What happened to Helen of Troy after the Trojan War?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Different traditions exist regarding what happened to Helen after the Trojan War. If we read Homer's Odyssey, in particular Book 4, we find that Helen has returned to Sparta with her first husband, Menelaus. At Odyssey 4.351ff, Menelaus recalls how, after leaving Troy, he was delayed in Egypt for some 20 days (one would assume that Helen was with him although Homer does not mention this).

Euripides' Helen expands upon the title character's adventures in Egypt. In this play, we hear that the real Helen never went to Troy, but rather a phantom Helen. The real Helen was carried off by the gods to Egypt, where she stayed in the kingdom of Theoclymenus, who wanted to marry her. Helen resisted this Egyptian king for many years until she was finally rescued by Menelaus on his way back from Troy.

According to Pausanias (3.19.9), some sources say that Helen and Menelaus were buried in a place called Therapne, while others say that after Menelaus' death, Helen went to the island of Rhodes, where the queen of the island, Polyxo, had some of her maidservants attack Helen and hang her from a tree (3.19.10).

Pausanias also knows of a tradition which finds Helen married to Achilles on a place called White Island (3.19.13).

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the chapter of Mythology entitled, "The Fall of Troy," we learn that Aphrodite helped Helen by getting her out of the city of Troy, taking her back to her first husband, Menelaus. "He received her gladly, and as he sailed for Greece she was with him." Remember that, before the war, Helen had been kidnapped by Paris when Menelaus was away from home; then, after Paris was killed in the war, Helen married his brother. Despite this, however, it appears that Menelaus was still glad to have her returned to him—after all, hers is the "face that launched a thousand ships" (according to Christopher Marlowe)—and readily took her back when the goddess brought her.

In the chapter entitled "The Adventures of Odysseus," Hamilton describes Helen's reception of Telemachus, when he comes to visit her husband, Menelaus, in The Odyssey. Telemachus is hoping for some information about his father, Odysseus, but Menelaus has no real intelligence to give. Helen orders that beds be prepared for all, offering hospitality and comfort to the men while they recall their fallen family members and comrades.