EP: Euripides changes the myth of Helen and tells us something different from what we know. Why does he do that though, and how can this work nowadays?
By hearing the name of Helen, the woman that left her husband, Menelaus, for
the eyes of her younger beloved Paris comes in our mind. The one who sent a
thousand Argitis boats for a war of revenge. He was the consul of all the
sufferings that the Greeks and the Trojans had to pass through. Because of
Helen, the Troy was ravaged. Euripides though tells us a different story.
Let's take the story he says from the very beginning. The three goddesses Hera,
Athena and Aphrodite chose a mortal human, Paris, to judge their beauty. He
gave the "award of beauty" to Aphrodite after she promised to him as
a reward the most beautiful lady of all, Helen. We all know more or less how it
all began. Fine up to here. Euripides now, says something completely new from
what we know as the continuation of the story. He says that Hera wanted to
revenge Paris, as she couldn't face the feeling of losing, since Paris didn't
Are you wondering in what way? She made an effigy of Helen of the same
appearance as the real one, using mist and air. That's the ghost Paris took to
Troy, thinking it was the real woman. Hera ordered Hermes to take the actual
Helen to Egypt, with the promise that her husband, Menelaus, would return to
take her back.
Now, he says, that several years have passed from when she was taken to Egypt,
and she is still waiting with impatience for Menelaus to come, but he hasn't.
But why with impatience? Because when she arrived to Egypt, the King Proteus
was in charge. ( I specifically use -eus, instead of -eas seen in some
translations of 'Helen of Euripides', because for me the etymology of the names
used in the Homer's period and in the myths of some tragic poets is really
important. I insist that in order to compose or build something, you first need
to deconstruct it. Break it into pieces and create it all over again. Anyway,
Proteus was the kind king who treated her with courtesy. When he was alive he
did a fair allocation of work, and there was justice. He divided jobs to people
according to their characteristics. Proteus died though, and he was replaced by
his son Theoklimenos who was exactly the opposite of his father.
Here's what happens: He desires Helen, so he kills every single Greek that
comes to take his 'beloved' Helen. In this work it's said that Helen "has
rotted for about twenty years in this brutal land where everyone is a slave
except for the one that wears the crown of the tyrant," meaning
Theoklimenos. Therefore, it's obvious that this man becomes a tyrant and he
dominates the crowds himself without a sign of justice.
Why does he hate Greeks that much to kill them? Because in that season for
Greeks, everything was related to cooperation. For an effort to be
accomplished, cooperation is required. The word itself does not relate to
privacy but to 2 or more people, not a single one, and the Greeks hated those
civilians, those who could quit from politics. For example when you did not
vote it was bad for both the citizens and yourself. Civilian= the one who is
enclosed into himself.
When now is parallel to today. We should not stick to the fact that the Greek
was him and the Egyptian the other, but go to a new international and universal
level instead that can take up to the whole world, regardless someone's race,
color or nation. We see that the Greek enemy of the King is the one who will
try to change the establishment - the system which the tyrant introduced. In
which way? By taking back Helen, the King's fierce desire. In this way, when
Menelaus take his legal wife back, he informs people about that misfortune of
the king. This is because the King was trying to marry her in an illegal way,
hiding the truth from public.
The truth is that Helen was innocent, and the two nations fought for a ghost,
something fake, intangible and completely vain. It's understood that if
Menelaus won and took Helen, the people would realize under which lie they used
to live for so long. When we realize that we have been living with a lie, we
can easily go insane and revolt for that crime. It is considered a crime,
creating a ghost, an idea (specifically of the goddess Hera) and pushing
thousands of millions of people fighting each other for that idea. Without
revealing the truth, you left him fighting for ten whole years for that ghost
and then several more (actually seven as teukros says in his work), being
tortured and storm tossed, in order to return to his motherland. Just like
They created to us an idea by encouraging in us vanity . In other words, they
cultivated us with fake dreams making us hope for things like money, houses and
cars. We fight for an aspiration, for a better tomorrow. We suddenly reach a
moment where not only they take what we managed to obtain so hard, with so much
work, but also take us to a stage where we become sick from this situation, and
even worse die for it.
So, Menelaus was the one that would try to rebel as soon as he learn the truth.
Rebel in greek means "επαναστατώ" in other words stand still once
again. Attention. Helen informs him that it's impossible to fight with the
authority, as it is obvious that we would have a dramatic result. Fighting
alone against a whole system is totally insane and definitely requires a second
thought, in which we should look for calmness. We say that we are about to try
and built a plan which will help us not only to fulfill our aim but to manage
to get out old and harmless as well. We therefore need teammates.
In this case, this teammate is Theoklimenos' sister, Theonoe, who would never
accept that someone would ever kill her brother. They should then convince her,
using arguments, that it's a matter of life and death in order to help them not
to "extinguish" her brother but to save their lives by returning to
their home country. Further more, they would save their country from this
delinquency. How can the country and the people be "rescued" from
this tyrant though? Surely, not from its extermination but rather from its
correction. Democracy should come back with its substantial meaning. So,
Theonoe will have to choose between her brother's debt and Menelaus and Helen's
Ultimately, in terms of moral values she decides to defend the law. Our era is
characterised by a crisis of values. People, mostly act based on their personal
interest and profit. For this reason, Theonoe's choices deeply affect us while
emphasise the concept of ideal behavior. Of what i believe , idols are those
who struggled, those who fought for the positive evolution of humanity. Several
people consciously denied goods and fought for world to be a better place. I
believe we must view Theonoe not as a fancy person but rather as an essential
one, at least that is what I did.
Deliberately, I leave people's imagination to be considered by examining not
only history but also those around them who fought against goods but conquered
the essentials; as they fought for people's union and not their split with
their Jesus . Love unites all contradictions but it seems that in nowadays, the
meaning of Jesus and the meaning of justice has been lost. That is why we see
Maria Magdalen crying over His death but being with his resurrection. Given the
speech of Saint Paul, the meaning of Jesus is resurrected as well. This is the
meaning, that we ourselves have buried for years but will resurrect us in the
end. Well in essence, the survival equals with coexistence. Euripides, uses a
woman to give the definition of life; that is the coexistence within others.