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This webpage reproduces a complete English translation of
The Rape of Helen


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p543  The Rape of Helen

[Link to a page in Greek] Ye Nymphs of Troy, children of the river Xanthus,​1who oft-times leave on your father's sands the snoods that bind your tresses and the sacred toys of your hands, and array you for the dance on Ida,​2 come hither, leaving the sounding river, and declare to me the counsel of the herdsman judge:​3 say whence from the hills he came, sailing the unaccustomed deep, albeit ignorant of the business of the sea; and what was the occasion of the ships that were the spring of woe, that a cowherd should stir heaven and earth together; and what was the primeval beginning of the feud, that herdsmen should deal judgement to immortals: what was the suit: whence heard he the name of the Argive nymph?​4 For ye came yourselves and beheld, beneath the three-peaked cliff of Idaean Phalacra,​5 Paris sitting on his shepherd seat and the queen of the Graces, even Aphrodite, glorying. [Link to a page in Greek] So among the high-peaked hills of the Haemonians,​6 the marriage song of Peleus was being sung while, at the bidding of Zeus, Ganymede​7 poured the wine. And all the race of the gods hasted to do honour to the white- p545 armed bride,​8 own sister of Amphitrite:​9 Zeus from Olympus and Poseidon from the sea. Out of the land of Melisseus,​10 from fragrant Helicon, Apollo came leading the clear-voiced choir of the Muses. On either side, fluttering with golden locks, the unshorn cluster of his hair was buffeted by the west wind. And after him followed Hera, sister of Zeus; nor did the queen of harmony herself, even Aphrodite, loiter in coming to the groves of the Centaur.​11 Came also Persuasion,​12 having fashioned a bridal wreath, carrying the quiver of archer Eros. And Athena put off her mighty helmet from her brow and followed to the marriage, albeit of marriage she was untaught. Nor did Leto's daughter Artemis, sister of Apollo, disdain to come, goddess of the wilds thought she was. And iron Ares, even as, helmetless nor lifting warlike spear, he comes into the house of Hephaestus, in such wise without breastplate and without whetted sword danced smilingly. But Strife did Cheiron leave unhonoured: Cheiron did not regard her and Peleus heeded her not.

[Link to a page in Greek] And as some heifer wanders from the pasture in the glen and roams in the lonely brush, smitten by the bloody gadfly, the goad of kine: so Strife,​13 overcome by the pangs of angry jealousy, wandered in search of a way to disturb the banquet of the gods. And often would she leap up from her chair, set with precious stones, and anon sit down again. She smote with her hand the bosom of the earth and heeded not the rock. Fain would she unbar the  p547 bolts of the darksome hollows and rouse the Titans​14 from the nether pit and destroy the heaven the seat of Zeus, who rules on high. Fain would she brandish the roaring thunderbolt of fire, yet gave way, for all her age, to Hephaestus, keeper of quenchless fire and of iron. And she thought to rouse the heavy-clashing din of shields, if haply they might leap up in terror at the noise. But from her later crafty counsel, too, she withdrew in fear of iron Ares, the shielded warrior.

[Link to a page in Greek] And now she bethought her of the golden apples of the Hesperides.​15 Thence Strife took the fruit that should be the harbinger of war, even the apple,​16 and devised the scheme of signal woes. Whirling her arm she hurled into the banquet the primal seed of turmoil and disturbed the choir of goddesses. Hera, glorying to be the spouse and to share the bed of Zeus, rose up amazed, and would fain have seized it. And Cypris,​17 as being more excellent than all, desired to have the apple, for that it is the treasure of the Loves. But Hera would not give it up and Athena would not yield. And Zeus, seeing the quarrel of the goddesses, and calling his son Hermaon,​18 who sat below his throne, addressed him thus:

[Link to a page in Greek] "If haply, my son, thou hast heard​19 of a son of Priam, one Paris, the splendid youth, who tends his herds on the hills of Troy, give to him the apple;  p549 and bid him judge the goddesses' meeting brows and orbèd eyes. And let her that is preferred have the famous fruit to carry away as the prize of the fairer and ornament of the Loves."

[Link to a page in Greek] So the father, the son of Cronus, commanded Hermaon. And he hearkened to the bidding of his father and led the goddesses upon the way and failed not to heed. And every goddess sought to make her beauty more desirable and fair. Cypris of crafty counsels unfolded her snood and undid the fragrant clasp of her hair and wreathed with gold her locks, with gold her flowing tresses. And she saw her children the Loves and called to them.

[Link to a page in Greek] "The contest is at hand, dear children! embrace your mother that nursed you. To-day it is beauty of face that judges me. I fear to whom this herdsman will award the apple. Hera they call the holy nurse of the Graces, and they say that she wields sovereignty and holds the sceptre. And Athena they ever call the queen of battles. I only, Cypris, am an unwarlike goddess. I have no queenship of the gods, wield no warlike spear, nor draw the bow. But wherefore am I sore afraid, when for spear I have, as it were, a swift lance, the honeyed girdle of the Loves! I have my girdle, I ply my goad, I raise my bow: even that girdle, whence women catch the sting of my desire, and travail often-times, but not unto death."

[Link to a page in Greek] So spake Cypris of the rosy fingers and followed. And the wandering Loves heard the dear bidding of their mother and hasted after their nurse.

[Link to a page in Greek] Now they had just passed over the summit of the hill of Ida, where under a rock-crowned cliff's height young Paris herded his father's flocks. On either side  p551 the streams of the mountain torrent he tended his herds, numbering apart the herd of thronging bulls, apart measuring the droves of feeding flocks. And behind him hung floating the hide of a mountain goat, that reached right to his thighs. But his herdsman's crook, driver of kine, was laid aside: for so, walking mincingly in his accustomed ways, he pursued the shrill minstrelsy of his pipe's rustic reeds. Often as he sang in his shepherd's shieling he would forget his bulls and heed no more his sheep. Hence with his pipe, in the fair haunts of shepherds, he was making dear music to Pan and Hermaon. The dogs bayed not, and the bull did not bellow. Only windy Echo​20 with her untutored cry, answered his voice from Ida's hills; and the bulls upon the green grass, when they had eaten their fill, lay down and rested on their heavy flanks.

[Link to a page in Greek] So as he made shrill music under the high-roofed canopy of trees, he beheld from afar the messenger Hermaon. And in fear he leapt up and sought to shun the eye of the gods. He leaned against an oak his choir of musical reeds and checked his lay that had not yet laboured much. And to him in his fear wondrous Hermes spake thus:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Fling away thy milking-pail and leave thy fair flocks and come hither and give decision as judge of the goddesses of heaven. Come hither and decide which is the more excellent beauty of face, and to the fairer give this apple's lovely fruit."

[Link to a page in Greek] So he cried. And Paris bent a gentle eye and quietly essayed to judge the beauty of each. He looked at the light of their grey eyes, he looked on the neck arrayed with gold, he marked the bravery  p553 of each; the shape of the heel behind, yea and the soles of their feet. But, before he gave judgement, Athena took him, smiling, by the hand and spake to Alexander​21 thus:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Come hither, son of Priam! leave the spouse of Zeus and heed not Aphrodite, queen of the bridal bower, but praise thou Athena who aids the prowess of men. They say that thou art a king and keepest the city of Troy. Come hither, and I will make thee the saviour of their city to men hard pressed: lest ever Enyo​22 of grievous wrath weigh heavily upon thee. Hearken to me and I will teach thee war and prowess."

[Link to a page in Greek] So cried Athena of many counsels, and white-armed Hera thus took up the tale:

[Link to a page in Greek] "If thou wilt elect me and bestow on me the fruit of the fairer, I will make thee lord of all mine Asia. Scorn thou the works of battle. What has a king to do with war? A prince gives command both to the valiant and to the unwarlike. Not always are the squires of Athena foremost. Swift is the doom and death of the servants of Enyo!"

[Link to a page in Greek] Such lordship did Hera, who hath the foremost throne, offer to bestow. But Cypris lifted up her deep-bosomed robe and bared her breast to the air and had no shame. And lifting with her hands the honeyed girdle of the Loves she bared all her bosom and heeded not her breasts. And smilingly she thus spake to the herdsman:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Accept me and forget wars: take my beauty and leave the sceptre and the land of Asia. I know not the works of battle. What has Aphrodite to do with shields? By beauty much more do women excel. In place of manly prowess I will give thee a  p555 lovely bride, and, instead of kingship, enter thou the bed of Helen. Lacedaemon, after Troy, shall see thee a bridegroom."

[Link to a page in Greek] Not yet had she ceased speaking and he gave her the splendid apple, beauty's offering, the great treasure of Aphrogeneia,​23 a plant of war, of war an evil seed. And she, holding the apple in her hand, uttered her voice and spake in mockery of Hera and manly Athena:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Yield to me, accustomed as ye be to war, yield me the victory. Beauty have I loved and beauty follows me. They say that thou, mother of Ares, didst with travail bear the holy choir of the fair-tressed Graces.​24 But to-day they have all denied thee and not one hast thou found to help thee. Queen but not of shields and nurse but not of fire, Ares hath not holpen thee, though Ares rages with the spear: the flames of Hephaestus have not holpen thee, though he brings to birth the breath of fire. And how vain is thy vaunting, Atrytone!​25 whom marriage sowed not nor mother bare, but cleaving of iron and root of iron made thee spring without bed of birth from the head of thy sire. And how, covering thy body in brazen robes, thou dost flee from love and pursuest the works of Ares, untaught of harmony and wotting not of concord. Knowest thou not that such Athenas as thou are the more unvaliant — exulting in glorious wars, with limbs at feuds, neither men nor women?"26

[Link to a page in Greek] Thus spake Cypris and mocked Athena. So she got the prize of beauty that should work the ruin of  p557 a city, repelling Hera and indignant Athena. And unhappy Paris, yearning with love and pursuing one whom he had not seen, gathered men that were skilled of Atrytone,​27 queen of handicraft, and led them to a shady wood. There the oaks from Ida of many tree-trunks were cut and felled by the excellent skill of Phereclus,​28 source of woe; who at that time, doing pleasure to his frenzied king, fashioned with the wood-cutting bronze ships for Alexander. On the same day he willed and on the same made the ships: ships which Athena​29 neither planned nor wrought.

[Link to a page in Greek] And now he had just left the hills of Ida for the deep, and, after with many a sacrifice upon the shore he had besought the favour of Aphrodite that attended him to aid his marriage, he was sailing the Hellespont over the broad back of the sea, when to him there appeared a token of his laborious toils. The dark sea leapt aloft and girdled the heaven with a chain of dusky coils and straightway poured forth rain from the murky air, and the sea was turmoiled as the oarsmen rowed. Then when he had passed Dardania and the land of Troy and, coasting along, left behind the mouth of the Ismarian lake,​30 speedily, after the mountains of Thracian Pangaeon,​31 he saw rising into view the tomb of Phyllis​32 that loved her husband and the  p559 nine-circled course of her wandering path, where thou didst range and cry, Phyllis, waiting the safe return of thy husband Demophoon, when he should come back from the land of Athena. Then across the rich land of the Haemonians​33 there suddenly arose upon his eyes the flowery Achaean land, Phthia, feeder of men, and Mycene of wide streets. Then past the marshes where Erymanthus​34 rises he marked Sparta of fair women, the dear city of the son of Atreus, lying on the banks of the Eurotas. And hard by, established under a hill's shady wood, he gazed upon her neighbour, lovely Therapne. Thence they had not far to sail, nor was the noise of the oars rowing in the calm sea heard for long, when they cast the hawsers of the ship upon the shores of a fair gulf and made them fast, even they whose business was the works of the sea.

[Link to a page in Greek] And he washed him in the snowy river and went his way, stepping with careful steps, lest his lovely feet should be defiled of the dust; lest, if he hastened more quickly, the winds should blow heavily on his helmet and stir up the locks of his hair.

[Link to a page in Greek] And now he scanned the high-built houses of the hospitable inhabitants and the neighboring temples hard by, and surveyed the splendour of the city; here gazing on the golden image of native​35 Athena herself, and there passing the dear treasure of Carneian Apollo, even the shrine of Hyacinthus of Amyclae, whom once while he played as a boy with Apollo the people of Amyclae marked and marvelled whether he too had not been conceived and borne  p561 by Leto to Zeus. But Apollo knew not that he was keeping the youth for envious Zephyrus. And the earth, doing a pleasure to the weeping king, brought forth a flower to console Apollo, even that flower​36 which bears the name of the splendid youth.

[Link to a page in Greek] And at last by the halls of the son​37 of Atreus, builded near, he stood, glorying in his marvellous graces. Not so fair was the lovely son​38 whom Thyone​39 bare to Zeus: forgive me, Dionysus! even if thou art of the seed of Zeus, he, too, was fair as his face was beautiful. And Helen unbarred the bolts of her hospitable bower and suddenly went to the court of the house, and, looking in front of the goodly doors, soon as she saw, so soon she called him and led him within the house, and bade him sit on a new-wrought chair of silver. And she could not satisfy her eyes with gazing, now deeming that she looked on the golden youth that attends on Cythereia​40 — and late she recognized that it was not Eros; she saw no quiver of arrows — and often in the beauty of his face and eyes she looked to see the king​41 of the vine: but no blooming fruit of the vine did she behold spread upon the meeting of his gracious brows. And after long time, amazed, she uttered her voice and said:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Stranger, whence art thou? declare thy fair lineage even unto us. In beauty thou art like unto  p563 a glorious king, but thy family I know not among the Argives. I know all the family of blameless Deucalion. Not in sandy Pylus, the land of Neleus, hast thou thy dwelling: Antilochus I know, but thy face I have not seen; not in gracious Phthia, nurse of chieftains; I know the whole renowned race of the sons of Aeacus, the beauty of Peleus, the fair fame of Telamon, the gentleness of Patroclus and the prowess of Achilles."

[Link to a page in Greek] So, yearning for Paris, spake the lady of sweet voice. And he opened honeyed speech and answered her:

[Link to a page in Greek] "If haply thou hast heard of a town in the bounds of Phrygia, even Ilios, whereof Poseidon built the towers and Apollo: if thou hast haply heard of a very wealthy king in Troy, sprung from the fruitful race of Cronus: thence am I a prince and pursue all the works of my race. I, lady, am the dear son of Priam rich in gold, of the lineage of Dardanus am I, and Dardanus was the son of Zeus. And the gods from Olympus, companioning with men, oft-times became his servants,​42 albeit they were immortal: of whom Poseidon with Apollo built the shining walls of our fatherland. And I, O Queen, am the judge of goddesses. For, deciding a suit for the aggrieved daughters of heaven, I praised the beauty of Cypris and her lovely form. And she vowed that she would give me a worthy recompense of my labour, even a glorious and a lovely bride, whom they call Helen, sister of Aphrodite; and it is for her sake that I have endured to cross such seas. Come, let us join wedlock, since Cythereia bids. Despise me not, put not my love to shame. I will not say — why should  p565 I tell thee who knowest so much? for thou knowest that Menelaus is of an unvaliant race. Not such as thou are women born among the Argives; for they wax with meaner limbs and have the look of men and are but bastard women."43

[Link to a page in Greek] So he spake. And the lady fixed her lovely eyes upon the ground, and long time perplexed replied not. But at last amazed she uttered her voice and said:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Of a surety, O stranger, did Poseidon and Apollo in days of old build the foundation of thy fatherland? Fain would I have seen those cunning works of the immortals and the shrill-blowing pasture of shepherd Apollo, where by the god-built vestibules of the gates Apollo often-times followed the kine of shuffling gait. Come now, carry me from Sparta unto Troy. I will follow, as Cythereia, queen of wedlock, bids. I do not fear Menelaus, when Troy shall have known me."

[Link to a page in Greek] So the fair-ankled lady plighted her troth. And night, respite from labour after the journey of the sun, lightened sleep and brought the beginning of wandering morn; and opened the two gates​44 of dreams: one the gate of truth — it shone with the sheen of horn — whence leap forth the unerring messages of the gods; the other the gate of deceit, nurse of empty dreams. And he carried Helen from the bowers of hospitable Menelaus to the benches of his sea-faring ships; and exulting exceedingly in the promise of Cythereia he hastened to carry to Ilios his freight of war.

[Link to a page in Greek] And Hermione​45 cast to the winds her veil and, as morning rose, wailed with many tears. And often  p567 taking her handmaidens outside her chamber, with shrillest cries she uttered her voice and said:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Girls, whither hath my mother gone and left me in grievous sorrow, she that yester-even with me took the keys of the chamber and entered one bed with me and fell asleep?"

[Link to a page in Greek] So spake she weeping and the girls wailed with her. And the women gathered by the vestibule on either side and sought to stay Hermione in her lamentation:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Sorrowing child, stay thy lamentation; thy mother has gone, yet shall she come back again. While still thou weepest, thou shalt see her. Seest not? thine eyes are blinded with tears and thy blooming cheeks are marred with much weeping. Haply she hath gone to a meeting of women in assembly and, wandering from the straight path, stands distressed, or she hath gone to the meadow and sits on the dewy plain of the Hours, or she hath gone to wash her body in the river of her fathers and lingered by the streams of Eurotas."

[Link to a page in Greek] Then spake the sorrowful maiden weeping: "She knows the hill, she hath skill of the rivers' flow, she knows the paths to the roses, to the meadow. What say ye to me, women? The stars sleep and she rests among the rocks; the stars rise, and she comes not home. My mother, where art thou? in what hills dost thou dwell? Have wild beasts slain thee in thy wandering? but even the wild beasts tremble before the offspring of high Zeus. Hast thou fallen from thy car on the levels of the dusty ground, and left thy body in the lonely thickets? but I have scanned the trees of the many-trunked copses in the shady wood, yea, even to the very leaves, yet thy form have I not seen; and the wood I do  p569 not blame. Have the smooth waters covered thee in the depths, swimming in the wet streams of murmuring Eurotas? but even in the rivers and in the depths of the sea the Naiads live and do not slay women."

[Link to a page in Greek] Thus she wailed, and leaning back her neck breathed Sleep who walks with Death; for verily it was ordained that both should have all things in common and pursue the works of the elder brother:​46 hence women, weighed down with sorrowing eyes, oft-times, while they weep, fall asleep. And wandering amid the deceits of dreams she fancied that she saw her mother; and, amazed, the maiden, in her grief cried out:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Yesterday to my sorrow thou didst fly from me out of the house and left me sleeping on my father's bed. What mountain have I left alone? What hill have I neglected? Followest thou thus the love of fair-tressed Aphrodite?"

[Link to a page in Greek] Then the daughter of Tyndareus​47 spake to her and said:

"My sorrowful child, blame me not, who have suffered terrible things. The deceitful man who came yesterday hath carried me away!"

[Link to a page in Greek] So she spake. And the maiden leapt up, and seeing not her mother, uttered a yet more piercing cry and wailed:

[Link to a page in Greek] "Birds, winged children of the brood of air, go ye to Crete, and say to Menelaus: 'Yesterday a lawless man came to Sparta and hath laid waste all the glory of thy halls!' "

[Link to a page in Greek] So spake she with many tears to the air, and seeking for her mother wandered in vain. And to the towns of the Cicones​48 and the straits of  p571 Aeolian​49 Helle, into the havens of Dardania the bridegroom brought his bride. And Cassandra on the acropolis, when she beheld the new-comer, tore her hair amain and flung away her golden veil. But Troy unbarred the bolts of her high-built gates and received on his return her citizen that was the source of her woe.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Scamander, a river in the Troad.

2 A mountain in the Troad.

3 Paris.

4 Helen.

5 Peak of Ida, cf. Lyc. 24.

6 Thessalians.

7 Son of Tros, for his beauty carried away and made cup-bearer to Zeus (Hom. Il. XX.232).

8 Thetis.

9 Daughter of Nereus and Doris (Hes. Th. 243).

10 Legendary king of the district of Helicon (schol. Nicand. Ther. II).

11 Cheiron, who had his cave on Pelion.

12 Peitho, an attendant goddess of Aphrodite; cf. Paus. I.22.3, Hes. W. 73.

13 Eris, daughter of Night (Hes. Th. 225 ff.).

14 Sons of Uranus and Ge.

15 The Garden of the Hesperides lay in the far West. There the Hesperides, daughters of Night, guard the golden apples along with a dragon, son of Phorkys and Ceto; cf. Hes. Th. 215 ff.

16 The apple was a love-symbol and the presentation or throwing of an apple (μηλοβολεῖν) was a declaration of love (schol. Arist. Nub. 997, Lucian, Dial. Mer. XII.1, Theocr. V.88). Cf. the story of Acontius and Cydippe and Solon's enactment — ὁ Σόλων ἐκέλευε τὴν νύμφην τῷ νυμφίῳ συγκατακλίνεσθαι μήλου Κυδωνίου κατατραγοῦσαν (Plut. Praec. Coni. 138D).

17 Aphrodite.

18 = Hermes (Hesiod fr. 46).

19 For the type of expression cf. Ap. Rh. IV.1560, III.362.

20 Nymph beloved of Pan (Mosch. 6, Long. 3.23).

21 Paris.

22 Goddess of War (Hom. Il. V.592).

23 Aphrodite.

24 The Graces are generally said to be daughters of Zeus and Eurynome (Hes. Th. 907), but the names of the parents are variously given. Here their mother is Hera.

25 i.e. Athena sprang from the head of Zeus (who before her birth had swallowed her mother Metis) when it was cleft by the axe of Hephaestus or Prometheus (Hes. Th. 924, Hom. H. 28, Pind. O. VII.35, Apollod. I.3.6).

26 Cf. 302 ff.

27 Athena.

28 The Trojan who built the Wooden Horse (Il. V.59 ff.).

29 Athena was patron of all carpentry, but in this case she withheld her blessing.

30 In Thrace, between Maroneia and Stryma (Herod. VII.109).

31 Strabo 331 and 680; famous for its mines of gold and silver.

32 Phyllis was daughter of the king of Thrace. When Demophoon son of Theseus (the same story is told of his brother Acamas) was on his way home from Troy to Athens he married Phyllis. When he left for Athens he promised to return for her soon. As he failed to return, she went nine journeys to the shore to look for his returning ship. Hence the place was called Ἐννέα Ὁδοί, the site of the later colony of Amphipolis (cf. Aeschin. De fals. leg. 31). Phyllis cursed Demophoon and hanged herself; cf. Ov.  Her. 2, Rem. Am. 605.

33 Thessalians.

34 A river in Arcadia.

35 See Pausan. III.13.3‑4. With "native" (ἐνδαπία) Athena we may compare Carneios Oiketes.

36 The hyacinth was feigned to have sprung from the blood of Hyacinthus or of Aias, and to bear on its petals either Υ, i.e. the initial of Ὑάκινθος, or the letters ΑΙ, i.e. the initials of ΑΙΑΙ = Alas! or of Aias; Ovid, Met. XIII.394 f.:

rubefactaque sanguine tellus

purpureum viridi genuit de caespite florem,

qui prius Oebalio fuerat de vulnere natus.

littera communis [= Α] mediis pueroque viroque

inscripta est follis, haec nominis [Aias], illa querellae [Αἰαῖ].

It is the "lettered hyacinth" of Theocr. X.28 and Milton's "sanguine flower inscribed with woe," Lycid. 106. The flower seems to be not our hyacinth but a species of larkspur, Delphinium Aiacis. For the myth see Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris I p313 ff.

37 Menelaus.

38 Dionysus.

39 Semele.

40 Aphrodite.

41 Dionysus.

42 Apollo and Poseidon served Laomedon for a year and built for him the walls of Troy (Apollod. II.103, Il. VII.452).

43 Cf. 187 ff.

44 Gates of Horn and of Ivory (Hom. Od. XIX.562 ff.).

45 Daughter of Menelaus and Helen.

46 Sherburne renders:

Sleep is death's twin, and as the younger brother,

In every thing does imitate the other.

47 Helen.

48 Hom. Od. IX.39; a people of Thrace.

49 Athamas, father of Helle, was son of Aeolus.

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Page updated: 11 May 19