On Falling in Love in Old Age

87 Plato Parmen. 137a and Ibykos fr. 287

“And I certainly seem to be experiencing the fate of Ibykos’ horse, a prize-winner who, even though old, was about to compete in the chariot race and was trembling because of experience at what was about to happen. Ibykos compared himself to him when he said that he too was old and was being compelled to move towards lust”

καίτοι δοκῶ μοι τὸ τοῦ Ἰβυκείου ἵππου πεπονθέναι ᾧ ἐκεῖνος ἀθλητῇ ὄντι καὶ πρεσβυτέρῳ ὑφ᾿ ἅρματι μέλλοντι ἀγωνιεῖσθαι καὶ δι᾿ ἐμπειρίαν τρέμοντι τὸ μέλλον ἑαυτὸν ἀπεικάζων ἄκων ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτω πρεσβευτὴς ὢν εἰς τὸν ἔρωτα ἀναγκάζεσθαι ἰέναι.

schol. ad loc. 

[Scholiast] Here is the saying of Ibykos the lyric poet:

τὸ τοῦ μελοποιοῦ Ἰβύκου ῥητόν·

“Love again, gazing up from under dark lashes,
Throws me down with every kind of spell
Into the Cyprian’s endless nets.
In truth, I tremble at this arrival,
Just as a prize-winning horse on the yoke in old age
Goes into the contest with his swift wheels, but not willingly.”

Ἔρος αὖτέ με κυανέοισιν ὑπὸ
βλεφάροις τακέρ᾿ ὄμμασι δερκόμενος
κηλήμασι παντοδαποῖς ἐς ἀπειρα
δίκτυα Κύπριδος ἐσβάλλει·
ἦ μὰν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχόμενον,
ὥστε φερέζυγος ἵππος ἀεθλοφόρος ποτὶ γήρᾳ
ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοῖς ἐς ἅμιλλαν ἔβα

Greek Anthology, 5.26

“If I saw you shining with dark hair
Or at another time with blond locks, mistress,
The same grace would gleam from both.
Love will make its home in your hair even when it’s gray.”

Εἴτε σε κυανέῃσιν ἀποστίλβουσαν ἐθείραις,
εἴτε πάλιν ξανθαῖς εἶδον, ἄνασσα, κόμαις,
ἴση ἀπ’ ἀμφοτέρων λάμπει χάρις. ἦ ῥά γε ταύταις
θριξὶ συνοικήσει καὶ πολιῇσιν ῎Ερως.

Image result for ancient greek chariot horse
A force of nature

Shadows and Breath: Lyrics on Human Life

A Repeated idea in classical Greek poetry

Aeschylus, fr. 399.1-2

“Humanity thinks only about temporary seeds,
Its pledge is nothing more than the shadow of smoke”

τὸ γὰρ βρότειον σπέρμ’ ἐφήμερα φρονεῖ,
καὶ πιστὸν οὐδὲν μᾶλλον ἢ καπνοῦ σκιά

Sophocles, fr. 13.

“Man is only breath and shadow.”

ἄνθρωπός ἐστι πνεῦμα καὶ σκιὰ μόνον

Pindar, Pythian 8.95

“Alive for a day: What is a person? What is not a person? Man is a dream of a shadow”
ἐπάμεροι· τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ

Euripides, fr. 532

“Do good while people are alive; when each man dies
He is earth and shadow. What is nothing changes nothing.”

τοὺς ζῶντας εὖ δρᾶν• κατθανὼν δὲ πᾶς ἀνὴρ
γῆ καὶ σκιά• τὸ μηδὲν εἰς οὐδὲν ῥέπει.

fr. 509

“What else? An old man is voice and shadow.”

τί δ’ ἄλλο; φωνὴ καὶ σκιὰ γέρων ἀνήρ.

Tragic Adesp. Fr. 95

“I want to advise all mortals
To live our temporary life sweetly. For after you die,
You are nothing more than a shadow over the earth.”

πᾶσιν δὲ θνητοῖς βούλομαι παραινέσαι
τοὐφήμερον ζῆν ἡδέως· ὁ γὰρ θανὼν
τὸ μηδέν ἐστι καὶ σκιὰ κατὰ χθονός·

Sophocles, fr. 945 (suggested by twitter’s @equiprimordial)

“O wretched and mortal race of men:
We are nothing more than image of shadows,
Wandering back and forth, an excessive weight on the earth.

ὦ θνητὸν ἀνδρῶν καὶ ταλαίπωρον γένος,
ὡς οὐδέν ἐσμεν πλὴν σκιαῖς ἐοικότες,
βάρος περισσὸν γῆς ἀναστρωφώμενοι

Image result for Ancient Greek burial sites

Homer. Od. 10.495

“Persephone allowed him to have a mind, even though he is dead,
He alone is able to think. The others leap like shadows”

τῷ καὶ τεθνηῶτι νόον πόρε Περσεφόνεια
οἴῳ πεπνῦσθαι· τοὶ δὲ σκιαὶ ἀΐσσουσιν.’

The scholia have a few interesting things to add to this.

Schol. ad Hom. Od. 10.495

“They leap like shadows”: The rest of the dead apart from Teiresias are shadows and they move like shadows, just like the shadows that follow men who are moving. This term is used instead of souls [psukhai]. Certainly the poet has the rest of the dead come forward for comparison in this, but the rest of the dead move like shadows”

τοὶ δὲ σκιαὶ ἀΐσσουσιν] οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι νεκροὶ πλὴν τοῦ Τειρεσίου σκιαί εἰσι καὶ ὡς σκιαὶ ὁρμῶσι, καθάπερ αὗται παρέπονται τοῖς κινουμένοις. Q. ἀντὶ τοῦ αἱ ψυχαί. ὁ μέντοι ποιητὴς πρὸς τοὺς ἄλλους νεκροὺς ποιεῖται τὴν σύγκρισιν ἐν τῷ, οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι νεκροὶ ὡς σκιαὶ ἀΐσσουσιν. B.Q.T.

Democritus, fr. B145

“A story is the shadow of the deed”

λόγος ἔργου σκιή

Arsenius, 6.33a

“The shadow of Doiduks”: A proverb applied to nothing.”

Δοίδυκος σκιά: ἐπὶ τοῦ μηδενός.

Michael Apostolios, 5.74

“Shadow instead of a body”: A Proverb applied to those who seem strong but have no power.”

Σκιὰ ἀντὶ τοῦ σώματος: ἐπὶ τῶν δοκούντων κρα-
τεῖν τι, οὐδὲν δ’ ὅμως κρατούντων.

The motif of man as ephemeral is prior to the classical period

Homer, Iliad 6.145-151

“Oh, you great-hearted son of Tydeus, why are you asking about pedigree?
The generations of men are just like leaves on a tree:
The wind blows some to the ground and then the forest
Grows lush with others when spring comes again.
In this way, the race of men grows and then dies in turn.
But if you are willing, learn about these things so you may know
My lineage well—many are the men who know me.”

Τυδεΐδη μεγάθυμε τί ἢ γενεὴν ἐρεείνεις;
οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
φύλλα τὰ μέν τ’ ἄνεμος χαμάδις χέει, ἄλλα δέ θ’ ὕλη
τηλεθόωσα φύει, ἔαρος δ’ ἐπιγίγνεται ὥρη·
ὣς ἀνδρῶν γενεὴ ἣ μὲν φύει ἣ δ’ ἀπολήγει.
εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις καὶ ταῦτα δαήμεναι ὄφρ’ ἐὺ εἰδῇς
ἡμετέρην γενεήν, πολλοὶ δέ μιν ἄνδρες ἴσασιν

Stobaeus (1.49.54) in discussing shadows and death, notes that “if they meet their near and dear, they cannot see them nor can they converse with them, but they are walled off from aesthetic reality, they appear to them something like shadows”

Εἰ δὴ τοῖς οἰκείοις ἐντυγχάνοντες οὔτε ὁρῶσιν αὐτοὺς οὔτε προσδιαλέγονται, ἀνενέργητοι δέ εἰσιν αἰσθητικὴν ἐνέργειαν, πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἐοικότες εἶεν <ἂν> ταῖς σκιαῖς·

He also brings up the image of smoke evoked in the Iliad (23.100-101)

“He could not grasp him, but his soul went over the earth,
Twisted, just like smoke…”

οὐδ’ ἔλαβε· ψυχὴ δὲ κατὰ χθονὸς ἠΰτε καπνὸς
ᾤχετο τετριγυῖα…

An uplifting proverb to close:

Arsenius, 17.66

“Windblown dreams and shadows of glory”: A proverb applied to those hoping for things in vain.

῾Υπηνέμια ὀνείρατα καὶ ἐπαίνων σκιαί: ἐπὶ τῶν μάτην ἐλπιζόντων.

The Most Musical and Bellicose Men

Pindar, Fragments from Uncertain Places, 199

“Where the plans of the old
And the spears of young men are the best,
Along with the choruses and the Mouse and Aglaia…”

ἔνθα βουλαὶ γερόντων
καὶ νέων ἀνδρῶν ἀριστεύοισιν αἰχμαί,
καὶ χοροὶ καὶ Μοῖσα καὶ ᾿Αγλαΐα

This is quoted by Plutarchin the Life of Lycurgus (21.3) where he says

“For he has composed this about the Spartans, “where the spear of the young flourishes along with the clear-voiced Muse, and wide-wayed justice”

Pindar also says, “where the councils of the old and the spears of the young are the best along with the choruses and the Muse and Aglaia…”

For these lines demonstrate that they are the most musical and the most bellicose people at the same time.”

ὁ μὲν γὰρ οὕτως πεποίηκε περὶ τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων·

῎Ενθ’ αἰχμά τε νέων θάλλει καὶ μοῦσα λίγεια
καὶ δίκα εὐρυάγυια— —

Πίνδαρος δέ φησιν·

῎Ενθα βουλαὶ γερόντων
καὶ νέων ἀνδρῶν ἀριστεύοντι αἰχμαὶ
καὶ χοροὶ καὶ Μοῦσα καὶ ἀγλαΐα.

Μουσικωτάτους γὰρ ἅμα καὶ πολεμικωτάτους ἀποφαίνουσιν αὐτούς

JordanImage from:

Jordan, Borimir. “The Honors for Themistocles after Salamis.” The American Journal of Philology, vol. 109, no. 4, 1988, pp. 547–571. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/295081.

 

Who knows what Pindar poem this may have come from or what the context was–chances are it cannot be taken too seriously considering the on-again-off-again relationship between Sparta and Thebes and the fact that everything Pindar composed has to be understood from the perspective of the goal of the overall poem, to praise someone in particular by praising their country, their family, and their patron gods. (See Elroy Bundy’s Studia Pindarica for the clearest explanation of this.)

F*** Off Friday: Hipponax’s Curse for a Former Friend

Hipponax fr. 115 (P. Argent. 3 fr. 1.16, ed. Reitzenstein)

“Once he is struck by the wave,
And [comes] naked to a kind reception at Salmydessos
Where the top-knotted Thracians
Grab him—where he will suffer many evils
Eating the bread of slavery
He will shiver struck by the cold. When he emerges from the foam
May he puke up much seaweed
And let his teeth chatter, as he lies on his face
Like a dog in his weakness
At the farthest end of the sea…
I want him to see all of these things
Because he wronged me and broke his oath,
Even though he was once my friend before.”

κύμ[ατι] πλα[ζόμ]ενος̣·
κἀν Σαλμυδ[ησσ]ῶ̣ι̣ γυμνὸν εὐφρονε̣.[
Θρήϊκες ἀκρό[κ]ομοι
λάβοιεν—ἔνθα πόλλ’ ἀναπλήσαι κακὰ
δούλιον ἄρτον ἔδων—
ῥίγει πεπηγότ’ αὐτόν· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ χνόου
φυκία πόλλ’ ἐπέ̣χοι,
κροτέοι δ’ ὀδόντας, ὡς [κ]ύ̣ων ἐπὶ στόμα
κείμενος ἀκρασίηι
ἄκρον παρὰ ῥηγμῖνα κυμα….δ̣ο̣υ̣·
ταῦτ’ ἐθέλοιμ’ ἂ̣ν ἰδεῖ̣ν,
ὅς μ’ ἠδίκησε, λ̣[ὰ]ξ δ’ ἐπ’ ὁρκίοις ἔβη,
τὸ πρὶν ἑταῖρος [ἐ]ών.

I have placed in bold just a few of the fragments that remind me of Odyssean language. Although the phrase δούλιον ἄρτον does not appear in Homer, it does recall for me the phrase “day of slavery” (δούλιον ἦμαρ).

Image result for ancient greek curse
A curse tablet featuring Hekate from the Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna

 

Rhapsody and Murder: A Few Epigrams from the Greek Anthology

Greek Anthology, 9.369 (Attributed to Kyrillos)

“An epigram of two lines is beautiful and complete
But more lines than three are not an epigram but a rhapsody”

Πάγκαλόν ἐστ᾿ ἐπίγραμμα τὸ δίστιχον· ἢν δὲ παρέλθῃς
τοὺς τρεῖς, ῥαψῳδεῖς, κοὐκ ἐπίγραμμα λέγεις

Greek Anthology, 11.187 (Leonidas of Alexandria)

“Simylos the lyre player murdered his neighbors
Playing all night long. But not Origines:
Nature made him deaf and thus
Gave him a longer life instead of hearing.”

Σιμύλος ὁ ψάλτης τοὺς γείτονας ἔκτανε πάντας
νυκτὸς ὅλης ψάλλων, πλὴν ἑνὸς Ὠριγένους·
κωφὸν γὰρ φύσις αὐτὸν ἐθήκατο· τοὔνεκεν αὐτῷ
ζωὴν ἀντ᾿ ἀκοῆς δῶκε περισσοτέρην.

Image result for ancient greek lyre player
Lyre player Met 06.1021.188.jpg

“Come to me Now”, Sappho’s First Song

Fragment 1 (Preserved in Dionysus of Halicarnassus’ On Literary Composition 23)

“Immortal Aphrodite in your elaborate throne,
Wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, I beseech you:
Don’t curse my heart with grief and pains
My queen—

But come here, if ever at different time
You heeded me somewhere else because you heard
My pleadings, and once you left the golden home of your father,
You came,

After you yoked your chariot. Then the beautiful, swift
Sparrows ferried you over the dark earth
By churning their wings swiftly down through the middle
Of the sky.

And they arrived quickly. But you, blessed one,
Composed a grin on your immortal face
And were asking what it was I suffered that made me
Call you.

“The things which I most wish would happen for me
In my crazy heart”. “Whom, then, do I persuade to
Return you to their love? O Sappho, who is it who
Hurt you?

For if she flees now, she will soon chase you.
If she refuses gifts, then she will give them too.
If she does not love you now, she will love you soon, even if,
She doesn’t want to.”

Come to me now, too, and free me from
my terrible worries. Whatever things my heart longs
to accomplish, you, achieve them—
be my ally.

πο]ικιλόθρο[ν’ ἀθανάτ᾿Αφρόδιτα
παῖ] Δ[ί]ος δολ[όπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε,
μή μ’] ἄσαισι [μηδ’ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
[]πότν]ια, θῦ[μον,

ἀλλ]ὰ τυίδ’ ἔλ[θ’, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα
τὰ]ς ἔμας αὔ[δας ἀίοισα πήλοι
ἔκ]λυες, πάτρο[ς δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χ]ρύσιον ἦλθ[ες

ἄρ]μ’ ὐπασδε[ύξαισα· κάλοι δέ σ’ ἆγον
ὤ]κεες στροῦ[θοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
πύ]κνα δίν[νεντες πτέρ’ ἀπ’ ὠράνωἴθε-
ρο]ς διὰ μέσσω·

αἶ]ψα δ’ ἐξίκο[ντο· σὺ δ’, ὦ μάκαιρα,
μειδιαί[σαισ’ ἀθανάτωι προσώπωι
ἤ]ρε’ ὄττ[ι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δη]ὖτε κ[άλ]η[μμι

κ]ὤττι [μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μ]αινόλαι [θύμωι· τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
.].σάγην [ἐς σὰν φιλότατα; τίς σ’, ὦ
Ψά]πφ’, [ἀδικήει;

κα]ὶ γ[ὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
<αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ’, ἀλλὰ δώσει,>
<αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει>
[]<κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.>

<ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον>
<ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι>
<θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον, σὺ δ’ αὔτα>
[]<σύμμαχος ἔσσο.>
.ρανοθεν κατιου[σ-

Image result for Aphrodite chariot ancient
Disappointingly, not a sparrow chariot.

What Does Helen Look Like?

Last year twitter friend asked me about the appearance of Helen recently:

This came at a time when many are talking about the ethnicity of Homeric heroes and rightly arguing that so many of our ideas about race, color, and identity have little to do with the ancient world and everything to do with our own. (See also the discussion on Pharos.) Within this debate is the important realization that ancient concepts of hue and range of color-representation may have been altogether different from our own. In addition to Tim Whitmarsh’s essay (cited above) Maria Michel Sassi’s  essay does well to explore gaps between how we conceive of color and how the ancients may have.

As @spannycat notes, Greek poetry describes Helen as xanthê and kuanopis. An insensitive and simplistic reading of these facts might claim that she was “blonde” with “blue eyes” (and I am not at all implying that @spannycat is doig this). Not only is the situation far more interesting and complicated than this, but I am pretty sure that even if we accept these two words as applying to Helen they would not be equivalent to the appearance these two terms denote in modern English.

Let’s start with the barest fact. What Helen actually looks like is never stated in Homer. When the Trojans look at her, they say she has the “terrible appearance of goddesses” (αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν). This, of course, is not terribly specific.

Elsewhere, she is “argive Helen, for whom many Achaeans [struggled]” (᾿Αργείην ῾Ελένην, ἧς εἵνεκα πολλοὶ ᾿Αχαιῶν, Il. 2.161) she has “smooth” or “pale/white” arms (῏Ιρις δ’ αὖθ’ ῾Ελένῃ λευκωλένῳ ἄγγελος ἦλθεν, 3.121), but this likely has to do with a typical depiction of women in Archaic Greece (they are lighter in tone than men because they don’t work outside) or because of women’s clothing (arms may have been visible). Beyond that? In the Odyssey, She has “beautiful hair” (῾Ελένης πάρα καλλικόμοιο, 15.58) and a long robe (τανύπεπλος, 4.305).

If anyone is looking for a hint of the ideal of beauty from the legend who launched a thousand ships, they will be sorely disappointed. Why? I think the answer to this partly has to do with the nature of Homeric poetry and with good art in general. Homeric poetry developed over a long duration of time and appealed to many different peoples. To over-determine Helen’s beauty by describing it would necessarily adhere to some standards of beauty while alienating others.

In addition, why describe her beauty at all when the audience members themselves can craft an ideal in their mind. As a student of mine said while I mused over this, Helen “Cannot have descriptors because she is a floating signifier”. She is a blank symbol for desire upon which all audience members (ancient and modern, male and female) project their own (often ambiguous) notions of beauty. To stay with the ancient world, think of that seminal first stanza in Sappho fr. 16:

Some say a force of horsemen, some say infantry
and others say a fleet of ships is the loveliest
thing on the dark earth, but I say it is
[whatever] you love

Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ-
τω τις ἔραται

As long as beauty is relative and in the eye of the beholder any time we disambiguate it by saying that it is one thing and not another we depart from an abstract timeless idea and create something more bounded and less open to audience engagement. I think that part of what makes Homeric poetry work so well is that it combines a maximum amount of specificity within a maximized amount of ambiguity.

Outside of Homer, Helen is described with a little more detail, but in each case the significance of the signifier is less than it appears. In Hesiod, she has nice hair again (῾Ελένης ἕνεκ’ ἠυκόμοιο,Works and Days 165; this is repeated a lot in the fragmentary Hesiodic Catalogue). In fr. 9 of the Cypria she is merely a “Wonder for mortals” (θαῦμα βροτοῖσι·). Much later she has “spiraling eyebrows/lashes” (῾Ελένης ἑλικοβλεφάροιο, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 13.470).

If we want to learn more about Helen, she has additional features outside of epic poetry in lyric. I would be bold enough to claim that the more personal and erotic character of the genre is a better explanation for this specificity than anything else.

In lyric (e.g. Mesomedes, κυανῶπι θεά, θύγατερ Δίκας,) Helen is “cyan-eyed”, but if we look at the semantic range of this nominal root—which describes dark stones and eyes of water divinities—I think we can argue fairly that this indicates a dark and shiny, even watery texture (like lapis lazuli). I suspect this is about the sheen of eyes rather than their hue.

Eustathius remarks that the epithet κυανώπιδα is common (κατὰ κοινὸν ἐπίθετον) and is often used for dark sea creatures, describing as well his hair (Ποσειδῶνα κυανοχαίτην, Ad Hom. Il 1.555.23). Indeed, nymphs in general are “dark-eyed” in lyric (καὶ Νύμφαι κυανώπιδες, Anacr. fr. 12.2) and water deities remain so in Homer (κῦμα μέγα ῥοχθεῖ κυανώπιδος ᾿Αμφιτρίτης, Il. 12.60). Outside of Homer marriageable women also receive this epithet, including Helen’s sister Klytemnestra (Hes. Fr. 23a κού[ρην Τυνδαρέοιο Κλυταιμήσ]τρην κυανῶπ[ιν· cf. fr. 23.27 and for Althaia, 25.14, Elektra (169).

From Robert Beekes. Etymological Dictionary of Greek. Leiden: Brill, 2010

kuane

So, in lyric, Helen has dark pools for eyes. But what about her hair? At Sappho fr. 23 Helen is described as “xanthai” ([ ] ξάνθαι δ’ ᾿Ελέναι σ’ ἐίσ[κ]ην; cf. Stesichorus Fr. S103: [ξ]α̣νθὰ δ’ ῾Ελένα̣ π̣ρ[ ; Ibycus, fr. 1a.5: ξα]νθᾶς ῾Ελένας περὶ εἴδει ). But it is important to note that in this context there is a first-person narrator speaking (“I liken you to fair Helen…”). Note as well that there is something formulaic in these lyric lines: the epithet seems to begin the phrase each time.

When it comes to Hair color, xanthus is used in Homer to describe heroes, but not Helen (Menelaos is Xanthus, for example). A byzantine etymological dictionary suggests that the core meaning of this root has something to do with fire (Ξανθὴν, πυῤῥοειδῆ) and argues that the hair “symbolizes the heat and irascibility of the hero” (αἰνίττεται, τὸ θερμὸν καὶ ὀργίλον τοῦ ἥρωος, Etym. Gud, s.v.). But outside the Iliad and Odyssey the adjective is applied to goddesses: both Demeter (H. Dem. 302) and Aphrodite (Soph. fr. 255) are called Xanthê. Modern etymology sees this as anywhere from yellow to brown. But this is altogether relative again. “Light hair” in a group of people who are blond is almost white; among black/brown haired people, light hair can merely be a different shade of brown.

Again, from Beekes 2010:

xanthe

In the second book of Liu Cixin’s “Three Body Problem Trilogy” The Dark Forest, one of the main characters Luo Ji creates an ideal woman to love in his mind and goes so far as to converse with her, leave his actual girlfriend for her, and go on a trip with her. When he consults a psychologist about this, his doctor tells him his is lucky because everyone is in love with an idea–where the rest of the world will inevitably be disillusioned when they realize this, Luo Ji will never suffer this loss.

Trying to make Helen look like an actual person is not only impossible, but it is something which Homeric epic avoids for good reason.

Special thanks to .@spannycat for asking the question. Her own conclusions on the topic are pretty much the same.

Image result for ancient greek helen
From Wikipedia