Some of the most important scenes in the Odyssey take place in Sparta, where Telemachus, Odysseus’ son goes to search out news of him. The Sparta of the Odyssey, however, was a very different place from the later, more famous city-state that rose to rival Athens during the period of the Greco-Persian and Peloponnesian Wars. King Leonidas, probably the most famous Spartan ruler, would not live until four centuries after Homer, who himself lived more than three centuries after the events of the Iliad and Odyssey.
Sparta and the region immediately around it were known as Lacedaemon (lass-ah-DEE-mun). At the time of the Odyssey, Lacedaemon lacked the prestige, wealth, and military might of its neighbors Mycenae, Tiryns, and Argos. What it did have was a legendary queen, Helen. Her husband, Menelaus, was the younger brother of Agamemnon, the powerful king of Mycenae. Menelaus married Helen, the heir to the relatively insignificant kingdom of Lacedaemon, because he would never rule Mycenae and wanted to be the ruler of something. When Helen runs away, he turns to his brother to raise an army to get her back, because without Helen he has no grounds to be king.
Taking away the trappings, the story is about a minor queen married to a relatively powerless man, but as they say, the rest is history. Regardless of whether you think these characters are real or fictional, Helen should properly be called Helen of Sparta, not Helen of Troy.
About the author: Laurel Corona is a professor of humanities at San Diego City College and a longtime resident of Southern California. She is the author of The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice, along with numerous works of nonfiction. For more information about Laurel and her work, visit www.laurelcorona.com.
Giveaway is closed.
Would you like an email notification of other drawings? Sign up for our giveaway email list by clicking here.