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[5] But some say that Hermes, in obedience to the will of Zeus, stole Helen and carried her to Egypt, and gave her to Proteus, king of the Egyptians, to guard, and that Alexander repaired to Troy with a phantom of Helen fashioned out of clouds.1

1 Compare Eur. Hel. 31-51; Eur. Hel. 582ff.; Eur. Hel. 669ff.; Eur. El. 1280ff. In the Helen the dramatist says that Hera, angry with Paris for preferring Aphrodite to her, fashioned a phantom Helen which he wedded, while the real Helen was transported by Hermes to Egypt and committed to the care of Proteus. In the Electra the poet says that it was Zeus who sent a phantom Helen to Troy, in order to stir up strife and provoke bloodshed among men. A different account is given by Hdt. 2.112-120. According to him, Paris carried the real Helen to Egypt, but there king Proteus, indignant at the crime of which Paris had been guilty, banished him from Egypt and detained Helen in safekeeping until her true husband, Menelaus, came and fetched her away. Compare Philostratus, Vit. Apollon. iv.16; Tzetzes, Antehomerica 147ff. Later writers accepted this view, adding that instead of the real Helen, whom he kept, Proteus conjured up by magic art a phantom Helen, which he gave to Paris to carry away with him to Troy. See Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 113; Serv. Verg. A. 1.651 and ii.592. So far as we know, the poet Stesichorus in the sixth century before our era was the first to broach the theory that Helen at Troy, for whom the Greeks and Trojans fought and died, was a mere wraith, while her true self was far away, whether at home in Sparta or with Proteus in Egypt; for there is nothing to show whether Stesichorus shared the opinion that Paris had spirited her away to the East before he returned, with or without her, to Troy. This view the poet propounded by way of an apology to Helen for the evil he had spoken of her in a former poem; for having lost the sight of his eyes he ascribed the loss to the vengeance of the heroine, and sought to propitiate her by formally retracting all the scandals he had bruited about concerning her. See Plat. Phaedrus 243a-b; Plat. Rep. 9.586c; Isoc. 10.64; Paus. 3.19.13; Poetae Lyrici Graeci, ed. Th. Bergk, iii.980ff.

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