Bob Dylan And Helen Of Troy

by Larry Fyffe

Ancient mythology tells us:

Apollo’s father, Zeus (the Thunder God in Greek mythology), favours the Trojans in their war against the Greeks states, but to placate his wife Hera, Zeus looks the other way as she helps the Greek hero Odysseus triumph over the Trojan hero Aeneas, sending the latter fleeing off to Italy. Paris has judged the goddess Aphrodite over Hera as the more beautiful, Aphrodite having promised Paris (he’s a Trojan) the wife of the King of Sparta as a gift. Paris takes off with Helen, and war erupts between Greece and the city of Troy.

As the legend goes, Aeneas founds Rome, and in Roman mythology, Zeus (quite understandably since the God of Thunder forsakes Aeneas) gets a do-over, and is transformed into Jupiter, a god who interferes less in human affairs than his Greek counterpart. Anyway, what happens to the souls of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire in the Afterlife becomes more important than their physical actions on earth. In fact, Christianity eventually becomes its religion.

In the meantime, floating around in timeless Gnostic space between Earth and Heaven is the shape-shifting spirit of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan:

Some of us turn off the lights at night
In the moonlight shooting by
Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark
To be where the angels fly
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

The persona in the song above just doesn’t know which way to turn – support those with ideals akin to the Romans, or those with ideals more Greek-like? He’s advised to go back home by the woman he adores.

It’s a concern noticed in other song lyrics:

Well, you know that I'm lying
But don't' look at me with scorn
I'm going back to Rome
That's where I was born
(Bob Dylan: Going Back To Rome)

The narrator in the song lyrics above takes on the persona of general Mark Anthony who, though he’s born in Rome, gets smitten by Cleopatra who belongs to the dynasty set up in Egypt by the Greeks; nevertheless, there she presents herself as a descendant of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Anthony decides not to return to Rome; instead, he tries to prevent the Roman Empire taking over the country ruled by Queen Cleopatra.

In the lyrics below, the narrator returns to motherly Isis; according to the Holy Bible, a follower of Isis saves the Egyptian-born Hebrew Moses:

She said, "Where ya been?"; I said, "No place special"
She said, "You look different"; I said, "Well, I guess"
She said, "You've been gone"; I said, "That's only natural"
She said, "Ya gonna stay?"; I said, " If you want me too, yeah"
(Bob Dylan: Isis ~ Dylan/Levy)

In the following song lyrics, our time-traveller goes back, but he doesn’t go back all the way to the ancient Greeks; he gets in touch with the goddess Venus through a relative of the artist who paints ‘The Birth of Venus’. The painting depicts the Roman goddess as the daughter of the seafoam; she’s watery, and passive unlike the love goddess of the Greeks – Aphrodite is a daughter of Zeus, and she intervenes to protect her son Aeneus during the Trojan War:

Got to hurry back to my hotel room
Where I've got a date with Botticelli's niece
She promised that she'd be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece
(When I Paint My Masterpiece)

Achilles is a brave warrior on the side of the Greeks in the Trojan War; he dies after Paris shoots him with an arrow guided by Apollo, an expert archer. Zeus is Apollo’s father, but Hera’s not his mother. Zeus favours the Trojans; Hera, the Greeks.

In the song lyrics below, time-traveller Bob Dylan takes on the persona of Paris who has to contend with the loyal but anger-prone Achilles who’s on the mission to get Helen back:

Achilles is in your alleyway
He don't want me here, he does brag
He's pointing to the sky
And he's hungry, like a man in drag
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
You know I want your loving
Honey, but you're so hard
(Bob Dylan: Temporary Like  Archilles)

In the lyrics following, the shape-shifter transforms himself into Apollo – the archer, the musician, the poet, the sun god. Wouldn’t you know it, after Paris is killed by a friend of Hercules, Apollo ends up with the beautiful Helen on Mount Olympus:

She wakes him up
Forty-eight hours later, the sun is breaking
Near broken chains, mountain laurel, and rolling rocks
She's begging to know what measures he will now be taking
He's pulling her down, and she's clutching on to his long golden locks
(Bob Dylan: Changing Of The Guards)


  1. What do you think of:
    I’ve seen stronger walls than yours
    I’ll drag his corpse through the mud
    It also reminds me of epic classic poetry

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