I just wrote this in the Hellenismos.us forums, but I want to pose this idea (and its questions) to several sets of folks. Please forgive the cross-posting, my loves....
I have a thought/idea that I would like to explore in fiction, and I want to get some input from folks who are well-studied in such things.
Let me preface this by saying that I am a historical fiction writer, and I am primarily concerned with the Universal Truth that underlies a story -- and a little less concerned with the absolute historical truth.
I also ought to confess that I harbor some resentment toward Homer. I feel that he has done some disservice to Aphrodite (and others) in his codifying of the myths. She, in particular, had been a foreign goddess -- and an old one, at that -- with a fairly well delineated set of traits. He stripped her of her war-like aspects and demoted her by re-creating her birth story.
I wrote the following in my writing journal tonight...
“She loved Menelaus like no other. History and myth haven’t told that portion of my sister’s story well. For Helen, the Spartan queen, her strong war-king was a far greater prize than a pretty shepherd. Paris was her duty, as the golden goddess of love made clear, and Helen loved him as much as her body would allow. Her heart, though, had been wedded to the towering, thundering, iron-hardened warrior who swept across the sea to reclaim his beloved queen.
“If she was Aphrodite made flesh, he was Ares.”
I’ve written Sappho as a priestess of Aphrodite, and now it is Helen’s turn. She was the queen of war-like Sparta, a city-state that honored the goddess of love equally as a goddess of war. This comes truer to Aphrodite’s original nature, born to the Hellenes by the sea-faring Phonecians who knew her as Astarte and Ashteroth. To the Sumerians, she was Ishtar, a lady of love and war whose myth includes an important romance with a shepherd.
Aphrodite’s dual nature was split in Hellenic myth. She longed to be reunited with her war-self, always taking risks to connect with war-like Ares. The pastoral affair was kept, though, in the tale of the goddess and her own Trojan shepherd.
That’s fantastic! I’ve never read anywhere that the love triangle underpinning the Trojan War (Menelaus-Helen-Paris) was a shadow image of the love triangle that the Greeks made of the original Ishtar/Tammuz myth (Ares-Aphrodite-Ankhises). In the Homeric version, Ishtar is separated into Aphrodite and Ares (Love and War). But the story wasn’t originally a conflict. From this basic conflict, though, the Trojan War springs – with Aphrodite’s own war-like nature and her need to support and nurture the agricultural elements featured center-stage.
Maybe someone else has written about this. I need to see if I can find a treatment on this concept.
My questions to you learned folk:
Have you seen this concept elsewhere? (If so, where? Sources, please, so I can follow up with my own research.)
Does it ring true? (It certainly did for me, but I think that is obvious.)