Helen of Troy, also known as Helen of Sparta was considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
She was the daughter of Tyndareus and Leda, although her true father was Zeus. She had a sister Clytemnestra (later married to Agamemnon) and brothers Castor and Pollux.
It is believed that Zeus, in the form of a swan, was chased by an eagle and sought refuge with Leda. The swan and Leda mated, Leda produced an egg from which Helen was born.
In her youth, Helen was abducted by Theseus (King of Athens) and left with his mother, but she was later rescued by her two brothers.
As she was considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world, many suitors travelled with lavish gifts to win her hand in marriage.
One of these suitors was Odysseus, but he believed he had little chance in winning Helen. Odysseus asked Tyndareus for help in courting Penelope, the daughter of Tyndareus’ brother Icarius.
For this help Odysseus created ‘The Oath of Tyndareus’. It stated that before a suitor could be chosen for Helen, all suitors must swear an oath stating that they would defend the chosen husband and provide military assistance for him should Helen be abducted again.
This oath and the later abduction of Helen was to start the Trojan War.
Although Menelaus of Sparta, did not travel himself to win Helen; he sent his brother Agamemnon on his behalf, he was chosen to be Helen’s husband and they were to have a daughter Hermione. Some myths state that Helen also had three sons, Aethiolas, Maraphius, Pleisthenes.
Paris, a Trojan prince had been chosen by Zeus to judge a contest between goddesses Aphrodite, Athena and Hera. He was to decide who was the most beautiful. They all tried to bribe Paris, but as Aphrodite promised him, the most beautiful woman in the world, he chose her as the most beautiful goddess.
Helen and Menelaus went onto rule Sparta. One day Paris visited Sparta and abducted Helen. He then took her back to Troy.
This single event was to start the Trojan War, which was to last 10 years.