Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hegemon Book 8. The Daughter of Tyndareus

Towards the island of Peloponese to the south lay the city of Sparta. It was famed for its soldiers and beautiful women. The King of Sparta was Tyndareus, and it was said that his wife Leda was raped by Zeus, the king of all the gods of Olympus. And so Tyndareus had four children: the twin sons Castor and Pollux and two daughters Clytemnestra and Helen. It was said that Castor was the true son of Tyndareus, but that Pollux and Helen were offsprings of the god. But perhaps, the tale stemmed more from Helen’s unearthly beauty and how Pollux hath survived the Caledonian boar hunt and hence became heir of Sparta.

The Spartans feared that Helen would discover her own beauty and so did not allow her to view the mirror. There was no man who could see her without falling in love. One day, Theseus, the king who killed the Minotaur and unified Athens, decided to risk the wrath of Sparta and capture Helen. The Spartan guards were dispatched by the hero Theseus, who kidnapped the girl Helen. She was only a child, but even then her beauty could rival Aphrodite. Theseus had many wives, but it was clear he was intent on marrying Helen when she grew up.

Helen grew up and became a startling beauty, and she was found of Theseus, who was handsome even in his old age, too. But Theseus was wondering whether it was really love or just proximity and so he hesitated to marry her. At this time, Pollux led a band of Spartans and attacked Athens. Pollux may have been a great warrior, but he was certainly not immortal. In this battle, both Pollux and Theseus were killed. Such was the fate of Helen. Though she was returned to Sparta, the great city was now heirless without Pollux.

It was at this juncture that my brother intervened. First, he requested for the hand of Clytemnestra in marriage, and that gave Mycannae considerable influence in Sparta. Then, he asked Tyndareus to appoint an heir for the stability of the league. Tyndareus did not want to give Sparta directly to Agamemnon, but he was willing to consider any of the unmarried princes for his throne. It was at this time that he said he would bequeath Sparta to Helen’s husband.

Perhaps, Helen’s hand in marriage was as precious a gift as the throne of Sparta itself, for all the great princes vied for it, except Odysseus of Ithaca and my brother. There was me, Achilles of Thessally, Diomedes of Argos, and even Ideomenus of Crete.

Agamemnon declared, “Only one man can win the hand of Helen, even though all of us may desire her. Henceforth, we shall all swear to protect his right to her against any common enemy.”

And so they drew lots, and it was I Menelaus who won her hand in marriage. But to have all the Greeks swear to protect her, I must make certain sacrifices. Hence, she was made to walk naked before the princes of the Greek cities, and it was like the beauty of Olympus hath descended upon us. After that marriage, I was made heir to Tyndareus. He died shortly, and it was upon that moment that I descended the throne of Sparta.

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