Menelaos and Helen

Wine jar, made in Athens about 470-450 BC

Helen's elopement with the Trojan prince Paris was the prime cause of the War and consquent loss of many lives. Menelaos resolved to make Helen pay for this crime with her life. However, when he came face-to-face with her, he was so smitten by her beauty that his resolve melted away.

The vase shows Helen fleeing to the right, raising a deprecating hand toward Menelaos. The bold warrior still carries his shield in an aggressive pose, but as he meets Helen's eyes, his sword drops from his hand.

The vase-painter has included a second woman (to the left) racing away from Menelaos. The artist has probably put placed this figure here chiefly in order to balance the composition and focus attention on the astonished Menelaos in the centre.