Cities and Women With the Same Name: The Ever-Clever Menelaos

The scene: Menelaos has been shipwrecked in Egypt. He left Helen—the fake one sent to Troy before the beginning of the war—in a cave for safekeeping before coming to town. Outside the house of Proteus, he meets an old servant who tells him that Proeteus’ son is not home, but that Helen, Zeus’ daughter from Sparta, is inside. Menelaos is dumfounded.

Euripides, Helen 483–499

‘What am I saying? What can I say? I am learning
terrible troubles on top of my old ones.
If I brought my wife, captured from Troy,
When I came here and she is safe in a cave,
Then someone else has the same name as my wife
And lives in this house here.
But this old lady said that she is the child of Zeus.
Is there some dude named Zeus who lives
On the banks of the Nile? There’s only one in heaven.
Where on earth is there a Sparta except where
The steams flow from only one lovely-reeded Eurotas?

Does the famous Tyndareion name have a twin?
Is there any place with the same name as Lakedaimon
Or Troy? I don’t know what to say.
Many things, I guess, over the great earth
have the same names: cities named the same,
Women named the same. Nothing should be surprising.”

Με. τί φῶ; τί λέξω; συμφορὰς γὰρ ἀθλίας
ἐκ τῶν πάροιθε τὰς παρεστώσας κλύω,
εἰ τὴν μὲν αἱρεθεῖσαν ἐκ Τροίας ἄγων
ἥκω δάμαρτα καὶ κατ’ ἄντρα σώιζεται,
ὄνομα δὲ ταὐτὸν τῆς ἐμῆς ἔχουσά τις
δάμαρτος ἄλλη τοισίδ’ ἐνναίει δόμοις.
Διὸς δ’ ἔλεξε παῖδά νιν πεφυκέναι·
ἀλλ’ ἦ τις ἔστι Ζηνὸς ὄνομ’ ἔχων ἀνὴρ
Νείλου παρ’ ὄχθας; εἶς γὰρ ὅ γε κατ’ οὐρανόν.
Σπάρτη δὲ ποῦ γῆς ἐστι πλὴν ἵνα ῥοαὶ
τοῦ καλλιδόνακός εἰσιν Εὐρώτα μόνον;
διπλοῦν δὲ Τυνδάρειον ὄνομα κλήιζεται,
Λακεδαίμονος δὲ γαῖά τις ξυνώνυμος
Τροίας τ’; ἐγὼ μὲν οὐκ ἔχω τί χρὴ λέγειν.
πολλοὶ γάρ, ὡς εἴξασιν, ἐν πολλῆι χθονὶ
ὀνόματα ταὔτ’ ἔχουσι καὶ πόλις πόλει
γυνὴ γυναικί τ’· οὐδὲν οὖν θαυμαστέον.

Image result for Ancient Greek Menelaus

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