"you Achaeans came to Troy with war in your hearts for my sake, shameless creature that I was!"
Helen of Troy, by Evelyn de Morgan (1898)
Public DomainHelen of Troy, by Evelyn de Morgan (1898) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Helen’s degree of guilt in starting the Trojan War differs according to different accounts. In some, she leaves with Paris willingly; in others she is abducted. One account (Euripides) even tells of Helen being transported to Egypt, with a phantom Helen sent to Troy in her place. Homer’s Helen is ambiguous; she refers to herself as a shameless creature, but then tells how she secretly tried to help the Greeks at Troy. Menelaus relates quite a different story, however, in which Helen sides with the Trojans and almost foils the Greeks’ cunning plan. Helen is presented to us as an opportunist, a clever woman with an extraordinary ability to come out of any situation on top.