Posts Tagged ‘Helen of Troy’

The Book That Launched a Thousand Trips

June 2, 2011

When it comes to armchair travel I like to think that I started right at the beginning of Western Literature. I was weened on Homeric tales. And happily, my first physical journey was not only to Greece but to Homeric beginnings.

I have stood in the same place that Helen of Troy stood when she was still Menelaus’ Queen. I have walked around the stones and terraces in Mycenae. The same ones that Helen spent her days in. I have taken photos of myself under the Lion Gate, knowing that, momentary tourist that I may be, I am touching the same ground, the same soil that Paris stood on moments before capturing and escaping with beautiful Helen triggering a long war, that even thousands of years later, people are still discussing, minds are still speculating, archaeologists are still exploring and kids are still discovering.

I grew up listening to Greek myths being told across the dinner table. These were not official storytelling sessions, these were discussions and stories passed down through generations. We were all captured by the intrigue, the romance, the battles and the gods.

And in my family, it was all about beautiful Helen. Did Helen elope with Paris? Did he kidnap her? Was she unwilling? Why would so many soldiers cross the sea in order to bring her back to Menelaus? She was a traitor. Was this her father Zeus’s doing or was it Hera in her usual spitefulness that caused all these misdeeds.

As a child, I didn’t understand that these people were myths. They were real. If my parents talked about them in such a familial way, then they must be my relatives over in a country I have only heard about. It dawned on me when I was about 9 during a lesson in class that they were not relatives – they were heroes and heroines! And at 16, I felt such an overwhelming moment of awe sweep over me as I slowly walked up the hill, at Mycenae, towards the Lion’s Gate.

I have since visited Mycenae 3 more times. The last time was to take my children. They too, have grown up listening to Greek myths at the dinner table from when they were young. And they too stood on the sparse rocky soil looking across terraced olive groves across the Peloponnese. And they too marveled that all those stories of Homeric feats originated at the place we all stood.

Vassiliki