Helen of Troy - The Trojan War
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Helen of Troy

woman in roman clothes
Helen of Troy boards the ship to Troy
(Pompeii, ca. 79 AD)

Helen, the daughter of Zeus and the queen of Sparta, was the most beautiful young woman in the world. She lived in Sparta with her mother and her father, the king of Sparta, and her half-sister, Clytemnestra.

All the young men wanted to marry Helen. Helen's stepfather (the king of Sparta) was afraid that if he said she could marry one of the suitors (the men who wanted to marry her), all the other suitors would fight him, and there would be a big war. (Yes, Helen was that beautiful. It's a story).

So Helen's stepfather had an idea. He got all the suitors together in one place and made them all swear to protect Helen and her marriage, whichever one of them got to marry her. So they all swore. Then the king (Helen's stepfather) had the suitors all compete in athletic games. The one who won was Menelaus, and so he married Helen.

Helen's sister Clytemnestra married Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, Menelaus' older brother.

Learn by doing: Greek Olympic games
More on Helen and the Trojan War

Bibliography and further reading about Helen of Troy:

More about Menelaus
Ancient Greece
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?