The sources of its popularity balance between a saint and a sinner.
On one hand, there is St. Helena, mother to Constantine the Great, whose purity allowed her to discover the True Cross. On the opposite hand, there is the notorious Helen of Troy, whose adulterous flight in the arms of the Trojan prince Paris ''launched a thousand ships'' (in the words of Christopher Marlowe) and started the bloody Trojan War.
The image of the latter Helen's bewitching beauty has lasted through the ages. In a film version of Marlowe's 16th-century play Faustus, the devil offers Helen (portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor) to the title character in exchange for his soul. Faustus swiftly agrees to the bargain.