Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke
Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland was an Anglo-Norman nobleman notable for his leading role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. Like his father, Richard fitz Gilbert has since become known by his nickname Strongbow which may be a mistranscription or mistranslation of Striguil, his son Gilbert de Striguil, or Strigoil, died unmarried before 1189. As a minor, he never became an earl, thus the earldom was passed with Richard's daughter Isabel to her spouse William Marshall. Richard's cognomen Strongbow has become the name he is best known by, but it is unlikely that he was called that at the time. Cognomens of other Cambro-Norman and Norman lords were Norman-French as the nobility spoke French and, with few exceptions, official documents were written in Latin during this period; the confusion seems to have arisen. In the Domesday Exchequer annals between 1300 and 1304 it was written as "Ricardus cognomento Stranghose Comes Strugulliae." This chronicler erroneously has attributed Stranghose as a cognomen, where it is much more a variant spelling or mistranscription of Striguil, called Strangboge, Stranboue or Stranbohe in other transcriptions.
It is in the fourteenth century that we have Richard's name rendered as Strongbow "Earl Richard son of Gilbert Strongbow." Richard was the son of 1st Earl of Pembroke and Isabel de Beaumont. Richard's father died in about 1148, when he was 18 years old, Richard inherited the title'count of Strigoil' Earl of Pembroke, it is probable that this title was not recognized at Henry II's coronation in 1154. As the son of the first'earl', he succeeded to his father's estates in 1148, but was deprived of the title by King Henry II of England in 1154 for siding with King Stephen of England against Henry's mother, the Empress Matilda. Richard was in fact, called by his contemporaries Count Striguil, for his marcher lordship of Striguil where he had a fortress at a place now called Chepstow, in Monmouthshire on the River Wye, he saw an opportunity to reverse his bad fortune in 1168 when he met Diarmait Mac Murchada, the deposed King of Leinster. In 1167, Diarmait Mac Murchada was deprived of the Kingdom of Leinster by the High King of Ireland – Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair.
The grounds for the dispossession were that Mac Murchada had, in 1152, abducted Derbforgaill, the wife of the King of Breifne, Tiernan O'Rourke. To recover his kingdom, Mac Murchada solicited help from the King of England – Henry II; the deposed king embarked for Bristol from near Bannow on 1 August 1166. He met Henry in Aquitaine in the Autumn of 1166. Henry could not help him at this time, but provided a letter of comfort for willing supporters of Mac Murchada's cause in his kingdom. However, after his return to Wales, he failed to rally any forces to his standard, he met the count of Striguil and other barons of the Welsh Marches. Mac Murchada came to an agreement with Richard de Clare: for the Earl's assistance with an army the following spring, he could have Aoife, Mac Murchada's eldest daughter in marriage and the succession to Leinster; as Henry's approval or licence to Mac Murchada was a general one, the count of Striguil thought it prudent to obtain Henry's specific consent to travel to Ireland: he waited two years to do this.
The licence he got was to aid Mac Murchada in the recovery of his kingdom of Leinster. Mac Murchada and Richard de Clare raised a large army, which included Welsh archers and arranged for Raymond FitzGerald to lead it; the force took the Ostman towns of Wexford and Dublin in rapid succession between 1169 and 1170. Richard de Clare, was not with the first invading party and arrived in August 1170. In May 1171, Diarmait Mac Murchada died and his son, Donal MacMurrough-Kavanagh, claimed the kingdom of Leinster in accordance with his rights under the Brehon Laws. Richard de Clare claimed the kingship in the right of his wife. At this time, Strongbow sent his uncle, Hervey de Montmorency, on an embassy to Henry II; this was necessary to appease the King, growing restive at the count's increasing power. Upon his return, de Montmorency conveyed the King's terms – the return of Richard de Clare's lands in France and Wales as well as leaving him in possession of his Irish lands. In return, Richard de Clare surrendered Dublin and other fortresses to the English king.
Henry's intervention was successful and both the Gaelic and Norman lords in the south and east of Ireland accepted his rule. Henry stayed in Ireland six months, he put his own men into Richard keeping only Kildare. In 1173 Richard went in person to France to help Henry II during the rebellion by his sons, being reinstated in Leinster as a reward. In 1174 he advanced into Connaught and was defeated, but subsequently Raymond FitzGerald re-established his supremacy in Leinster. By an unknown mistress, Richard de Clare fathered two daughters: Aline de Clare, who married William FitzMaurice FitzGerald, baron of Naas Basilia de Clare, who married Robert de Quenci, Constable of LeinsterOn about 26 August 1171 in Reginald's Tower, Richard de Clare married MacMurrough's daughter, Aoife MacMurrough, their children were: Gilbert de Clare, 3rd Earl of Pemb
The monastery of Clonmacnoise (Cluain Mhic Nóis in Irish, meaning "Meadow of the Sons of Nós", is situated in County Offaly, Ireland on the River Shannon south of Athlone. Clonmacnoise was founded in 544 by St. Ciarán, a young man from Rathcroghan, County Roscommon.. Until the 9th century it had close associations with the kings of Connacht; the strategic location of the monastery helped it become a major centre of religion, learning and trade by the 9th century and together with Clonard it was the most famous in Ireland, visited by scholars from all over Europe. From the ninth until the eleventh century it was allied with the kings of Meath. Many of the high kings of Tara and Connacht were buried here; the preserved ruin is managed by the Office of Public Works. An Interpretive Centre is open to the public, the graveyard is in use and religious services are held in a modern chapel. Shortly after his arrival with seven companions – at the point where the major east–west land route through the bogs of central Ireland along the Eiscir Riada, an esker left by the receding glaciers of the last ice age crossed the River Shannon – Saint Ciarán met Diarmait Uí Cerbaill who helped him build the first church at the site.
This was the first of many small churches to be clustered on the site. Diarmuid was to be the first Christian crowned High King of Ireland. In September 549, not yet thirty-three years of age, Ciarán died of a plague, was buried under the original wooden church, now the site of the 9th-century stone oratory, Temple Ciarán. According to Adomnan of Iona, who referenced the testimony of earlier abbots of Iona who had known Columba, St Columba visited the monastery at Clonmacnoise during the time when he was founding the monastery at Durrow. While he was there he prophesied about the future debates in the churches of Ireland about the dating of Easter and claimed that angels had visited the monastery at Clonmacnoise. While he was there, there was a young monk named Ernéne mac Craséni who tried to touch Columba's clothes while Columba was not looking, but the saint noticed and grabbed the boy by the neck, told him to open his mouth and he blessed him, saying that he would teach the doctrine of salvation.
Towards the close of the seventh century a plague carried off a large number of its students and professors. Clonmacnoise's period of greatest growth came between the 12th centuries, it was attacked during these four centuries the Irish, the Vikings and Normans. The early wooden buildings began to be replaced by more durable stone structures in the 9th century, the original population of fewer than ten men grew to 1,500 to 2,000 by the 11th century. Although the site was based around a core of churches, crosses and ecclesiastical dwellings and workshops, it would have been surrounded by the houses and streets of a larger secular community, the metalworkers and farmers who supported the monastic clergy and their students. Artisans associated with the site created some of the most beautiful and enduring artworks in metal and stone seen in Ireland, with the Clonmacnoise Crozier and the Cross of the Scriptures representing the apex of their efforts; the Book of the Dun Cow a vellum manuscript dating to the 12th century, was written here and its main compiler, Máel Muire mac Céilechair meic Cuinn na mBocht reputedly murdered in a Viking raid in 1106.
By the 12th century Clonmacnoise began to decline. The reasons were varied, but without doubt the most debilitating factor was the growth of the town of Athlone to the north of the site from the late-12th century. Athlone became the main trading town for the midlands of Ireland, the most popular route for crossing the Shannon, as well as the best-defended settlement in the region. People migrated north from Clonmacnoise to Athlone, with the fall in population went much of the support that the site needed to survive, former allies began to recognise the decline in the site's influence; the influx of continental religious orders such as the Franciscans, Benedictines, etc. around the same time fed into this decline as numerous competing sites began to crop up. Ireland's move from a monastic framework to a diocesan one in the twelfth century diminished the site's religious standing, as it was designated the seat of a small and impoverished diocese. In 1552 the English garrison at Athlone destroyed and looted Clonmacnoise for the final time, leaving it in ruins.
The monastery ruins were one of the stops on the itinerary of Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ireland in 1979. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and a large collection of Early Christian graveslabs. Most of the churches have undergone comprehensive conservation works re-pointing, with the Nun's Church under wraps while it too undergoes the same process. O'Rourke's Tower: Though named O'Rourkes' Tower, after 10th-century Connacht king Fergal O'Rourke, the Chronicum Scotorum records that it was finished in 1124 by Turlough O'Connor, king of Connacht, Gilla Christ Ua Maoileoin, abbot of Clonmacnoise. 11 years it was struck by lightning which knocked off the head of the tower. The upper part of the tower is work, so there is some speculation that the masonry thus toppled in the storm of 1135 may have been reused in the building of McCarthy's Tower. Temple Finghín & McCarthy's Tower: Romanesque church and round tower – 12th century.
An unusual occurrence w
Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair
Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair was King of Connacht from 1156 to 1186, High King of Ireland from 1166 to 1193. He was the last High King of Ireland before the Norman invasion. Ruaidrí was one of over twenty sons of King Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, he and his sister Mór were Tairrdelbach's only children from his third wife, Cailech Dé Ní hEidin of Aidhne. Ruaidrí was not a favourite of his father, his brother Conchobar Ua Conchobair being Tairrdelbach's tánaiste and designated heir. In 1136, he and his brother Aedh took advantage of a low in Tairrdelbach's fortunes to stage a rebellion. Aedh was blinded by Conchobar on Tairrdelbach's orders but Ruaidrí was protected by the Archbishop of Connacht, Muireadhach Ua Dubhthaigh. In 1143, he staged another rebellion, he was arrested by Tighearnán Ua Ruairc. Ruaidhri, was taken by Toirdhealbhach Ua Conchobhair, in violation of laity and clergy and protection; these were the sureties: Muireadhach Ua Dubhthaigh, with the clergy and laity of Connacht. The clergy of Connacht, with Muireadhach Ua Dubhthaigh, fasted at Rath-Brenainn, to get their guarantee, but it was not observed for them.
After a year's imprisonment, Archbishop of Armagh Gilla Meic Liac mac Diarmata sought his release by April 1144, along with his confederates Domnall Ua Flaithbertaig and Cathal Ua Conchobair. However, Tairrdelbach only acquiesced upon the assassination of Conchobar in Mide that year. Tairrdelbach now chose another son, Donnell Mor Mideach Ua Conchobair, as tánaiste, but Ruaidrí improved his status with raids against Tighearnán Ua Ruairc in 1146 and capturing and killing Tairrdelbach's nephew and opponent, Domnall Ua Conchobar, in 1150. Donnell Mór Mideach began to lose favour in 1147 and his fate was sealed when he was arrested in 1151, making solid Ruadrí's claim as his father's heir. In that year Ruadrí raided Thomond, where Tairrdelbach won a great victory at the Battle of Móin Mór. In 1152, Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn travelled into compelling hostages of Tairrdelbach. "They divided Meath into two parts on this occasion. On this occasion Dearbhforgaill, daughter of Murchadh Ua Maeleachlainn, wife of Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, was brought away by the King of Leinster".
Ruaidrí remained active in suppressing the Ua Briain's of Munster, burning Croome, dividing Munster in half, expelling Toirrdelbach mac Diarmata into Ailech. This gave reason for Mac Lochlainn to travel south with an army in 1153. Tairrdelbach was beaten off by Mac Lochlainn, leaving Ruaidhri and his men exposed at Fordruim,: Ruaidhri, son of Toirdhealbhach, the battalion of West Connacht, the recruits of Sil-Muireadhaigh, came to Fordruim; the Ua Conchobair's brought "the fleets of Dun-Gaillmhe, of Conmhaicne-mara, of the men of Umhall, of Ui-Amhalghadha, Ui-Fiachrach" north and defeated Mac Lochlainn at Inis Eoghain, but the latter was strong on land, forcing them to respond to incursions in east Connacht and Breifne, along with attempted settlements in Mide in 1155. The latter led to "The castle of Cuileanntrach burned and demolished by Ruaidhri." Tairrdelbach died at his capital of County Galway. Ruaidri became king of Connacht "without any opposition" As a precaution, he arrested three of his twenty-two brothers, "Brian Breifneach, Brian Luighneach, Muircheartach Muimhneach" to prevent them from usurping him.
On learning of Tairrdelbach's death, Mac Lochlainn assumed the High-Kingship and began a war of attrition in Leinster and Osraige, using their regional allies against one another. Over the winter of 1156–57 he positioned a fleet on the River Shannon in anticipation of an attack from Aileach, yet Mac Lochlinn imposed his own client king in Mide, took hostages from Dermot MacMurrough, evicted the kings of Loígis, Uí Failghe and Osraige, all of whom fled to Connacht. He subdued all Munster and captured Luimneach. Forced to attack or lose face, Ruaidrí responded by plundering and burning areas around Strabane and Derry. While Mac Lochlinn was returning home to counter him, Ruaidrí entered Munster and overturned Mac Lochlinn's political settlement; the last of Ruaidrí's descendants to hold the kingship of Connacht, Aedh mac Ruaidri Ua Conchobair, died in 1233. The Annals of Connacht give the following reason for this: Aed mac Ruaidri had been five years King of Connacht, as the poet said:'Aed mac Ruaidri of the swift onslaught, five years his rule over the province, till he fell— a loss on every frontier— by the hand of Fedlimid.'
Here ends the rule of the children of Ruaidri O Conchobair, King of Ireland. For the Pope offered him the title to Ireland for himself and his seed for and six wives, if he would renounce the sin of adultery henceforth.
Diarmait Mac Murchada
Diarmait Mac Murchada, anglicised as Dermot MacMurrough, Dermod MacMurrough, Dermot MacMorrogh or Dermot MacMorrow, was a King of Leinster in Ireland. In 1167, he was deprived of his kingdom by the High King of Ireland – Ruaidri Ua Conchobair; the grounds for the dispossession were that Mac Murchada had, in 1152, abducted Derbforgaill, the wife of the King of Breifne, Tiernan O'Rourke. To recover his kingdom, Mac Murchada solicited help from the King of England Henry II of England, his issue unresolved, he gained the military support of the Earl Richard de Clare, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, in opposition to Henry II due to his support for Stephen, King of England against Henry's mother in The Anarchy. In exchange for his aid, Strongbow was married to Mac Murchada's daughter Aoife and promised succession to the Kingship of Leinster. Henry II mounted a larger second invasion in 1171 to ensure his control over Strongbow, resulting in the Norman Lordship of Ireland. Mac Murchada was known as Diarmait na nGall.
Diarmait was born around a son of Donnchad mac Murchada, King of Leinster and Dublin. His father's paternal grandmother, was a daughter of Donnchad, King of Munster and thus a granddaughter of Brian Boru. In 1115 his father died in the ensuing battle; the citizens of Dublin buried him with the carcass of a dog, considered to be a huge insult. He had two wives, the first of whom, Sadb Ní Faeláin, was mother of a daughter named Órlaith who married Domnall Mór, King of Munster, his second wife, Mór ingen Muirchertaig, was mother of Aoife / Eva of Leinster and his youngest son Conchobar Mac Murchada. He had two other sons, Domhnall Caomhánach mac Murchada and Énna Cennselach mac Murchada. Diarmait is buried in the Cathedral graveyard of Ferns village. After the death of his older brother, Énna Mac Murchada, Diarmait unexpectedly became King of Leinster; this was opposed by the High King of Ireland, Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair who feared that Mac Murchada would become a rival. Toirdelbach sent one of his allied Kings, Tigernán Ua Ruairc to conquer Leinster and oust the young Mac Murchada.
Ua Ruairc went on a brutal campaign slaughtering the livestock of Leinster and thereby trying to starve the province's residents. Mac Murchada was ousted from his throne, but was able to regain it with the help of Leinster clans in 1132. Afterwards followed two decades of an uneasy peace between Ua Diarmait. In 1152 he assisted the High King to raid the land of Ua Ruairc who had by become a renegade. Mac Murchada is said to have abducted Ua Ruairc's wife Derbforgaill along with all her furniture and goods, with the aid of Derbforgaill's brother, a future pretender to the kingship of Meath. Other sources say that Derbforgaill was not an unwilling prisoner and that she remained in Ferns with Mac Murchada in comfort for a number of years, her advanced age indicates that she may have been a hostage. Whatever the reality, the abduction was given as a further reason for enmity between the two kings; as king of Leinster, in 1140–70 Diarmait commissioned Irish Romanesque churches and abbeys at: Baltinglass – a Cistercian abbey Glendalough Ferns KilleshinHe sponsored convents at Dublin, in c.1151 two more at Aghade, County Carlow and at Kilculliheen near Waterford city.
He sponsored the successful career of churchman St Lawrence O'Toole. He married O'Toole's half-sister Mor in 1153 and presided at the synod of Clane in 1161 when O'Toole was installed as archbishop of Dublin. In 1166, Ireland's new High King and Mac Murchada's only ally Muirchertach Ua Lochlainn had fallen, a large coalition led by Tigernán Ua Ruairc marched on Leinster; the High King deposed Mac Murchada from the throne of Leinster. Mac Murchada fled to Wales and from there to England and France seeking the support of Henry II of England in the recruitment of soldiers to reclaim his kingship. Henry authorised Diarmait to seek help from the mercenaries in his kingdom; those who agreed to help included Richard de Clare and half-brothers Robert Fitz-Stephen and Maurice FitzGerald. Robert was accompanied by his half-nephew Robert de Barry. Strongbow was offered Diarmait's daughter Aoife in marriage and promised the kingship of Leinster on Diarmait's death. Robert and Maurice were promised elsewhere for their services.
In Mac Murchada's absence, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair had become the new King of Ireland. On returning to Wales, Robert Fitz-Stephen helped him organise a mercenary army of English and Welsh soldiers. Landing at Bannow Bay, they laid siege to Wexford which fell in May 1169. After a period of inactivity, they went on to raid the Kingdom of Ossory, they launched raids in the territories of the Uí Tuathail, the Uí Broin, Uí Conchobhair Failghe. Mac Murchada gambled that King Ruaidrí would not hurt the Leinster hostages which he had, which included Mac Murchada's son, Conchobar Mac Murchada; however Ua Ruairc forced his hand and they were all killed. Although he had been distracted by disturbances else where in the kingdom, King Ruaidrí could no longer ignore this powerful force, he marched his forces into Leinster and, with the mediation of the Church, the commanders of the two armies began negotiations at Ferns, Diarmait's political base. An agreement was reached, whereby Diarmait was allowed to remain King of Leinster with Diarmait for his par
Mellifont Abbey, was a Cistercian abbey located close to Drogheda in County Louth, Ireland. It was the first abbey of the order to be built in Ireland. In 1152, it hosted the Synod of Kells-Mellifont. After its dissolution in 1539 the abbey became a private manor house; this saw the signing of the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603 and served as William of Orange's headquarters in 1690 during the Battle of the Boyne. Today, the ruined abbey accessible to the public; the English language name for the monastery,'Mellifont', comes from the Latin phrase Melli-fons, meaning'Font of Honey'. Mellifont Abbey sits on the banks of some 10 km north-west of Drogheda; the abbey was founded in 1142 on the orders of Archbishop of Armagh. By 1170, Mellifont had three hundred lay brothers; the abbey became the model for other Cistercian abbeys built in Ireland, with its formal style of architecture imported from the abbeys of the same order in France. An important synod was held in Mellifont in 1152 as recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters, which states that the synod was attended by bishops and kings along with the Papal Legate, Giovanni Cardinal Paparoni.
The consecration of the church took place in 1157 and asserted Church authority by banishing the King of Meath, Donnchadh Ua Maeleachlainn. Various kings gave donations to assist this foundation: Muirchertach Ua Lochlainn, provincial king of Ulster, gave cattle, some gold and a local town land, Donnchad Ua Cearbhall, the king of Airgialla, who had donated the land gave gold, while Derbforgaill, the wife of Tigernan Ua Ruairc gave gold, a chalice and altar cloths; the abbey was dissolved in 1539. In 1603 the Treaty of Mellifont was agreed between the English Crown and Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, in the abbey grounds. Mellifont was the property of The 1st Viscount Moore, a close friend of Lord Tyrone, helped persuade him to sign the Treaty; the Moore family, who became Earls of Drogheda, remained the owners of Mellifont until 1727. William of Orange used Mellifont Abbey House as his headquarters during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Mellifont Abbey is now a ruin. Little of the original abbey remains, save a 13th-century lavabo, some Romanesque arches and a 14th-century chapter house.
Tommaltach Ua Conchobair New Mellifont Abbey is home to the Cistercian Order in County Louth and is located in Collon, a small village and townland in the south west corner of County Louth, on the N2 national primary road. List of abbeys and priories in Ireland The Boyne Valley Tourist Portal - Info on and images of Old Mellifont Abbey Herbermann, Charles, ed.. "Abbey of Mellifont". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Mellifont Abbey, Co. Louth: Its Ruins and Associations, a Guide and Popular History at Project Gutenberg
Helen of Troy
In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy known as Helen of Sparta, was said to have been the most beautiful woman in the world. She was married to King Menelaus of Sparta but was abducted by Prince Paris of Troy after the goddess Aphrodite promised her to him in the Judgement of Paris; this resulted in the Trojan War. She was believed to have been the daughter of Zeus and Leda, was the sister of Clytemnestra, Polydeuces, Philonoe and Timandra. Elements of her putative biography come from classical authors such as Aristophanes, Cicero and Homer, her story appears in Book II of Virgil's Aeneid. In her youth, she was abducted by Theseus. A competition between her suitors for her hand in marriage saw. An oath sworn by all the suitors required all of them to provide military assistance to the winning suitor, whomever he might be, if she were stolen from him; when she married Menelaus she was still young. The legends of Helen in Troy are contradictory: Homer depicts her as a wistful sorrowful figure, who came to regret her choice and wished to be reunited with Menelaus.
Other accounts have a treacherous Helen who simulated Bacchic rites and rejoiced in the carnage she caused. Paris was killed in action, in Homer's account Helen was reunited with Menelaus, though other versions of the legend recount her ascending to Olympus instead. A cult associated with her developed both at Sparta and elsewhere, she was worshiped in Attica and on Rhodes. Her beauty inspired artists of all times to represent her as the personification of ideal human beauty. Christopher Marlowe's lines from his tragedy Doctor Faustus are cited: "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?"Images of Helen start appearing in the 7th century BCE. In classical Greece, her abduction by Paris – or escape with him – was a popular motif. In medieval illustrations, this event was portrayed as a seduction, whereas in Renaissance paintings it was depicted as a "rape" by Paris; the etymology of Helen's name continues to be a problem for scholars. Georg Curtius related Helen to the moon.
Émile Boisacq considered Ἑλένη to derive from the noun ἑλένη meaning "torch". It has been suggested that the λ of Ἑλένη arose from an original ν, thus the etymology of the name is connected with the root of Venus. Linda Lee Clader, says that none of the above suggestions offers much satisfaction. Inversely, others have connected this etymology to a hypothetical Proto-Indo-European sun goddess, noting her name's connection to the word for "sun" in various Indo-European cultures. In particular, her marriage myth may be connected to a broader indo-European "marriage drama" of the sun goddess, she is related to the divine twins, just as many of these goddesses are. None of the etymological sources appear to support the existence, save as a coincidence only, of a connection between the name of Helen and the name by which the classical Greeks described themselves, namely Hellenes, after Hellen the mythological progenitor of the Greeks; the origins of Helen's myth date back to the Mycenaean age. Her name first appears in the poems of Homer, but scholars assume that such myths derive from earlier Mycenaean Greek sources.
Her mythological birthplace was Sparta of the Age of Heroes, which features prominently in the canon of Greek myth: in ancient Greek memory, the Mycenaean Bronze Age became the age of the Greek heroes. The kings and heroes of the Trojan Cycle are related to the gods, since divine origins gave stature to the Greeks' heroic ancestors; the fall of Troy came to represent a fall from an illustrious heroic age, remembered for centuries in oral tradition before being written down. Recent archaeological excavations in Greece suggest that modern-day Laconia was a distinct territory in the Late Bronze Age, while the poets narrate that it was a rich kingdom. Archaeologists have unsuccessfully looked for a Mycenaean palatial complex buried beneath present-day Sparta. From the early 1990s to the present suggest that the area around Menelaion in the southern part of the Eurotas valley seems to have been the center of Mycenaean Laconia. In most sources, including the Iliad and the Odyssey, Helen is the daughter of Zeus and of Leda, the wife of the Spartan king Tyndareus.
Euripides' play Helen, written in the late 5th century BC, is the earliest source to report the most familiar account of Helen's birth: that, although her putative father was Tyndareus, she was Zeus' daughter. In the form of a swan, the king of gods was chased by an eagle, sought refuge with Leda; the swan gained her affection, the two mated. Leda produced an egg, from which Helen emerged; the First Vatican Mythographer introduces the notion that two eggs came from the union: one containing Castor and Pollux. The same author earlier states that Helen and Pollux were produced from a single egg. Pseudo-Apollodorus states that Leda had intercourse with both Zeus and Tyndareus the night she conceived Helen. On the other hand, in the Cypria, part of the Epic Cycle, Helen was the daughter of Zeus and the goddess Nemesis; the date of the Cypria is uncertain, but it is thought to preserve traditions that date back to at leas