Helen of Troy | Part 2

EVER since Priam had given his babe over to Agelaus to be destroyed, he celebrated funeral games every year at Troy in honour of his son, who was supposed to have died soon after his birth.

Soon after Paris gave the “apple of discord” to Aphrodite, these games fell due. Priam’s servants came to Mount Ida and asked the cattleman to select the best bulls to participate in the funeral games.

Paris had never witnessed these games. He was particularly anxious to see the sports and insisted on going to Troy.

Agelaus was afraid that something might happen. It might become known that he had not destroyed the babe according to the orders of the King but saved him and brought him up. The cattleman did his best to stop Paris, but Paris could not be persuaded not to go. So the cattleman also went to Troy with him to see that he came to no harm.

There were several contests during the funeral celebrations. A boxing match in front of the King was one of them. Anyone could participate in it, and the one who won over all the rest was awarded a crown.

Disobeying the cattleman, Paris entered the contest, defeated all his rivals and won the crown. Then he participated in the foot- race, came first and won a second crown.

Seeing Paris win two crowns in succession, Priam’s sons got jealous and challenged him to another boxing match.

They had intended to finish him off, but he defeated them and won a third crown.

Then Priam’s sons decided to kill Paris. They had the exits of the stadium guarded by armed men. Then two of Priam’s sons, Hector and Deiphobus, attacked Paris with swords. They did not know that Paris was their brother.

The thing had gone too far. Agelaus averted a catastrophe by running to Priam, shouting, “O King, save Paris! He is your son!”

Priam was not worried that his son had not died, nor was he angry with his cattleman for having disobeyed him. He was, on the contrary, very proud and happy to have regained such a fine son whom he had considered lost.

Priam ordered a large banquet and sacrifices for the gods to celebrate the return of Paris. He was more proud of Paris than of any of his other sons.

The priests warned Priam that Troy would be destroyed if Paris was not put to death at once.

“It is much better,” said Priam, “that Troy should be destroyed than I should lose my wonderful son!”

Now Paris was one of Priam’s sons. He settled in Troy. All his brothers were married and living with their wives.

“Why don’t you also get married?” they would ask Paris.

Paris worshipped Aphrodite every day. “This goddess will find me a wife,” he would reply. “I need not go in search of one. I am prepared to wait.”

But he knew that Helen, whom he desired, was in Sparta. He anxiously awaited a chance to go to Sparta and meet Helen. He knew that Aphrodite would do the rest. Such a chance soon presented itself.

Priam had a sister called Hesi- one. Some time back, the Greeks had taken her away. Priam had called for a council to meet and decide what would be done. The committee met and advised peaceful methods of recovering Hesione from the Greeks.

Messengers went to Greece and asked for the restoration of Hesione, but the Greeks refused. The attempt to settle the matter by peaceful means failed.

The council met again and decided that an expedition should be sent against Greece.

“I will lead this expedition,” Paris offered. “Give me a large fleet. I shall bring Hesione back. If I fail, I may carry off a Greek princess of equal rank to hold in ransom for Hesione.”

That very day, Menelaus, Helen’s husband, happened to arrive at Troy. There was a reason for his coming. Sparta was ravaged by plague, and Menelaus came to offer extraordinary sacrifices at certain tombs in Troy to alleviate the gods and save Sparta.

Paris was very kind to Mene- laus and soon made friends with him.

“I was thinking of going to Sparta,” he said, “to offer prayers to the gods and purify myself of sins.”

Menelaus was pleased to hear this.

In the meantime, Priam got the fleet ready for Paris. Accompanied by Menelaus, Paris set sail for Sparta. Eventually, they reached Sparta.

Paris took innumerable gifts for Helen. He gave them to her and stayed with Menelaus and Helen as their guest. He was treated with great courtesy.

When Paris set eyes on Helen, he knew she was the most beautiful woman on earth. He was anxious for an opportunity to take Helen away with him, with the aid of Aphrodite, who vowed to help him.

Aphrodite made Helen, too, fall in love with Paris the moment she saw him. But Helen did not give any outward indications of her passion.

Paris, on the contrary, showed his love for Helen openly and fearlessly. He would look at Helen all the time, trace her name on the dining table and so on, and Helen was distraught that her husband would notice the odd behaviour of Paris.

Paris was the guest of Mene- laus for nine days. During this time, Menelaus had to go to Crete for the funeral ceremonies of his grandfather.

Paris thought that it was all the favour of Aphrodite. He persuaded Helen to go away with him that very night. Helen left her home and followed Paris into his ship.

The entire fleet set sail for Troy. But Paris did not return to Troy right away. He visited several islands and stayed in various countries, and it was only after a considerable time that he reached Troy with Helen.

When Menelaus returned from Crete, he knew how Paris had repaid his hospitality. At once, he went to his brother Agamemnon, told him what had happened, and demanded, “Make immediate preparations for war on Troy.”Priam never regretted what he said to the envoys of Agamemnon. For, when Paris arrived with Helen later, Priam was very much fascinated by her great beauty. Priam and the Trojans were proud of Helen and her rare beauty.

“Let us not be hasty,” Agamemnon replied. “I shall send envoys to Troy and demand that Helen be restored to you and that you be compensated for the insult. We can think of war if peaceful methods to get Helen back fail. “

Agamemnon’s envoys arrived in Troy while Paris was still on his way. So Priam did not know about the whole affair. He refused to believe the envoys of Agamemnon.

“Even granting that what you say is true.” he told the envoys, “why should I give any compensation to the Greeks? What compensation did the Greeks pay me for taking away my sister Hesione?”

Paris married Helen, and there were great rejoicings in Troy.

“Under any circumstances, Priam swore publicly, “I will never let Helen be taken away by those Greeks.”

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