Image via WikipediaMy series of Notable Eastern Women is taking some geographic liberties today, because Helen of Troy was really born Helen of Sparta. But history had other plans for the woman with "the face that launched a thousand ships".
If you aren't familiar with Homer (or Marlowe), I'll give you the skinny.
Helen was the daughter of Leda and Zeus. She grew up to be a demi-goddess of astounding beauty. Then like a pawn, she was married off to Menelaus, the local strong arm who won the games held in her honor. She was a true prize, with powers of seduction and connections to the gods (probably via opiats).
Meanwhile in Troy, handsome Paris (the man, not the city or the hotel heiress) was between a rock and a hard place. Three goddesses, Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, asked him to choose who was the most beautiful among them. He awarded the golden apple (Calista) to Aphrodite, because she promised him the love of the most beautiful woman.
Fast forward to Paris visiting the court of Menelaus. Aphrodite arranged to have Menelaus leave for pressing business and Helen was left to "entertain" Paris. The rest is history - or mythology, depending how you look at it.
The ancient site of Troy is in modern day Turkey, near Çanakkale, at the narrowest point of the Dardanelles. There isn't much left to look at. After all, Menelaus supposedly destroyed the wealthy trading port with his famous Trojan horse, even though Achilles ran into some bad luck with his heel.
So what was the real story? Did Helen love Paris? She probably had to go with him willingly. (Many a woman has dropped everything for a hot guy with cold cash.) Was Menelaus really jealous enough to convince the owners of 1,000 ships (because most of the ships weren't his) and the sons of may men to join him in his quest for revenge? The sad part is, it was probably more a question of who had the biggest piggy bank. A busy port city at the mouth of the Dardanelles was a jewel in anyone's crown, but the romantic idea of fighting for the woman you love is more interesting and we're still captivated by the story even in our century.