Helen and Paris


Bucket-like jar, made in Campania about 350-340 BC


The goddess Aphrodite, having promised Paris the most beautiful woman in the world, brought him to Greece to seduce Helen, the wife of the Greek king Menelaos.

Helen is shown in the centre of this vase, adjusting her veil as she faces Paris, who holds his horse in readiness to the left. Aphrodite, at the far right, casually displaying her erotic attractions, surveys the meeting. Eros, the god of love, is seated at the bottom, apparently innocently playing with some animals, but his huge wings, extending upward behind Helen, suggest the influence he is exerting. Little surprise, then, that Helen ran off with Paris to Troy.

Before she was married, all of Helen's suitors had taken an oath to support whatever husband she chose, should anything happen. Menelaos recalled their oath to the suitors and mustered a large army to sail to Troy to recover Helen.

Thus began the Trojan War.