Monday, October 10, 2005

The real Helen?

Jonathan Thompson for the Independent refers to a new book that claims that "the real Helen was a powerful Bronze Age princess, living in the Greek city-state of Sparta around 1250BC" and not the "beautiful, dewy-eyed blonde princess from pre-Raphaelite paintings" we've come to know and love. The book is Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore and the author is Bettany Hughes.

Helen: A Real Person or a Myth?
The book - Hughes's first - is likely to renew debate in the historical community, where opinion remains divided over whether a "real" Helen existed.

Ken Wardle of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at Birmingham University and one of the world's leading experts on the period, voiced support for Hughes's work.

"Bettany is the first person to push Helen as a major Bronze Age figure, rather than as a shadowy myth, and to a large extent she's succeeded," said Dr Wardle. "Why should we think all the people Homer mentions were fictitious?

"I see every reason to believe that the Helen of legend, like Agamemnon or Menelaus, may have been a real character with a real background whose actions have been modified, embellished and distorted over the centuries."

Hughes makes her claims against a background of archaeological discoveries in the region relating to this period. As well as the dig at Sparta, other major finds have been made on Crete and across mainland Greece.

Lesley Fitton, curator of Greek and Bronze Age antiquities at the British Museum, said: "It's hard to keep pace with excavations in the Aegean at the moment. A couple of palaces have come up during recent years in Crete alone. It's a vibrant field of archaeology, and it gives a context and a series of possibilities for Helen."


Blogger Tom Saunders said...

I'm pretty sure the real Helen of Troy will remain a mystery forever. But I like books that offer a new perspective.

4:41 pm  
Blogger kathryn said...

It's an odyssey in itself, the quest for truth.

11:06 am  

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