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face that launched a thousand ships, Was this the

A line from the sixteenth-century play Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe. Faustus says this when the devil Mephistopheles (Marlowe spells the name “Mephistophilis”) shows him Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in history. The “thousand ships” are warships, a reference to the Trojan War (see also Trojan War).

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.