Posted by: Dutch | February 22, 2010

The face that launched a thousand ships

Meaning

A reference to Helen of Troy (or some would say, to Aphrodite) whose beauty was said to be the cause of the Trojan Wars and the reason for Troy’s naval fleet to be launched into battle.

Origin

Christopher Marlowe, in Doctor Faustus (variously dated between 1590 and 1604), referring to Helen of Troy, or as Marlowe had it ‘Helen of Greece’:

” Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.”

– Sincerest thanks to Gary Martin of The Phrase Finder

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