personal situation of her own daughter, Amata manipulates the Paris-Helen story to denigrate Aeneas. Although some scholars have dismissed Book 2's Helen on the basis of discrepancies between Aeneas's and Deiphobus's recollections of her, I attribute the contradictions to the change in narrator and context. Both Trojan men, directly affected by the war, blame Helen and harshly condemn her. Yet their own personal experiences and the motives behind their stories influence their differing viewpoints. Venus adds another dimension when she corrects Aeneas's impressions of Helen and shifts the blame away from Helen to all the gods. Vergil also attempts a reconciliation of sorts here. Augustus's own ancestress, and the one responsible in some accounts for Helen's actions, diverts blame from the adulterous Helen and from herself as well.
The personal viewpoints of those directly affected by Helen reveal her to be a wicked adulteress and stress the devastating results, both public and private, of her adultery. The Helen of the Aeneid thus adheres more closely to the character in Greek tragedy than to the one in Homer. (9) Yet she also has implications within the larger historical scheme as the impetus for the fall of Troy and the founding of Rome. Helen symbolizes the paradoxical nature of the origins of Rome, a city that eventually arose from the aftermath of a war fought for the sake of an adulteress. Holding her responsible for Troy's destruction, Aeneas understandably wants to remove this disgrace of a woman. But by repeatedly including Helen in the Aeneid, Vergil emphasizes that she cannot so easily be expunged from the larger picture or from Rome itself.
Helen's Clothing: A Warning to Dido
Vergil introduces Helen early in the poem but in a seemingly harmless way. In Book 1, her mantle and veil are among the gifts that Achates brings back from the Trojans' ship for Dido, the queen of Carthage. Yet these items are loaded with meaning as they suggest the consequences that Dido will suffer because of her passion for Aeneas, but also serve as a physical link with the fall of Troy. These garments are not only Helen's, but the description of them casts Helen as an active, guilty party. Furthermore, Vergil sets this Helen apart from the others in the Aeneid, as this is the only time the poet as narrator directly comments on her. (10)
Vergil emphasizes Helen and her clothing in his placement of them and the amount of text devoted to them (five lines); in contrast, the other three gifts (Ilione's scepter, a pearl necklace, and jeweled crown: 1.653-5), placed after Helen's garments and receiving a mere three lines altogether, appear as an afterthought. After being welcomed in Carthage by Dido, Aeneas sends Achates for his son Ascanius and the gifts (1.64 7-52): (11)
munera praeterea Iliads erepta minis ferre iubet, pallam signis auroque rigentem et circumtextum croceo velamen acantho, ornatus Argivae Helenae, quos ilia Mycenis, Pergama cum peteret inconcessosque hymenaeos, extulerat, matris Ledae mirabile donum. Presents, moreover, snatched out of the ruins of Troy, He orders him to bring, a mantle stiff with figures in gold, And a veil with an embroidered border of yellow acanthus, The garments of Argive Helen, which she, When she sought Troy and the unlawful wedding rites, Had brought from Mycenae, the wonderful gift of her mother Leda.
Vergil calls Helen by her name (650), something biased Trojan characters avoid doing. He characterizes her as Greek (Argive specifically: 650), an ethnic distinction that others will emphasize, and draws further attention to her Greek connection by referring, although incorrectly, to Mycenae (650). (12) Helen is the subject of the active verb peteret (651): she sought out both Troy and unlawful wedding rites (651). Vergil omits the male participants, Paris and Menelaus, and focuses on Helen, even including her mother Leda (652). The omission of Paris, and the active voice of the verb, indicate that Helen went willingly to Troy and can be blamed for the war. (13) Furthermore, the veil and mantle are items that Helen took with her when she left behind her family and country and thus signify her abandonment of her proper roles of wife and mother.
Vergil avoids labeling Helen's behavior as adultery and describes it as "unlawful wedding rites" (651). Yet he insinuates adultery with unlawful (inconcessos, 651), a word used here for the first time. (14) Furthermore, Helen's veil, a gift from her mother on the occasion of her legitimate marriage, recalls the yellow color of a Roman bride's veil. (15) Not only does the veil serve as a remnant of her marriage to Menelaus (and thus emphasizes she will be committing adultery), but it also disguises such inappropriate behavior as a quasi-marriage itself. Considering Dido's vows of fidelity to her dead husband Sychaeus, her relationship with Aeneas also could be considered unlawful. (16) Dido abandons her proper roles (although different ones) for a man and conceals her actions by calling it marriage (coniugium vocat, hoc praetexit nomine culpam, 4.172; per conubia nostra, per inceptos hymenaeos, 4.316). Helen's clothing thus symbolizes Dido's future sexual transgression with Aeneas and her conflation of an inappropriate passion with marriage. As another foreign woman is about to enter into 'marriage' with a Trojan man, Vergil provides with these garments an inauspicious beginning for Dido and Aeneas; the gift foreshadows both a disastrous love and end for Dido. (17)
The narrator's intrusion further influences the meaning of Helen's clothing for Dido. As Dido and the Tyrians marvel at the gifts and Aeneas's son (actually Cupid disguised as Ascanius: 1.709), Vergil again singles out Helen's veil and mantle for mention (pallamque et pictum croceo velamen acantho, 1.711). This repeated emphasis raises several questions. Why does Aeneas give these items to Dido? Does Aeneas reveal to Dido to whom these gifts originally belonged? On the simplest level, although Vergil omits Helen's beauty, Aeneas gives to an extremely beautiful woman (Dido is forma pulcherrima: 1.496) the clothing of a woman renowned for her own beauty. The multiple associations and origins of the garments subtly evoke Aeneas's sufferings, the reason for his departure from Troy, and his mission from which he cannot stray. Aeneas also can be viewed as physically leaving behind a piece (and reminder) of the past. If Dido is aware of the previous owner, she misreads the significance of receiving such a gift; if she is ignorant of the origins, Vergil heightens the pathos of Dido's situation. (18) Nevertheless, as Dido is moved by both the boy and gifts (1.714), Vergil strengthens the link between the two women. Dido receives Helen's clothing moments before the disguised Cupid inflames her with a passion (1.719-22) which will be as devastating as that of Helen's. Vergil's earlier focus on a guilty and active Helen suggests a similar role for Dido with Aeneas. Yet the contrast between Helen's agency and divine interference shifts some of the blame away from Dido and thus renders her situation even more tragic.
A gift given to a daughter by her mother on the occasion of her wedding seems innocuous enough, as does the receipt of the same gift by Aeneas's hostess Dido. But these garments prove to be unfortunate for both women. While Helen's garments may have been rescued from Troy's ruins, they symbolize both the reasons (adultery and war) for the city's destruction and the destruction itself. (19) Via clothing associated with adultery, war, destruction, and suffering, Vergil transfers to Dido the ruin and death that Helen had brought to Troy. (20) Although Helen's transgression eventually will lead to Rome, Dido's passion, on the other hand, threatens the very future of Rome and contributes to her own death.
Female Views of Helen: Andromache and Amata
While Helen first appears in the poem soon after the Trojans arrive in Carthage, she briefly resurfaces in two other locations: Buthrotum, where Trojan survivors Andromache and Helenus have built a mini-replica of Troy, and Italy, where Aeneas will fight another war over a woman and eventually establish a future for Rome. In these places, two female characters, Andromache and Amata, offer their viewpoints of Helen. Andromache, a Trojan survivor who lost both husband and son in the war, is naturally biased against Helen, the polar opposite of her in terms of wifely fidelity, maternal affection, and postwar fate. The Italian queen Amata, who wants the Rutulian prince Turnus to marry her daughter Lavinia, presents a different perspective, as she equates Helen and Paris with Lavinia and Aeneas. Both women mention traditional female concerns of marriage and motherhood, yet ethnicity and their own personal situations affect their conflicting perspectives of Helen.
The prejudice and bitterness of Trojan characters, more evident in Aeneas's and Deiphobus's narrations, surface in Aeneas's account of his meeting with Andromache in Buthrotum. After Andromache had been conveyed across the seas and endured the insolent son of Achilles, she gave birth in slavery (3.325-7). Andromache reveals to Aeneas that Pyrrhus then married Hermione, and she Helenus (3.327-9):
qui deinde secutus Ledaeam Hermionen Lacedaemoniosque hymenaeos me famulo famulamque Heleno transmisit habendam. He who then pursued Leda's Hermione and Spartan wedding rites, Handed me over to Helenus to have, slave to slave.
Hermione is Helen's daughter, yet Andromache provides a roundabout way of identifying her: Leda's Hermione (Ledaeam Hermionen, 328). When Aeneas first sees Andromache, she is performing funeral rites for her dead husband Hector, years after his death (3.301-5). (21) She implicitly views Helen as the reason for her current situation and status--Hector's widow, a slave, and an object passed from man to man. (22) Furthermore, because of Andromache's own lost motherhood (even though she has a child by Pyrrhus), she denies that role to Helen. She relegates Hermione's parentage to Leda and goes a step beyond omitting Helen's name by eliminating her. (23) Andromache's inclusion of Hermione also recalls that Helen abandoned her daughter when she left Sparta with Paris. A mother who herself has lost a child subtly draws attention to a mother who deliberately abandoned her own child.
Andromache's mention of Leda, Sparta, and a wedding also recalls the earlier description of Helen's clothing. The repetitions suggest that Hermione is a doublet of Helen; this repeated history, although inexact, plays itself out in the next generation as Andromache reveals that Orestes pursued his stolen wife Hermione and killed Pyrrhus (3.330-2). Andromache's label of the wedding rites as "Spartan" (328) also implicitly contrasts her nationality with that of Pyrrhus's new bride (and by extension that of Helen herself). (24) Despite Aeneas's control over this story and her focus on Hermione, Andromache reflects a prejudice against the Spartan Helen and an equally prominent regard for female concerns of marriage and motherhood, concerns that Helen herself has neglected to honor. Andromache implies that Helen is responsible for her current identity, yet her omission of Helen also subtly reveals the differences between their fates: although Helen herself was widowed in Troy, she never became a slave, but returned home and was reunited with her legitimate husband.
Anti-Trojan characters, however, reverse this perspective by explicitly or implicitly viewing Aeneas as another Paris, especially as a wife stealer, and by omitting Helen. (25) Vehemently set against Aeneas marrying her own daughter, only Amata refers to Helen as part of the Paris-Aeneas equation and uses a more innocent version of her to undermine Aeneas. Amata associates her daughter Lavinia with Helen and casts both as passive victims of notorious Trojan wife thieves. Whereas Andromache experiences firsthand the effects of Helen and sees her as her opposite, Amata, viewing Helen as a precedent, hopes that her own daughter, closely associated with her now, does not ultimately become another Helen in the future.
Amata asks her husband Latinus if he intends to marry Lavinia to a Trojan exile and whether he pities himself and their daughter (7.359-60). She paints Aeneas as a dishonest pirate who abandoned her and Lavinia as a stolen maiden and booty (nec matris miseret, quam primo Aquilone relinquet / perfidus alta petens abducta virgine praedo? 7.361-2). Vainly attempting to dissuade Latinus from choosing Aeneas as a husband, Amata invokes as a negative precedent Paris and Helen: at non sic Phrygius penetrat Lacedaemona pastor, / Ledaeamque Helenam Troianas vexit ad urbes? (Or was it not thus that the Phrygian shepherd entered Sparta and carried off Leda's Helen to Trojan towns? 7.363-4). Amata names Helen, but not Paris. She labels him a Phrygian shepherd (363) and thus insults both his nationality and occupation. (26) Because of her hostility toward Aeneas (analogous to Paris) and her sympathy for Lavinia (analogous to Helen), Amata shows contempt for Paris and objectifies Helen, who is simply constructed as Leda's (364). In the process, her revision subtly undermines Latinus's paternal role and decision regarding Lavinia's future husband. (27)
Amata further blames Paris, who becomes the subject of the active verbs (penetrat, 363; vexit, 364), and recasts adultery as theft or abduction. In contrast to Book l's description of Helen seeking Troy, this Paris brought Helen to Troy. (28) Helen is innocent, much as Amata views Lavinia. Since the matter involves her daughter, Amata as a mother also draws attention to Helen's mother, Leda; another woman emphasizes Helen's maternal line, while the men refer to and emphasize her father. Amata's and Andromache's responses to Helen, although prompted by different situations and reasons, both reflect matrimonial and maternal interests. Amata, however, who views herself as left behind by Aeneas, further casts herself as Menelaus, the abandoned husband.
Just as Helen has implications for Dido, so too does she for Lavinia. Amata's association of Paris's abduction of Helen with the Trojan War suggests a similar outcome for Aeneas's theft of Lavinia. The equation may not be exact (for Aeneas or Lavinia), but as the Sibyl herself remarks, another marriage between a Trojan and a foreign woman will bring about war (causa mali tanti coniunx iterum hospita Teucris / externique iterum thalami, 6.93-4). (29) Moments after her speech, Amata, in a Bacchic-like frenzy, steals away her daughter and attempts to prevent the Paris-Helen-Menelaus triangle from happening in the next generation (7.3 8 5-8). (30) Amata presents a more positive (or at least neutral) image of Helen, yet Lavinia, as the premise for another Trojan War on Italian soil, strengthens Helen's link with Rome's future. (31) Although gendered preoccupations with marriage and motherhood, as well as their own personal situations, color these opposing views of Helen, both the Trojan Andromache and the Italian Amata signal Helen's connection with the past of Troy and the future of Italy.
Male Views of Helen: Aeneas's Common Fury and Deiphobus's Remarkable Wife
Aeneas and Deiphobus present longer and more damning images of Helen than do either Andromache or Amata. Like Andromache, Aeneas is a Trojan survivor who has suffered much both during and after the war. But Aeneas's description of the fall of Troy highlights the connection between Helen and the city's destruction, and offers a more civicminded perspective of the devastation adultery can produce. Deiphobus, himself a victim of Helen's treachery, also stresses her accountability, but he presents a more personal viewpoint of his 'wife' during the final night. Both Trojan men, in contrast to the women, however, focus on more masculine concerns of war and vengeance and emphasize Helen's presence during the fall of the city.
During Aeneas's stay in Carthage, he relates to a love-struck Dido and her fellow Carthaginians the fall of Troy, during which the first major episode with Helen occurs. Although Aeneas relates his story seven years after the fact, he vividly evokes both the emotions and impact of that night (and Helen) as well as lingering ones. He paints a damning picture of a loathsome creature who he feels was, and is, responsible and deserving of punishment.
After Aeneas describes Pyrrhus's murder of Polites and King Priam and expresses his horror at Priam's fate (2.526-59), he reveals that he pictured his own family and realized all his comrades were gone (2.5606). As Aeneas recognized the full nature of his situation and reached an emotional low point, he spotted Helen: (32)
iamque adeo super unus eram, cum limina Vestae servantem et tacitam secreta in sede latentem Tyndarida aspicio; dant claram incendia lucem erranti passimque oculos per cuncta ferenti. 570 ilia sibi infestos eversa ob Pergama Teucros et Danaum poenam et deserti coniugis iras praemetuens, Troiae et patriae communis Erinys, abdiderat sese atque aris invisa sedebat. exarsere ignes animo; subit ira cadentem 575 ulcisci patriam et sceleratas sumere poenas. 'scilicet haec Spartam incolumis patriasque Mycenas aspiciet, partoque ibit regina triumpho? coniugiumque domumque patris natosque videbit Iliadum turba et Phrygiis comitata ministris? 580 occiderit ferro Priamus? Troia arserit igni? Dardanium totiens sudarit sanguine litus? non ita. namque etsi nullum memorabile nomen feminea in poena est, habet haec victoria laudem; exstirtxisse nefas tamen et sumpsisse merentis 585 laudabor poenas, animumque explesse iuvabit ultricis flammae (33) et cineres satiasse meorum.' talia iactabam et furiata mente ferebar. Now I alone was left, when I caught sight of, As she lingered at Vesta's thresholds and silently hid in a secret spot, Tyndareus's daughter; the fires glowed bright for me As I wandered and cast my eyes here and there over everything. 570 That woman, fearing the Trojans hating her on account of Troy ruined, the Greeks' vengeance, and her deserted husband's anger, The common Fury of Troy and her fatherland, Had hidden herself and was sitting, hated, by the altars. Fires flared up in my mind; anger came upon me 575 To avenge my falling country and to exact wicked punishment. "This woman, evidently, will look at Sparta and ancestral Mycenae, Unscathed, and will march as queen having acquired her triumph! She will see her husband and father's home and her children, Accompanied by a throng of Trojan women and Phrygian servants! 580 Priam will have died by the sword! Troy will have burned with fire! So often the Trojan shore will have been soaked with blood! Not so. For although there is no remarkable renown in Taking vengeance on a woman, this victory holds praise; But to have destroyed wickedness and to have exacted deserved 585 Punishment I will be praised, and it will be pleasing to have satisfied My soul with vengeance's flame and to have appeased my people's ashes." I was tossing about such thoughts and was carried away by my enraged mind.
Aeneas calls Helen Tyndarida (569), thus identifying her by patronymic, instead of calling her by name or referring to her mother, as Andromache and Amata do. In contrast to Homer, who calls Helen Zeus's daughter, Vergil's Aeneas brings Helen, as the daughter of Tyndareus, down to mortal level, where she can be held more accountable. (34) Furthermore, he relegates Helen to demonstrative pronouns, ilia (571) and haec (577). Corresponding to his rising anger, Aeneas's condemnation of her escalates--from a Fury (Erinys, 573) to a hated object (invisa, 574) to wickedness personified (nefas, 585). (35)
Aeneas uses active verbs to describe Helen, but he also renders her the object of his viewing as well as of his anger and hatred, emotions most closely approximating how Greek tragedy viewed her. This Helen remains passive as she hides, fears, and sits. (36) Helen may be motionless and silent here, but her choice of where to hide acknowledges her crime, for the infamous adulteress, ironically, has sought refuge at the temple of Vesta (567), a virgin goddess. (37) As Vesta would become the guardian of both Rome and each individual household, the location of the goddess's temple as Helen's sanctuary symbolizes her violation against country and family and thus points to the public and private sides of adultery.
Vergil, however, again suggests Helen's agency and responsibility. The description of Menelaus (designated simply as her coniunx or 'husband': 572) as deserted, the omission of Paris, and the emphasis on her fear suggest that she is no innocent victim. As indicated in the description of her clothing, this is a woman who willingly left her husband, violated her marriage, and actively went to Troy. This Helen should be held accountable for the ongoing destruction around her. With his description of Helen as "fearful" (permetuens), Aeneas blames her alone for the war and its outcome. She rightly fears everyone since she has (indirectly) brought death and destruction to Greeks and Trojans.
Yet this Helen contradicts Deiphobus's story, where her actions ensured that she would survive. (38) Could this episode, however, have taken place after she has betrayed Deiphobus? As I will discuss below, Aeneas may have spotted Helen at some point between her treachery toward Deiphobus and her eventual reunion with Menelaus. (39) Helen's plan may not have succeeded, and she may have good reasons to fear the Greeks; but another explanation is just as plausible, namely that Aeneas attributes to Helen what he thinks she ought to feel at that moment.
Although much debate centers on Helen's triumph here (2.578), (40) Helen, as the cause of war and destroyer of Greeks and Trojans, remains unpunished by both sides. Aeneas contrasts the results of the war for Helen with those for Troy and the Trojans. The woman who willingly abandoned family and country will return home, while the surviving Trojans, he implies, must leave theirs (580). As the burning of Troy and Priam's death incite Aeneas to kill Helen to avenge Troy, (41) he indirectly attributes responsibility to her for these most tragic and defining moments of the final night and draws attention to the differing, and thus unjust, fates for her and Troy. (42)
This injustice contributes to Aeneas's murderous thoughts. Although he knows that killing Helen would be wrong, he believed he would be praised, however, for exacting this punishment and destroying this
monster. (43) Servius objected to Aeneas's anger, in this passage, toward a woman, yet the episode and Aeneas's debate highlight the destructive results, for families and countries, of adultery. Adultery deserves the worst possible punishment, a sentiment especially reflected in Greek tragedy, and one about to be taken even further with Augustus's moral legislation. (44) Aeneas's thoughts are understandable, even justified here. Yet, as his mother Venus will explain to him, his thoughts of vengeance are unnecessary and will not change the city's fall or his mission.
As Aeneas obsesses on the destruction Helen has caused, on the punishment she deserves, and on the anger (rather than lust) she inspires in him, he omits her renowned beauty. (45) To Aeneas, Helen's beauty is irrelevant. No one else is to blame, not even Paris; in contrast to Homer, where men tend to blame men, Aeneas excludes his own countryman and relative. (46) Although Aeneas is removed from this episode by seven years, he knows even better now what he has suffered because of her and has even greater reason to blame her for everything.
Aeneas continues to relate how his mother appeared to him and restrained him from carrying out his punishment.47 Venus questions his madness and his (potential) actions and reminds him of his own family, whom she has protected in his absence (2.589-600). She explains to him how misguided his blame is (2.601-3):
non tibi Tyndaridis facies invisa Lacaenae culpatusve Paris, divum inclementia, divum has evertit opes sternitque a culmine Troiam. I tell you, not the hated face of the Spartan woman, Tyndareus's daughter, Or the blamed Paris, the gods' harshness, the gods', Has destroyed this wealth and struck down Troy from its height.
Whereas Aeneas blamed Helen alone and omitted Paris, Venus indicates that someone did indeed blame Paris. (48) She further distinguishes between hate and blame as she shifts responsibility away from Helen and Paris onto the gods themselves, as Priam does in the Iliad (3.164-5). (49) Venus proves the gods' involvement by showing Aeneas their participation in the destruction of the city (2.604-18). By providing evidence of Helen's innocence, Venus thus justifies Helen's return home and escape from punishment, both major objections of Aeneas.
In contrast to Aeneas, Venus alludes to Helen's beauty (facies), describing it instead of Helen herself (as Aeneas did: 574) as "hated" (invisa, 601). (50) Venus's revision may indicate that she favors Helen and wishes to save her from death, but she too does not name Helen; she simply designates her by both patronymic and geographical origin (Tyndaridis Lacaenae, 601). Although Venus seemingly exculpates Helen, she simultaneously crams a damning image of Helen into four words. (51) But Venus excuses only Helen's face; since Venus offered Helen as a prize, hating or blaming her (beyond her beauty) would implicate Venus herself. (52) Augustus's ancestress shifts the blame for Troy's fall, and Rome's rise, away from adultery and herself and attempts to reconcile the two with a Rome-centric view of a blameless Helen. Helen is not absolved, however, in Aeneas's eyes and is still linked to both the fall of Troy and the rise of Rome, as Venus directs her son away from Helen and the devastation and toward home (2.619-20) and eventual escape. (53)
Although presented as part of her son's story, Venus nevertheless provides a divine (and perhaps Roman or Augustan) perspective on Helen and the fall of Troy. With a greater knowledge of the gods and fate, Venus may offer a truer representation of Helen than Aeneas did. Yet her own personal agenda (to exculpate herself) and maternal interest (to prevent Aeneas from doing something he should not, and to encourage him to remember his family), much like Amata's prejudices regarding Aeneas and Lavinia, affect her view of an innocent Helen. Although she ensures that Helen survives and Aeneas returns to his family, the goddess shows little interest in the human cost of the war.
As Kenneth Reckford (1981, 87) points out, Dido is the main recipient of Aeneas's story about Helen. How does Aeneas's depiction of Helen impact Dido, and how does the presence of Dido influence his story? Although Aeneas does not present himself favorably, he emphasizes the emotional turmoil that the night and such a woman caused, and the effects that madness inflicted on him, a madness paralleling Dido's in Book 4. As Deiphobus will do even more, Aeneas presents a damning image of Helen to justify his thoughts about killing her and to highlight her connection with Troy's fall. He further emphasizes the devastating effects of adultery, effects that Dido's own passion likewise will have on her and Carthage. This portrayal also cautions Dido against becoming involved with Aeneas; Aeneas's debate about killing a woman appears even more ominous than his gift of Helen's clothing and foreshadows his own part in Dido's death. (54) Finally, Venus's revision of Helen's responsibility suggests that Dido, too, will become the pawn of a divine plan. (53) Aeneas's own personal experiences and emotions shape this portrait of Helen, but the narrative context and audience contribute to his presentation here.
Deiphobus's death at the hands of Helen and his desire for vengeance similarly influence the Helen he presents to his brother-in-law, Aeneas. Soon after Aeneas encounters Dido's ghost in the Underworld, he sees the dead and disfigured Deiphobus (6.494-7), who married Helen after Paris's death. (56) In response to Aeneas's questions regarding what happened to him (6.500-2), Deiphobus presents another negative portrait of Helen, as he implicates her in his death and the fall of Troy. Differences between narrators and contexts contribute to any inconsistencies, yet significant parallels, including a biased and Trojan viewpoint, also unite the two passages.
Deiphobus offers his personal experiences of what happened during the fall:
sed me fata mea et scelus exitiale Lacaenae his mersere malis; ilia haec monimenta reliquit. namque ut supremam falsa inter gaudia noctem egerimus, nosti: et nimium meminisse necesse est. cum fatalis equus saltu super ardua venit 515 Pergama et armatum peditem gravis attulit alvo, ilia chorum simulans euhantis orgia circum ducebat Phrygias; flammam media ipsa tenebat ingentem et summa Danaos ex arce vocabat. turn me confectum curis somnoque gravatum 520 infelix habuit thalamus, pressitque iacentem dulcis et alta quies placidaeque simillima morti. egregia interea coniunx arma omnia tectis emovet, et fidum capiti subduxerat ensem: intra tecta vocat Menelaum et limina pandit, 525 scilicet id magnum sperans fore munus amanti, et famam exstingui veterum sic posse malorum. quid moror? inrumpunt thalamo, comes additus una hortator scelerum Aeolides. di, talia Grais instaurate, pio si poenas ore reposco. 530 But my fate and the deadly crime of the Spartan woman Plunged me into these evils; that woman left behind these memorials. For you know how we spent the final night among false Joys: and it is all too necessary to remember. When the fatal horse came with a leap above high 515 Pergamon, and heavy in its womb it brought armed infantry, That woman, pretending a dance, led around the Trojan women Singing "euhoe" in Bacchic revels; she herself in their midst was holding A huge torch and was calling the Greeks from the top of the citadel. Then my unlucky bedroom held me, exhausted from cares and 520 Weighed down with sleep, and, as I lay, sweet and deep sleep, Most similar to peaceful death, overcame me. Meanwhile my excellent wife removed all the weapons From the house and took away my trusty sword from under my head: She called Menelaus in the house and opened the door, 525 Surely hoping that this would be a great gift for her lover, And thus she could extinguish the renown of her longstanding evils. Why do I delay? They burst into the bedroom, their added companion The instigator of crimes, Aeolus's descendant. Gods, such Penalties repay to the Greeks if I ask for punishment with pious mouth. 530
Deiphobus also cannot name Helen, although he harbors a more personal grudge (his mutilation and death) than the more patriotic Aeneas. Instead of labeling her Tyndarida, he calls her the Spartan woman (Lacaenae, 511), recalling Venus and Andromache but with greater resentment and hatred. Similar to Aeneas, Deiphobus refers to Helen with pronouns (ilia, 512 and 517; ipsa, 518). Ironically, his bitter description of Helen as remarkable wife (egregia coniunx, 523) casts aspersion on her as wife with all of her husbands.
Deiphobus's Helen is deceptive, yet more active than Aeneas's Helen. The fearing and lurking Helen is now pretending, holding a torch, and leading a ritual (517-8). (57) The silent Helen now calls the Greeks and, instead of fearing them, she helps (518-9). Aeneas indirectly blamed Helen for the surrounding death and destruction of the fall; although she herself did not take a knife to Priam, as the cause of the war Aeneas held her responsible. Deiphobus, however, directly attributes deadly crime to her and further implicates her in every stage of the fall. He makes her the subject of numerous active verbs; she signaled the Greeks, removed his weapons, and opened the doors. He even leaves undetermined the identity of who killed him: Was it Helen herself? His opening remark that fate and the Spartan woman (511-2) plunged him into these misfortunes is ambiguous. Instead of considering her a nefas or a Fury wreaking havoc on two nations, Deiphobus blames her for the Greeks' entrance not only into Troy but also into his own house, thus holding her responsible for his death. But his death and personal suffering preoccupy him more than the fall of Troy or Helen's role in it.
To better illustrate Helen's wickedness, Deiphobus acts as if he had been Helen's legitimate husband. He identifies Menelaus, instead of himself, as the adulterous lover (amanti, 526), although the irony and sarcasm in his description of Helen as a remarkable wife may also be evident here. (58) Deiphobus thus attempts to save face by switching the roles of husband and lover, (59) in the process omitting his own brother Paris, as if he had never been a part of the equation, and to exculpate both of them of adultery.
Deiphobus further pursues this positive spin on his 'marriage' with an almost obsessive concern for retribution. (60) Although like Aeneas he feels Helen deserves punishment, Deiphobus reverses things. Aeneas desired punishment for only Helen for what she indirectly brought to others. Deiphobus wants vengeance for all the Greeks for his death alone. His description of Helen betraying him to Menelaus to make up for her past sins (malorum, 527), even as it provides another strike against her, also undercuts his own claims: if her earlier behavior toward Menelaus was wrong, then so too is her marriage with Deiphobus. Deiphobus arguably received appropriate punishment for his own adulterous behavior, yet he bears a permanent physical reminder in death of the destruction for which Helen could be responsible. (61) His disfigurement and the deceitful way Helen went about his death reinforce Aeneas's earlier charges against the lurking Helen. But this damning portrait remains Deiphobus's personal viewpoint of Helen's actions and intentions. Deiphobus himself appears cowardly and un-heroic as he was easily betrayed by a woman and lulled in bed, (62) but he nevertheless represents himself as undeserving of what happened to him and recasts his own adultery with Helen as a legitimate marriage. Although such an extremely negative picture of Helen makes Deiphobus look bad as well, Deiphobus thus uses it to protect his own image and to encourage Aeneas to pursue a more personal driven vengeance against the Greeks.
Mihoko Suzuki (1989, 101) sees this episode as excusing Aeneas for leaving Dido and emphasizing the results of lust, yet it further highlights the link between Helen and the fall of Troy. Deiphobus also warns Aeneas of the damaging consequences of a woman's betrayal and alludes to the bloodshed that will happen in Italy because of Lavinia. More importantly, Deiphobus's story lingers in the background moments before Anchises presents the future of Rome to Aeneas, and it vividly evokes Helen's connection with the fall of Troy and Aeneas's journey.
Deiphobus's portrayal of Helen contradicts Aeneas's earlier account as the passive Helen, about to be punished, has become active, perpetrating acts that make her more deserving of punishment. (63) Gilbert Highet (1972, 175) maintains that the Helen episode in Book 2 reveals "how a heroic Trojan prince detested and condemned her," while the Deiphobus story indicates "through her own deeds, not through the thoughts of an enemy, how evil she was." Helen's own actions, however, are still represented via an enemy's viewpoint. If we consider the perspectives of the individual narrators and their intended audiences, any contradictions are not so problematic in the first place. Deiphobus was asleep and has a more personal grudge, making us question the reliability of his narrative and his revelation that Helen was a worse monster than Aeneas's Fury--as he himself says, "If I ask for punishment with a pious mouth" (6.530). Furthermore, as discussed earlier, the events of Deiphobus's story may have happened before Aeneas saw Helen. Aeneas described Deiphobus's house burning down (2.310-1) but was unaware of what was going on at that time (Egan 1996, 394). Helen's fear of the Greeks, the Trojans, and Menelaus's anger suggested what Aeneas thought she should be feeling, or that her plan, as Deiphobus relates it, was not successful, or, since she was alone, that she has not yet been reunited with Menelaus. (64)
Aeneas and Deiphobus offer their personal, and at times differing, perspectives of the final night and represent public versus private motivations for vengeance. Their two portraits, however, can still be reconciled and provide a more complete picture of Helen. (65) Contradictions aside, both Aeneas and Deiphobus, in their abuse and condemnation, emphasize Helen's status as a foreigner. Priam and Hector may have accepted and treated Helen kindly in the Iliad, but Aeneas and Deiphobus characterize her as an outcast, no longer (if ever?) accepted among the Trojans. (66) They refrain from calling her by name and distance themselves from any personal connection to her; even Deiphobus mentions his 'wife' with great bitterness and irony. Both focus on the crimes, deaths, and destruction for which she was responsible. They further express their hatred for her and their desire for vengeance.
Both Aeneas and Deiphobus omit Paris, further severing their connection to Helen, and refrain from blaming another man, a family member, or fellow countryman. In their eyes, Helen alone is blameworthy, either for causing the war or for aiding the Greeks during the fall. This emphasis on blame further unites these two passages and highlights Vergil's divergence from Homer. Regarding Helen in the Iliad, Ruby Blondell (2010, 7-8) argues: "The attribution of blame would both call into question the supremacy of her beauty--its ability to impair men's moral judgment--and make a mockery of the heroic enterprise by undermining the rationale for fighting on both sides." She also remarks: "The seductive power of a woman's beauty lies not only in her physical appearance, but in her glance, her movement, her voice." Aeneas nullifies this aspect of Helen. Except for her gaze, utilized (it is implied) in her own self-preservation, Aeneas has suppressed, even removed, Helen's beauty and replaced it with blame. What, then, does this say about the war? Aeneas implicitly renounces the war and questions its worthiness, appropriate reactions considering the desperation and grief of the final night. Venus's revision of blame restores some dignity to the war (and beauty to Helen) and shifts Helen to a secondary role. Deiphobus, however, inverts the idea of Helen. He also suppresses her physical attractions, but he further suggests that Helen manipulated and deceptively used her seductive charms (and her voice and movements) to save her own life and to destroy both him and his fellow Trojans.
Both Helen episodes also precede Aeneas's encounter with a parent, instructing him to get on track (mother Venus: 'Save your family, Troy's no more') or, more importantly, revealing to him the future and the ultimate purpose of his mission (father Anchises: 'Here's your destiny, descendants, Rome'). Helen may not be a Trojan, merely a Spartan woman; but the hated and duplicitous woman, one blamed and deserving punishment for the destruction brought to both Greeks and Trojans, a seemingly worthless object for which to fight, would serve as a catalyst for the founding of Rome.
Gilbert Highet (1972, 174) has argued that, in contrast to Homer's Trojans' differing opinions of Helen, "Vergil will have none of this ambivalent attitude. Helen caused the destruction of Troy, and survived. Therefore she is evil, wholly evil--as she appears in Greek tragedy so often. Impossible to omit her from the Aeneid." Yet Vergil's construction of Helen is more complex. Yes, she is evil and adheres more closely to tragedy than to Homer, especially as a vilified and blamed woman. But she is evil to different people for different reasons and blamed for many different things. Yes, the Trojans offer a fairly consistent viewpoint of Helen: a foreigner, nameless, the cause of death and destruction, the sole one to blame. But her representations extend beyond the longest and most detailed portrayals offered by Aeneas and Deiphobus. As Reckford (1981, 96) describes Helen, she is "a passive victim of fate or a demonic agent of destruction." These differing representations fit how the respective narrators, Venus and Deiphobus, view her, provide a divine and a mortal perspective of her, and offer a glimpse into the range of responses various characters have of her throughout the Aeneid. To Aeneas, Helen deserves punishment, a response influenced by his own emotions at the time he spotted her, the time he narrates the story, the sufferings that he and Troy endured because of her, and the seriousness of adultery. To Venus, she is a pawn, exculpated to justify a divine agenda and to divert blame from herself. To Deiphobus, all Greeks deserve punishment, since he died at their hands, and, to clear his own name of any wrongdoing, Helen is a double-crossing whore. To Andromache, still coping with her own personal losses, Helen does not deserve the name of mother and is responsible for Andromache's misfortunes. For Amata, a non-Trojan, Helen is an appropriate model for Lavinia as a way to throw aspersion, via Paris, onto the Trojan Aeneas.
For their own personal reasons, Amata and Venus do not blame another female for the war. Andromache, however, shares the hostility, bitterness, and blame felt by her countrymen. The defeated Trojans suppress Helen's beauty, innocence, and name, as well as Helen herself and (for the most part) her voice. In contrast, the Italian Amata cleans up Helen's image with a minimalist and anti-Trojan approach. Venus, invoking most closely the Helen of the Iliad by referencing hated beauty and blaming the gods, thus presents the most innocent Helen. As the voice of the gods and of Rome, Venus seemingly offers a truer portrayal than others do. Yet she too can be deceptive in her speech and contradicts what Vergil himself says as she attempts to reconcile the connection between adultery and the founding of Rome. For the narrator Vergil, Helen becomes a useful vehicle to foreshadow Dido's disastrous relationship with Aeneas and to symbolize the destructive results of adultery.
Although Vergil varies the details of each character's portrayal of Helen, he repeats several elements: Helen's status as a foreigner (in particular, Spartan), her accountability, the results of her adultery, and the punishment she deserves. (67) He emphasizes the devastating consequences, both private and public, of adultery. No wonder adultery would, and needed to, become a public crime and one defined as the crime of married women. (68) Vergil presents, via the perspective of several characters, the most negative portrait of Helen in Augustan poetry. (69)
Vergil also emphasizes Helen's link with Rome. Viewed sequentially through the poem, Helen's appearances are concentrated in the first half of the Aeneid (Aeneas's journey from Troy to Italy) and associate her with Troy's fall, Aeneas's departure, and thus his mission. She surfaces in Carthage, Buthrotum, and Italy, where female characters focus on the personal effects of her adultery or suggest that another Helen will cause problems. Her appearances in Books 2 and 6 highlight her presence during Troy's fall, emphasize adultery's national effects, and occur at crucial moments for Aeneas. The Trojan hero sees Helen during his lowest emotional point and right before his mother's reassuring appearance, and he hears about Helen after seeing Dido's ghost but before his father's. In both instances, Helen surfaces when Aeneas is caught between being held back and moving forward, between the past and the future, between Troy and Rome, and so her link with Troy's fall and Rome's future is strengthened. Mentioned only once in the second half of the poem (Amata's defense), Helen seemingly fades away as Aeneas moves from the past toward the future. Yet Amata's fears become a reality as Helen is subsumed in Lavinia, the cause of a second Trojan War in Italy, and so Helen remains relevant for the future founding of Rome.
At a time when the Trojan origins of Rome were emphasized, even when Helen is exculpated one cannot help but think, without her, a war might not have been fought, Troy might not have fallen, Rome might not have risen. Vergil could have omitted Helen from the Aeneid just as Andromache does. Helen's multiple appearances in the poem, however, stress her connection with both Troy and Rome and highlight that she, unlike Dido or Creusa, cannot be removed from the larger scheme of things. (70) With the negative image of Helen lingering in the background, Vergil thus reveals the paradox of Rome's foundation and the difficulties in reconciling adultery with Augustus's Rome and its Trojan origins. (71)
Anderson, W. S. 1957. "Vergil's Second Iliad." TAPA 88: 17-30.
Austin, N. 1994. Helen of Troy and Her Shameless Phantom. Ithaca.
Austin, R. G. 1961. "Virgil, Aeneid 2.567-88." CQ 11: 185-98.
--, ed. 1964. P. Vergili Maronis Aeneidos: liber secundus. Oxford.
--, ed. 1971. P. Vergili Maronis Aeneidos: liber primus. Oxford.
--, ed. 1977. P. Vergili Maronis Aeneidos: liber sextus. Oxford.
Berres, T. 1992. Vergil und die Helenaszene: Mit einem Exkurs zu den Halbversen. Heidelberg.
Bleisch, P. 1999. "The Empty Tomb at Rhoeteum: Deiphobus and the Problem of the Past in Aeneid 6.494-547." CA 18: 187-226.
Blondell, R. 2010. '"Bitch that I Am': Self-Blame and Self-Assertion in the Iliad." TAPA 140: 1-32.
--. 2013. Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation. Oxford.
Brazouski, A. 1991. "Amata and Her Maternal Right." Helios 18: 129-36.
Clader, L. L. 1976. Helen: The Evolution from Divine to Heroic in Greek Epic Tradition. Mnemosyne Supplement, 42. Leiden.
Clement, P. A. 1958. "The Recovery of Helen." Hesperia 27: 47-73.
Conte, G. B. 1986. "The Helen Episode in the Second Book of the Aeneid: Structural Models and a Question of Authenticity." In C. Segal, ed. and trans., The Rhetoric of Imitation: Genre and Poetic Memory in Virgil and Other Latin Poets. Cornell Studies in Classical Philology, 44. Ithaca. 196-207.
--. 2006. "Questioni di metodo e critica dell'autentidta: discutendo ancora l'episodio di Elena." MD 56: 157-74.
de Jong, 1. J. F. 1987. Narrators and Focalizers: The Presentation of the Story in the Iliad. Amsterdam.
Edwards, C. 1993. The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome. Cambridge.
Egan, R. B. 1996. "A Reading of the Helen-Venus Episode in Aeneid 2." EMC/CV 15: 379-95.
Estevez, V A. 1981. "Aeneid II 624-631 and the Helen and Venus Episodes." CJ 76: 318-35.
Fleck, M. 1977. "Helena und Venus im zweiten Aeneisbuch." Hermes 105: 68-79.
Gall, D. 1993. Ipsius umbra Creusae--Creusa und Helena. Stuttgart.
Garstang, J. B. 1962. "The Crime of Helen and the Concept of Fatum in the Aeneid." CJ 57: 337-45.
Goold, G. P. 1970. "Servius and the Helen Episode." HSCP 74: 101-68.
Grimm, R. E. 1967. "Aeneas and Andromache in Aeneid IIIAJP 88: 151-62.
Hatch, N. L. 1959. "The Time Element in Interpretation of Aeneid 2.575-76 and 585-87." CP 54: 255-7.
Hersch, K. K. 2010. The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity. Cambridge.
Highet, G. 1972. The Speeches in Vergil's Aeneid. Princeton.
Holmberg, I. E. 1995. "Euripides' Helen: Most Noble and Most Chaste." AJP 116: 19-42.
Horsfall, N. 2006-2007. "Fraud as Scholarship: The Helen Episode and the Appendix Vergiliana." ICS 31-32: 1-27.
James, S. L. 2002. "Future Perfect Feminine: Women Past and Present in Vergil's Aeneid." In W. S. Anderson and L. N. Quartarone, eds., Approaches to Teaching Vergil's Aeneid. New York. 138--46.
Keith, A. M. 2000. Engendering Rome: Women in Latin Epic. Cambridge.
Maguire, L. 2009. Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood. Malden, MA and Oxford.
Murgia, C. E. 2003. "The Date of the Helen Episode." HSCP 101: 405-26.
Mynors, R. A. B. 1969. P. Vergili Maronis Opera. Oxford.
Otis, B. 1964. Virgil: A Study in Civilized Poetry. Oxford.
Panoussi, V 2009. Greek Tragedy in Vergil's "Aeneid": Ritual, Empire, and Intertext. Cambridge and New York.
Putnam, M. C. J. 1965. The Poetiy of the Aeneid. Ithaca.
Reckford, K. J. 1981. "Helen in Aeneid 2 and 6." Arethusa 14: 85-99.
Reed, J. D. 2007. Virgil's Gaze: Nation and Poetry in the Aeneid. Princeton.
Roisman, H. M. 2006. "Helen in the Iliad; Causa Belli and Victim of War: From Silent Weaver to Public Speaker." AfP 127: 1-36.
Segal, C. 1981. 'Art and the Hero: Participation, Detachment, and Narrative Point of View in Aeneid 1." Arethusa 14: 67-83.
Smith, S. C. 1999. "Remembering the Enemy: Narrative, Focalization, and Vergil's Portrait of Achilles." TAPA 129: 225-62.
Suzuki, M. 1989. Metamorphoses of Helen: Authority, Difference, and the Epic. Ithaca.
West, G. S. 1983. "Andromache and Dido." AJP 104: 257-67.
Williams, R. D., ed. 1972. The Aeneid of Virgil, Books 1-6. Basingstoke and London.
(1.) See also Blondell 2010, 6-8 on the connection between the Trojans' lack of blame and justification for continuing the war and, more recently, on Helen and blame in the Iliad Blondell 2013, 60-7. For treatments of Helen in Homer, see Clader 1976, Suzuki 1989, Austin 1994, Roisman 2006. For a comparative approach, see Maguire 2009. For the most recent, and comprehensive, treatment of Helen in the major ancient Greek sources, see Blondell 2013.
(2.) For negative depictions of Helen in tragedy, see, e.g., Aeschylus, Ag. 403-8 and 685-98 (Helen as bringer of death to Troy); Euripides, Audi: 590-640 (Peleus's invective against Spartan women as whores, with special attention to the slut Helen); Euripides, Tro. 914-1032 (while Helen successfully saves her life with her 'Let's blame everyone but me approach,' Hecuba offers a corresponding and condemning rebuttal); Euripides, El. 213-4 (Helen is accused of many evils for Greece and Electra's family). The major exception is Euripides' Helen in which Helen never went to Troy; for Helen in this play, see Austin 1994 and Holmberg 1995. For Helen in Aeschylus and Euripides, see Blondell 2013, chapters 6, 9, and 10.
(3.) As Suzuki (1989, 94) points out, since the Judgment of Paris (Aen. 1.27) is one reason for Juno's anger in the poem, Helen and the Trojans' sufferings on their way to Italy are connected.
(4.) Maguire (2009, 10) notes Helen's limited part in the Iliad, yet emphasizes Helen was crucial for the war to happen, while Blondell (2013, 28) describes Helen as "conceptually essential to the Trojan War." Garstang (1962, 341) acknowledges connections between Helen and Aeneas and between the Trojan War and the journey to Italy, but emphasizes (1962, 344) the role of fate and the gods and that Troy did not have to fall for Rome to be established.
(5.) A partial, and by no means exhaustive, list of those who are for or against the authenticity of the Helen episode: Austin 1961 and 1964, Otis 1964, Goold 1970, Highet 1972, Williams 1972, Fleck 1977, Berres 1992, Gall 1993, Murgia 2003, Conte 2006, Horsfall 2006-2007. For Homeric parallels, see Reckford 1981, 90 and Conte 1986, 201-3. On the Aeneid picking up from the Iliad, see Garstang 1962, 341. On Vergil challenging Homer, see Suzuki 1989, 98-100. For tragedy parallels, Reckford 1981, 91-3 and Conte 1986, 205-6.
(6.) See, e.g., Highet 1972, 175 and Reckford 1981, 96-7.
(7.) Scholars have focused on Helen in Book 2 and/or Book 6 and rarely take notice of her elsewhere; even when they consider the Helens of Books 2 and 6, they focus more on Aeneas or Deiphobus. Reckford (1981) and Suzuki (1989) handle Helen in Books 2 and 6 more thoroughly than do others, but Reckford discusses the Euripidian and Homeric parallels (and the appropriateness of each passage for its context), while Suzuki uses Helen to examine Aeneas's Homeric connections. Suzuki mentions the various Helen passages but instead explores Dido, Lavinia, and other women as standins for Helen, especially in their capacity to be eliminated.
(8.) See de Jong 1987, 149-79 on the effects the speaker, recipient, and other aspects of the narrative situation have on the construction of speeches in the Iliad. See Segal 1981, 68-9 for more on "authorial" and "participatory" viewpoints. For a similar treatment of Achilles in the Aeneid, see Smith 1999, which examines Achilles from the perspectives of different characters.
(9.) The Greek and Latin intertexts are not my immediate concern here. Differences and similarities between these Helens and those of Homer, tragedy, and other sources will be discussed indirectly and where most relevant.
(10.) Although it could be argued that Vergil indirectly attributes Aeneas's views to the garments' description. This is, however, the only time Vergil does not utilize a character as mouthpiece to comment on Helen and comes closest, of the Helen passages, to Segal's "authorial" perspective.
(11.) Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from Mynors's (1969) OCT text. All translations are my own and aim to be literal.
(12.) Williams (1972, 207) views Mycenae here as referring to Greece. Vergil follows a long tradition in his geographic designation of Helen; Maguire (2009, 105) points out that throughout the ancient sources, Helen is called Spartan, Lacedaemonian, or Argive. These epithets, however, usually have negative connotations in Greek tragedy, as they do here.
(13.) See Maguire 2009, 109-24 on blame, cause, and moral ambiguity in the ancient sources.
(14.) Austin (1971, 198) notes that the word does not occur before Vergil and only occasionally afterwards (in particular, Ovid uses it to refer to inappropriate love, such as adultery and incest).
(15.) On the color of a Roman bride's veil, see Hersch 2010, 96-8.
(16.) Suzuki (1989, 119) views Dido's love for Aeneas as unlawful because fate had something else planned for him. Segal (1981, 74) draws a further parallel between Helen's and Dido's wedding rites as both women's "marriages" bring about wars (in the future for Carthage).
(17.) As Otis (1964, 239) and Austin (1971, 198) also point out. Suzuki (1989, 103) notes that Dido is connected with Helen not only through this gift but also as part of the audience of Aeneas's story and with her shade's encounter with Aeneas immediately before the Deiphobus scene.
(18.) Austin (1971, 198), however, views Aeneas as "extraordinarily insensitive" in giving Helen's garments to Dido. Helen's clothing also can be read as engaging with Homer's epics. In the Iliad, Hecuba brings Athena robes woven by the Sidonian women whom Paris had brought back to Troy when returning with Helen (6.288-95). In the Odyssey, Helen gives Telemachus a robe she has woven, one intended for his future wife but to be kept for now by Penelope (15.123-30). On the robes in both Homeric epics, see Blondell 2013, 77-8.
(19.) Reed (2007, 98) briefly questions who rescued these gifts from Troy, pointing to the possibility of Helenus; this would add another layer to their tumultuous history. Although the gifts may have an unfortunate background and/or effect, on a more positive note Reed (2007, 98) observes that Aeneas's gift-giving ability indicates that "he has reclaimed the generosity of a Trojan prince."
(20.) Suzuki (1989, 110) extends Troy's destruction to Carthage itself.
(21.) See Grimm 1967, 153-6 on Andromache's continued identity as Hector's wife and 158 on her identity as Astyanax's mother. See also West 1983, 258-9 on Andromache living in the past.
(22.) In Euripides' Andromache, Andromache, calling Helen a "bane" (103), sees her as the cause of Troy's destruction, Hector's desecration by Achilles, and her slavery (105-10); she further blames Helen for Achilles' death (248). In Euripides' Trojan Women, in response to the Greeks' preparation to kill her son Astyanax, Andromache blames Helen and views her as the daughter of vengeance, blood, death, and as many evils as the earth nourishes (768-9). Hecuba also holds Helen responsible, not only for the war, but for her own misery and the death of Priam (Tro. 130-7, 498, 969-1032). For women blaming other women in Homer, see Blondell 2010, 17 and 2013, 66-7.
(23.) On "linguistic vacancies" and Andromache's literary predecessors who cannot name Helen, see Maguire 2009, 13-4. In contrast to Euripides' Andromache, in which Andromache and Hermione are sexual rivals, this Andromache, who focuses her hatred on Helen and the past, has nothing bad to say about Hermione.
(24.) This evokes Andromache's designation of Hermione as Spartan (Laconian) (Euripides, Andr. 29). Andromache reveals a strong bias against the Spartans in her remarks to Menelaus about Spartan duplicity and treachery [Andr. 445-53).
(25.) Comparisons between Paris and Aeneas are made by larbas (4.215-7) and Juno (7.321-2); implicitly by Turnus (9.138-9). For Turnus's view of himself as Menelaus, see Anderson 1957, 22. Anti-Trojans emphasize and insult Paris; Juno, for example, calls Paris a Trojan adulterer (Dardanius adulter, 10.92). Paris is also briefly mentioned at 1.27, 5.370, 6.57, 10.702, 10.705. There are, however, no lengthy passages on Paris as there are on Helen.
(26.) See Anderson 1957, 21 on Amata's focus on Aeneas's ethnicity. Horace (Odes 1.15.1) also sarcastically designates Paris as pastor.
(27.) As one of the anonymous referees points out, this also indicates Amata's belief that Lavinia should abide by her choice of a husband, not her father's. On Amata's "maternal right" in participating in marital arrangements for her daughter, see Brazouski 1991.
(28.) Amata adheres to the Homeric precedent here. Hector says that Paris carried Helen off (II. 3.48), and Paris himself tells Helen that he seized her (3.444); only Helen describes herself as actively or willingly going with Paris (3.174, 24.766).
(29.) See Anderson 1957, 20-3 and Suzuki 1989, 126-7 on the inexactness of the parallels.
(30.) See Suzuki 1989, 131-2 on links between Helen and Amata and Bacchic rites.
(31.) See Suzuki 1989, 123-34 for associations between Helen and both Lavinia and Amata. See Keith 2000, 67-78 on female causes of war in the Aeneid.
(32.) Lines 2.567-88 do not appear in the manuscripts and are included in Servius Auctus; according to Servius ad 2.592, Varius and Tucca's removal of the passage was deserved since it presented Aeneas negatively (it was shameful for a hero to be angry against a woman) and contradicted Deiphobus's presentation of Helen. In support of the passage as Vergil's, see esp. Austin 1961 and Conte 1986. On the impact the removal of the Helen scene has on Venus's appearance to Aeneas, see Estevez 1981, 327 and Reckford 1981, 85. See Highet 1972, 164-76 for a detailed discussion of the major criticisms against the passage; Highet (1972, 168) sees it as real but argues that Vergil kept the Deiphobus passage to best illustrate Helen's nature and role in the war. Against the passage's authenticity, see Goold 1970, Murgia 2003, Horsfall 2006-2007; see also note 5 above. On the more problematic parts of this passage, see Austin 1961, 192-4.
(33.) This phrase poses some of the greater difficulties of the passage; Mynors (1969) daggers the wordfamam, while Williams (1972) and others offer flammae.
(34.) See Clader 1976, 48 on Homer's designation of Helen as the daughter of Zeus; see Austin 1994, 15-6 on the effects a divine, rather than mortal, father has on her reputation. For Helen as Tyndarida before Vergil, see Lucretius 1.464 (Tyndaridem raptam) and 1.473 (Tyndaridis forma).
(35.) On Helen as a Fury in Greek tragedy, see Austin 1964, 221-2; Williams 1972, 252; Conte 1986, 205 and 2006, 159-62; Blondell 2013, 135. See also Austin 1964, 222 and Conte 2006, 160 note 1 on Helen as a Fury in a fragment from Ennius's Alexander (Cassandra calls her Lacedaemonia mulier, Furiarum una). Williams (1972, 253) views nefas as equaling nefaria femina. For problems on the word here, see Austin 1961, 190.
(36.) Suzuki (1989, 95), however, feels that Helen may be about to leap out.
(37.) See Egan 1996, 382-3 on the religious implications of Vesta here. On Vergil's revision of the traditional material, including the replacement of Aphrodite's temple with Vesta's, see Egan 1996, 392.
(38.) As Highet (1972, 173) notes. Although see Egan 1996, esp. 386-8, on Helen not being Helen, thus no contradiction.
(39.) Helen took refuge from Menelaus in Aphrodite's temple, but Menelaus dropped his sword when Helen revealed herself to him. See Clement 1958 on the reunion in Greek sources.
(40.) See Murgia 2003, 417-24 on problems with Helen and her triumph.
(41.) For parallels here between Aeneas and Orestes in Euripides' Orestes, see Reckford 1981, 86, 91-3 and Conte 1986, 204-5. For parallels throughout with Achilles in Iliad 1, see Conte 1986, 201-3. On Aeneas not acting like Achilles in his anger, Suzuki 1989, 98-100. For Aeneas replacing Menelaus as the one threatening Helen, Egan 1996, 383.
(42.) The contrasting fates of Helen and Troy echo a fragment of Ennius's tragedy Iphigenia; Agamemnon questions the injustice of Helen being restored to Menelaus for her evil deeds while his innocent daughter Iphigenia dies.
(43.) Hatch (1959, 255-6) draws attention to the difference in time between Aeneas thinking this and narrating it. For Aeneas's vacillation between being rational or not in this speech, see Reckford 1981, 87-9. Putnam (1965, 29) views Aeneas's murderous thoughts as the "climax" of his anger on that night. On Aeneas's madness in general, see Putnam 1965, 3-63. See also Pylades' speech to Orestes in Euripides' Orestes (1131-42) justifying Helen's murder (which he proposed to Orestes at line 1105); Pylades, much as Aeneas does, blames Helen, claims that she will suffer punishment (1134), and describes her as evil (1139) and responsible for much bloodshed (1142).
(44.) Hecuba, in the conclusion of her prosecution of Helen, suggests that Menelaus should set an example with Helen by punishing a woman's betrayal of her husband with death (Euripides, Tro. 1031-2). Menelaus, who boasted that he would kill Helen (Tro. 905), claims he will do so (Tro. 1055-9). On Augustus's adultery law, see note 68 below.
(45.) See Suzuki 1989, 96-7 on the various lusts Helen inspired.
(46.) As Blondell (2010, 17) notes, men tend to blame men (see, e.g., II. 3.87 and 6.340 on Paris at fault). In tragedy, too, men blame men, while women blame women (see above note 22). Even when Peleus (Euripides, Andr. 590-640) denounces the promiscuity of Spartan women (and Helen), he blames Menelaus, for example, for the death of Achilles (615).
(47.) As Reckford (1981, 93) argues, Venus keeps Aeneas from acting like Orestes, who attempts to murder Helen in Euripides' Orestes.
(48.) As Hector does in the Iliad; see note 46 above.
(49.) See Reckford 1981, 90 on Homeric echoes here, as well as Egan 1996, 389-90 (with an emphasis on Priam). On Priam blaming the gods (and the elders her beauty) in the Iliad, see Roisman 2006, 7 and Blondell 2010, 6-8. On the range of blame in the ancient sources, see Holmberg 1995, 19-20 note 3. Vergil may also reflect the Helen of the Greek rhetorical tradition (e.g., Gorgias and Isocrates) with the 'for' and 'against' attitudes of Venus and Aeneas. See Blondell 2013, chapters 8 and 11 on Gorgias and Isocrates.
(50.) Venus and Helen do not interact here as they do in the Iliad. Venus's description of Helen's face/beauty as hated, however, may refer to their relationship there; Helen describes herself to Aphrodite as hateful (II. 3.404), and Aphrodite threatens that both sides will hate Helen (II. 3.413-7).
(51.) Venus's Lacaena recalls Andromache, who draws attention to Helen's ethnicity, as well as Deiphobus's bitter description of her as such. In Horace, Juno contemptuously applies the adjective to Helen (Odes 3.3.25).
(52.) When explaining the reasons for Juno's anger toward the Trojans, Vergil references the Judgment of Paris (iudicium Paridis spretaeque iniuria formae, 1.27); the result, Venus's win, is implied in Juno's offense at losing. Juno also insinuates that Venus is responsible for the aftermath of Paris's abduction of Helen (10.90-3).
(53.) Garstang (1962, 342) similarly notes a connection among Helen, Aeneas's departure, and mission. Otis (1964, 244) sees nothing more here than Venus getting Aeneas back to his family.
(54.) Suzuki (1989, 98), however, sees the Helen story as advising Dido that "Aeneas must follow a fatum that is larger than himself."
(55.) For Dido as a Helen substitute, see Suzuki 1989, 103-23.
(56.) See Austin 1977, 171 on the sources for Deiphobus marrying Helen after Paris's death.
(57.) See Panoussi 2009, 139-42 on Maenadism here and its effects on marriage and the city.
(58.) Reckford (1981, 93-5) sees numerous parallels with the Odyssey here, in particular the slaughter of the suitors and Agamemnon's murder; thus Menelaus is equated with Aegisthus in the word amans. For further Homeric parallels, see Highet 1972, 175 and Bleisch 1999, 203-12; on Vergil commenting on the Odyssey here, Suzuki 1989, 100.
(59.) As Suzuki (1989, 100) also points out.
(60.) See Suzuki 1989, 101 on the use of poenas throughout the story.
(61.) See Bleisch 1999, 191 on the deserved price Deiphobus pays for being another Paris and 201-3 on the contrast between Aeneas's memorial for Deiphobus and the ones left by Helen.
(62.) As Bleisch (1999, 206) notes. Considering the battle at Deiphobus's house was the fiercest, Bleisch (1999, 204) argues that Deiphobus "corrects Aeneas and Homer" (Helen's and Menelaus's stories in Odyssey 4 and Demodocus's in Book 8); see Bleisch 1999, 206-9 on the differences between Deiphobus's story and those of the Odyssey. For Helen and the horse (and the conflicting stories of Helen and Menelaus) in Odyssey 4, see Suzuki 1989, 67-70, 100 and Blondell 2013, 82-5.
(63.) On these issues, see Highet 1972, 173-6 and Egan 1996, 394. Williams (1972, 492) notes that multiple sources and the unfinished nature of the earlier passage contribute to the discrepancies.
(64.) A possible timeline: the horse is brought in (2.234-45); Helen leads the dance line and gives the signal (6.515-9); some Greeks head from Tenedos, others emerge from the horse (2.254-64); while Deiphobus sleeps, Helen invites Menelaus in (6.520-7); meanwhile Aeneas is asleep and sees Hector's ghost (2.268-97); Aeneas wakes up, heads to the roof, and sees Deiphobus's house on fire (2.302-11); Aeneas sees Pyrrhus, Agamemnon, and Menelaus (2.499-500), watches Priam die (2.550-4), and then sees Helen at Vesta's temple (2.567-88). Neither Aeneas nor Vergil reveal what happened to Helen between the time when she was at Deiphobus's and when Aeneas saw her. Helen's fear could also allude to the death threats of tragedy.
(65.) See Smith 1999, 248-50 on reconciling the different versions of Priam and the ransom of Hector in the Aeneid.
(66.) See Roisman 2006, 6-8 on Helen as "abhorred foreigner" in the Iliad.
(67.) The emphasis on Helen's status as foreigner and the omission of her name also suggest Cleopatra, a foreign woman and slave to her passions, who brings about war and almost destroys two countries.
(68.) See Edwards 1993, 34-6, 43 on adultery signaling, in Roman sources, political turmoil and the disintegration of society, and 34-62 on Augustus's adultery law. Vergil's treatment of Helen may anticipate the future adultery law or reflect early attempts (perhaps as early as 28 BCE). Read against the law, Venus, in Book 2, appropriately stops Aeneas from killing Helen. While an adulteress could be killed, only her father was entitled to do so and under certain, rather limited, circumstances. Aeneas's impulse is understandable, but it is not his responsibility, nor the time or place, to carry out the punishment.
(69.) Horace comes closest to Vergil's hostility when, in Odes 3.3, he places the vituperation into the mouth of the biased Juno. Linking Helen with the destruction of Troy and the founding of Rome, Juno blames Paris and the nameless woman, whom she labels a foreign woman (mulier peregrina, 3.3.20) and Spartan adulteress (Lacaenae adulterae, 3.3.25). In contrast, the love elegists Propertius and Ovid use Helen's beauty as a point of comparison and, because of their own mistresses' beauty, they appreciate and justify a woman and/or her beauty as the cause of war (Propertius 2.32.32-40; Ovid, Am. 1.10.1-2, 2.12.17-8). Although Helen is blamed within an elegiac context, she is forgiven and glorified for causing the Trojan War. Ovid, in his Heroides, comes closest to Vergil's approach as individual letter writers manipulate their presentations of Helen to fit their own personal situations and agendas. Paris's first wife Oenone (Her. 5) viciously attacks Helen's character to reveal that he has foolishly given up a faithful wife. Helen's daughter Hermione (Her. 8) condemns Helen yet positively reconstructs her mother's behavior as a model for her own situation; she appeals to Orestes to act like Menelaus to save her, his wife, and omits any traces of adultery to persuade Orestes to act for a just cause. These characters focus, not on the effects of the Trojan War or destruction of Troy per se, but on the personal effects of Helen's stealing of another's husband or absence from her family. Even Paris and Helen, in their double letters (Her. 16 and 17), rewrite their story: Paris attempts to lessen their potential crime by blaming Menelaus and describing it as abduction, while Helen implicates both love and Paris to protect her own image.
(70.) Suzuki (1989, 148-9), calling Helen a "scapegoat ... for the poet's own ambivalence toward the authority of the Homeric epics" and discussing the elimination of dangerous women, remarks: "Yet Virgil, like Aeneas, finds that he cannot simply exorcize the specter of Helen by either sacrificing her or banishing her from his narrative." This comment can also apply to Helen's link with Rome.
(71.) I would like to thank the anonymous readers for their suggestions in improving this paper, and the editor for his support at every stage of this process.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2014|
|Previous Article:||Destabilizing Haemon: radically reading gender and authority in Sophocles' Antigone.|
|Next Article:||Beyond courtesans and whores: sex and labor in the Greco-Roman world.|