This is the essay I wrote as a companion to my story. This project was for my midterm in Humanities I my first year at University. I liked it, and the instructor seemed to also, so I thought perhaps someone else out there would. : )
I will add a works cited section at the end of this essay that will include the resources I used for both the story and the essay. The last link is no longer correct, but that is what it was when I wrote the essay.
The essay isn't that important, to the reader, but it shows why I chose this particular combination of women, and my thought process for the story. Enjoy.
Note: Deric is another form of Derek which is my boyfriend's middle name. Lovely enough, we are still together – and hopefully will live the long life together that we do in my story! Lol.
A Greek goddess, a saint, and an eighteen year-old American girl – sounds like the beginning of a horrible joke, right? Actually, these are three women who have more in common that it seems they would. The Greek goddess in question is Aphrodite, the saint, Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, and the American girl is me. We are all strong women who love men, though Helena and I do not see eye to eye with Aphrodite on religion. I wrote a story called "Under the Influence of Immortal Superiors." In this story, I am Rena, best friend of Helena. We begin as servant girls in a tavern in a small province of Rome, where we meet our loves. Aphrodite is a vague shadowy figure, who doesn't reveal her identity until the end. This story, while focusing on my character traits, also shows a human reliance on a more powerful being – be it the Christian God or a Greek goddess.
Saint Helena was a pious Christian woman. It is unknown whether she was a Christian long before her pilgrimage, but she at least sympathized with the Christians before. This woman fell in love with Constantius I, later to become an emperor. They had a son, Constantine, and then Constantius left her to become Maximianus' ceasar. He married Maximianus' stepdaughter, and Helena seemed to lose contact with him. She also lost her son, who was sent to live with Galerius, Diocletian's ceasar. However, when Constantius died and Constantine succeeded him, Helena's son brought her back to live with him and treated her with great honor. He even "bestowed upon his mother the title of NOBILISSIMA FEMINA, meaning 'Most Honored and Noble Lady'" (Ancient). Years later, at eighty years old, Helena went on a long pilgrimage, during which she had pagan temples destroyed, new churches built, and, allegedly, found the true cross on which Jesus was crucified. "Helena's tour became a pattern for Christian pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages and into our own day as she sought to discover and honor the places where Jesus had lived" (Remarkable). Long after she died, about the year 330, Helena is still revered as a most honored lady. "Helena is . . . a symbol of goodness and piety" (Ancient). While I am a Christian, and am passionate about my beliefs, I do not think I have the goodness, courage, or patience that Helena had.
(At this point, my instructor made this very thoughtful and definitely correct comment, "Of course, one could argue that destroying artifacts and architecture of another culture, regardless of good intention, wasn't "good" in the big picture.")
Aphrodite had courage and passion. "In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, and sexual rapture" (Lindemans). There are two different versions of Aphrodite, both stemming from stories on the way she was created. "Homer calls her the daughter of Zeus and his consort Dione," writes Micha F. Lindemans, author of the article "Aphrodite" on However, she also states, "According to Hesiod, she was born when Uranus (the father of the gods) was castrated by his son Cronus. Cronus threw the severed genitals into the ocean which began to churn and foam about them. From the aphros ("sea foam") arose Aphrodite, and the sea carried her to either Cyprus or Cythera." (Lindemans)
In either case, Aphrodite has still always been considered a beautiful, alluring goddess of love. Lindemans also writes of the festival given in honor of Aphrodite, Aphrodisiac, "celebrated in various centers of Greece and especially in Athens and Corinth. Her priestesses were not prostitutes but women who represented the goddess and sexual intercourse with them was considered just one of the methods of worship" (Lindemans). I may not be "alluring," but I like men just as much as (okay, maybe not quite as much) as Aphrodite. She, Helena, and I have the traits of passion (not just in love, but also in our beliefs), strength, and fire. Some may argue that Helena could not have been fiery – but how many eighty year-old women go on pilgrimages across more than one country? While she and I may not see quite eye-to-eye with Aphrodite on religion and monogamy vs. polygamy (Aphrodite had many lovers, both immortal and human), we do share important characteristics. When we are women with a plan, we are women that will take down anyone in our way.
I never realized before this project that a saint could have had such controversy in her life. There is even debate over whether she and Constantius were actually married! I also never realized before how like humans the Greek gods and goddesses were. They were surrounded by controversy and smothered with vengeance – almost like a really good (or really bad) soap opera. I also realized, in writing this story, that everyone has flaws – even saints – and we all rely on a higher power to help us through our lives, whether we realize it or not.
"Ancient Roman Women: Helena." Eternal Word Television Network. 2005. Eternal Word Television Network. 07 Mar. 2005 Encyclopedia Mythica. 2005. Encyclopedia Mythica Online. 07 Mar. 2005 Lawrence and John Reich. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. US: Thomson Learning, 2002.
"Remarkable Christian Women: Helena, First Christian Archaelogist." 2004. Christian History Institute. 07 Mar. 2005 chi.