In a mythography assignment, several students wrote about cults of Helen in the ancient world (below are some of the secondary texts I told them to consult). I don’t know if I forgot or just never heard of the story of Helen’s death in Rhodes (below). Several students mentioned this (including the one who just wrote about Helen’s deaths). Pausanias presents the best known account of this story; there is a variation from a rhetorician below.
Pausanias 3.19. 9–13
“Therapnê has its name for the country from the daughter of Lelegos. There is a shrine of Menelaos there where they say that Menelaos and Helen are married. The Rhodians do not agree with the Lakedamonians when they say that because Menelaos died and Orestes was still wandering, Helen was expelled by Nikostratos and Megapenthes and arrived in Rhodes where she had help from Poluksô, the wife of Tlepolemos. Poluksô was Argive by birth, and she shared Tlepolemos’ exile to Rhodes after she married him. Then she ruled the island, abandoned with an orphan child. They claim that this Poluksô, once she got her in her power, wanted to take vengeance upon Helen for the death of Tlepolemos. When Helen was bathing, she sent serving women dressed up just like the Furies to her. These women took ahold of Helen and hanged her from a tree. For this reason, there is a shrine to “Helen of the Tree”.
Θεράπνη δὲ ὄνομα μὲν τῷ χωρίῳ γέγονεν ἀπὸ τῆς Λέλεγος θυγατρός, Μενελάου δέ ἐστιν ἐν αὐτῇ ναός, καὶ Μενέλαον καὶ Ἑλένην ἐνταῦθα ταφῆναι λέγουσιν. Ῥόδιοι δὲ οὐχ ὁμολογοῦντες Λακεδαιμονίοις φασὶν Ἑλένην Μενελάου τελευτήσαντος, Ὀρέστου δὲ ἔτι πλανωμένου, τηνικαῦτα ὑπὸ Νικοστράτου καὶ Μεγαπένθους διωχθεῖσαν ἐς Ῥόδον ἀφικέσθαι Πολυξοῖ τῇ Τληπολέμου γυναικὶ ἔχουσαν ἐπιτηδείως· εἶναι γὰρ καὶ Πολυξὼ τὸ γένος Ἀργείαν, Τηλπολέμῳ δὲ ἔτι πρότερον συνοικοῦσαν φυγῆς μετασχεῖν τῆς ἐς Ῥόδον καὶ τῆς νήσου τηνικαῦτα ἄρχειν ὑπολειπομένην ἐπὶ ὀρφανῷ παιδί. ταύτην τὴν Πολυξώ φασιν ἐπιθυμοῦσαν Ἑλένην τιμωρήσασθαι τελευτῆς τῆς Τληπολέμου τότε, ὡς ἔλαβεν αὐτὴν ὑποχείριον, ἐπιπέμψαι οἱ λουμένῃ θεραπαίνας Ἐρινύσιν ἴσα ἐσκευασμένας· καὶ αὗται διαλαβοῦσαι δὴ τὴν Ἑλένην αἱ γυναῖκες ἀπάγχουσιν ἐπὶ δένδρου, καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ Ῥοδίοις Ἑλένης ἱερόν ἐστι Δενδρίτιδος.
Polyainos, 2nd Century CE (Strategemata 1.13)
“When Menelaos was leaving from Egypt and bringing Helen along he visited Rhodes. The wife of Tlepolemos, who died at Troy, Poluksô, was grieving when someone announced that Menelaos had arrived with Helen. She was planned to avenge her husband and ran toward the ships with all of the Rhodian men and women gathering up stones and fire. When Menelaos was prevented from departing by a wind, he hid Helen in the hollow ship and put her outfit and crown on the maid who was most beautiful. Because they actually believed that this was Helen, they [hurled] fire and stones at the serving woman and retreated because they believed that the death of Helen was a sufficient retribution for Tlepolemos. Then Menelaos sailed away, keeping Helen.”
Μενέλαος ἐπανιὼν ἀπ’ Αἰγύπτου τὴν ῾Ελένην ἄγων ῾Ρόδῳ προσέσχε. Τληπολέμου δὲ ἐν Τροίᾳ τεθνηκότος γυνὴ Πολυξὼ πενθοῦσα, ἐπειδή τις ἤγγειλε Μενέλεων μετὰ τῆς ῾Ελένης ἥκειν, τιμωρῆσαι τῷ ἀνδρὶ βουλομένη μετὰ ῾Ροδίων ἁπάντων ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν αἰρομένων πῦρ καὶ λίθους ἐπὶ τὰς ναῦς κατέδραμε. Μενέλεως ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος ἀναχθῆναι κωλυόμενος τὴν μὲν ῾Ελένην ἐς κοίλην ναῦν κατέκρυψε, τὸν δὲ κόσμον αὐτῆς καὶ τὸ διάδημα θεραπαίνῃ τῇ μάλιστα καλλίστῃ περιέθηκεν. οἱ δὲ (μάλιστα) πιστεύσαντες ῾Ελένην εἶναι πῦρ καὶ λίθους ἐπὶ τὴν θεράπαιναν *** καὶ ὡς ἱκανὴν δίκην ἐπὶ τῷ Τληπολέμῳ λαβόντες τὸν ῾Ελένης θάνατον ἀνεχώρησαν. Μενέλεως δὲ τὴν ῾Ελένην ἔχων ἀπέπλευσεν.
Some useful texts
Ruby Blondell. Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation. Oxford: 2013.
Linda Lee Clader. Helen: The Evolution from Divine to Heroic in Greek Epic Tradition. Leiden: Brill, 1976.
Lowell Edmunds. Stealing Helen: The Myth of the Abducted Wife in Comparative Perspective. Princeton 2016.
R. Farnell. The Cults of the Greek City States. 5 Volumes.
Timothy Gantz. Early Greek myth: a guide to literary and artistic sources. Baltimore.
Robert Fowler. Early Greek Mythography. 2 Vols. 2000 and 2013.
Jennifer Larson. Greek Heroine Cults. Madison, 1995. BL795.H47 L37 1995