How Did Helen of Troy Die?

The Greek myths have two versions of Helen’s end of life. The first tells that she returned to Sparta to live with Menelaus until they both die. The second version tells how Helen fled to the Island of Rhodes. There she was hanged by the local queen who sought vengeance.

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We never learn from Homer’s texts how Helen finishes her life. The concluding lines of The Iliad tell us about Hector’s funeral: “Thus they busied themselves with the burial of Hector, tamer of horses.” The fall of the city and Helen’s return to her husband with other Achaeans are left outside the narrative.

According to Homer, Helen willingly runs away from her husband with Paris. But her lover is a weak coward, and later, she regrets her love and changes her mind about Paris as a person. From the Greek myths, we know that Paris is killed, so she passes over to Deiphobus, his younger brother. When the Trojan Horse enters the city, Helen hides the sword of her new husband so that Menelaus and Odysseus kill him.

Stesichorus writes that the Achaeans and Trojans gathered to stone her to death. Menelaus said he wanted to kill the unfaithful wife himself. But when he raised the sword, Helen threw her robe off her shoulders. Menelaus did not dare kill such a beauty.

From this point, the story has two versions. According to the first one, Helen lived with Menelaus in Sparta happily ever after. According to the second story, after Menelaus’ death at an advanced age, Helen’s stepsons send her to exile to Rhodes. Polyxo (the Rhodian queen) hangs Helen in revenge for her husband’s death during the Trojan War.

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