The Greek evidence

More than one individual in Greek mythology is said to be a daughter of Helios. There is Minos' wife Pasiphae 'Shining for all', whose name at least

107 Mannhardt (1875), 82 no. 72, cf. no. 73. Note that although the Sons of God may appear as plural suitors of Saules meita, when a marriage is spoken of there is either only one Son of God or plural Daughters of the Sun. No menage a trois is countenanced as in the Asvins' joint possession of Surya.

108 Mannhardt (1905), ii. xxn.

109 F. S. Krauss, Sitte und Brauch der Südslaven (Vienna 1885), 351.

110 Mannhardt (1875), 305.

111 Gregor Krek, Die Wichtigkeit der slavischen traditionellen Literatur (Vienna 1869), 83; von Schroeder (1914-16), ii. 398.

suggests a bright celestial, though this has no obvious relevance to the story that she mated with a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur. In the Odyssey there is Circe, who lives close by the house and dancing-place of Dawn and the risings of the sun (12. 3 f.), and also the two nymphs who herd Helios' calendrical cattle, Phaethousa and Lampetie—lucent names again, and although they live on earth, they are able to go and visit their father (12. 132, 374 f.). Then there are those Heliad maidens mentioned earlier, who actually ride out in a chariot from the gates of the sunrise in company with a kouros— Parmenides—if not with a Dioskouros.112 Another group of Heliades appeared as the chorus in Aeschylus' tragedy of that name: its subject was Phaethon, and they were his sisters who lamented his fiery death. Hyginus (Fab. 154. 4) serves up a list of their names, and it is interesting that one of them is Helie, which stands in the same relationship to Helios as Surya to Surya.

But if we ask who is the divine paragon of female beauty most intimately connected with the Dioskouroi, those Greek counterparts of the Asvins and the Baltic Sons of God, there can only be one answer: Helen. She is not called the daughter of the Sun, except in one late and supremely disreputable source (Ptolemy Hephaestion ap. Phot. Bibl. 149a31): she is the daughter of Zeus (Aios 6vydrnp, Od. 4. 227), as the Vedic Usas is of Dyaus (Divo duhiti), the Lithuanian Sun-goddess of Dievas, and St Brigit of the Dagda. She is thus the sister of the Dioskouroi, and it follows that they cannot appear as her suitors. But she is much sought after in marriage, and although her suitors gather at the house of her mortal 'father' Tyndareos to bid for her, it is the Dioskouroi, not Tyndareos, who organize the event ('Hes.' frs. 196-9).

In the epic tradition Helen appears as a mortal queen at Sparta who by eloping with Paris caused a huge and disastrous war. But in Laconia she was worshipped as a goddess, and so she was on Rhodes, where Helios too was a major deity.113 The cults can hardly have grown out of the epic myth; rather Helen was a goddess from the start. By blaming her for the Trojan War the poet Stesichorus, according to legend, offended her and she struck him blind, later restoring his sight after he had composed a palinode. In a variant of the story (Horace, Epod. 17. 42) it was the Dioskouroi who blinded and then healed him. In either case it is noteworthy that restoring sight to the blind is a typical accomplishment of the Asvins.114

112 Parmenides B 1. 24 & Kovp d6avciToiai avvciopos "qvioxoiaiv.

113 The Rhodian Helios had a daughter Alektrona, who died unmarried and was venerated as a heroine (SIG 338; Diod. 5. 56. 5).

114 RV 1. 112. 8; 116. 14, 16; 117. 17 f.; 8. 5. 23; 10. 39. 3; MBh. 3. 121-5. The parallel was noted by Pisani (1969), 346.

In two early Laconian dedications to Helen her name is spelled with a digamma, FeAeva.115 This rules out attempts to connect it with aeAas 'brightness', aeAyvy 'moon', or the Indian SaranyU, the Asvins' mare-mother mentioned at the end of the last chapter. The older form of the name must have been *Sweléna. We can recognize here the *-no-/- na suffix that is so characteristic of Indo-European divine names (Chapter 3). As for *swel-, it is hard not to see it as somehow related to the words for 'sun'. It resembles the Vedic and Avestan forms suvar/svàr, hvara, 'sun, solar glare', the verb svarati 'shine, gleam', Albanian diell 'sun',116 Old English swelan 'burn', German schwelen, Lithuanian svilti 'grill'; in Greek itself we have ¿'Ay, eïAy (< *è-hFéAa), meaning 'sunshine, sun's heat'. These connections have long been noted.117 They set Helen in etymological contact with Surya, and make her by origin something like the Mistress of Sunlight.

She can manifest herself as a luminous body. The Dioskouroi, who can appear to storm-tossed sailors bringing light and salvation, were identified in the electrical discharges that can play about ships' masts and are known as corposants or St Elmo's fire. Occasionally Helen too is associated with this phenomenon.118

Her birth from a goose-egg (Cypria fr. 11 W., cf. Sappho fr. 166) may perhaps reflect her solar affinities. Baltic myth furnishes a striking parallel. The Indo-European mythology of the Daughter of the Sun spread from Latvia to neighbouring Estonia and across the gulf to Finland.119 Saules meita became in Estonia 'Salme', a maiden of outstanding beauty who was wooed by the Sun, the Moon, and the eldest son of the Stars (whom she chose). And she was born from a goose-egg.120

The Dioskouroi cannot be Helen's suitors, but they do pursue two other girls who seem to represent another version of the Daughter of the Sun. These

115 SEG 457 (c.675-650), 458 (sixth century). The digamma is also attested by grammarians: Dion. Hal. Ant. 1. 20. 3; Marius Victorinus, Gramm. Lat. vi. 15. 6; Astyages ap. Prisc. Inst. 1. 20, who quoted a verse ¿^dpevas FeAévav ¿AiKomiSa (PMG 1011a, perhaps Alcman). It is mostly neglected in Homer except in the formula (Sios) AAeÇavSpos, EAév-qs noais yVKOpOlG.

116 From *swel-: E. Hamp in Per Aspera ad Asteriscos (as Chapter 4, n. 5), 207.

117 At least since Mannhardt (1875), 310.

118 Cf. Eur. Or. 1637, 1690. Later a double corposant was considered a good sign, a single one (= Helen) a bad one: Sosibius FGrHist595 F 20; Pliny, HN2. 101; Stat. Theb. 7. 792, Silv. 3. 2. 8-12; O. Skutsch, JHS 107 (1987), 191 f. One of the Latvian songs (LD 33776, Jonval no. 403) goes: 'Deux chandelles brûlaient sur la mer, I dans les flambeaux d'argent. I Elles sont allumées par les Fils de Dieu I attendant la Fille de Saule.'

119 Mannhardt (1875), 314 f.; K. Krohn, Finnisch-ugrische Forschungen 3 (1903), 15-44; von Schroeder (1914-16), ii. 425-33.

120 H. Neus, Ehstnische Volkslieder (Reval [Tallinn] 1850-2), i. 9-23; Kalevipoeg 1. 126-863. For the sun as an egg see F. Lukas, 'Das Ei als kosmologische Vorstellung', Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde 4 (1894), 227-43.

are the Leukippides, daughters of Apollo or of Leukippos 'Whitehorse'. They were called Phoibe 'Shining' and Hilaeira 'Genial' (a word applied by Empedocles to fire and the Moon). All these names look distinctly solar. If 'Whitehorse' stands for the Sun-god, the girls are daughters of the Sun; two rather than one, because it was felt (as in the Baltic tradition) that two males could not jointly possess one female. They were betrothed to Idas and Lynkeus, but the Dioskouroi carried them off from the wedding feast in their chariot. They were venerated at Sparta in conjunction with the Dioskouroi, and the egg from which Helen was born was to be seen (miraculously repaired) hanging from the roof of their shrine.121

Abduction of the Sun-maiden figure is a recurrent motif in this complex of legend. Helen as a young girl was abducted by Theseus and Peirithoos; the Dioskouroi pursued them to Aphidna in Attica and recovered her. Her more famous abduction, however, came about when she was already married. Her marriage, we have noted, was arranged by the Dioskouroi, her brothers. Since they cannot be suitors, they are replaced in that role by another pair of brothers, the two Atreidai, Agamemnon and Menelaus. The monogamy principle means that the Atreidai cannot both have her, but 'Hesiod' (fr. 197. 1-5) related that they made their suit jointly: Agamemnon was able to offer a bigger bride-price than anyone else in Greece, and the Dioskouroi would have awarded Helen to him, but he (being already married to her sister Clytae-mestra) was bidding on behalf of his brother. She therefore became the wife of Menelaus. But when she was abducted by Paris, it was the Atreidai as a pair who led the expedition to retrieve her.122

This is the story of the Trojan War. Here we are in the realm of semi- or quasi-historical saga. Helen has become a mortal woman, if an exceptional one, and her celestial connections are forgotten. But the pattern of the old Indo-European myth has left its imprint.123

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