The Judgement of Paris

The Judgement of Paris marks the beginnings of the Trojan War, the terrible event which has gone down in both myth and history as lasting ten years, and resulting in thousands of casualties. The Judgement of Paris does, however, revolve primarily around a series of chance circumstances that lead to this terrible outcome.

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Cecchino da Verona, Judgement of Paris from The Penguin Book of Classical Myths

It all began at the great wedding of Peleus and Thetis. They had invited all the gods to the celebrations, except Eris, the goddess of discord. They feared that she would ruin the wedding, and so, even when she turned up uninvited, they refused to let her in.

Eris did leave, but not before she provided the discord that the couple had been so desperate to avoid. She threw a golden apple into the crowd of goddesses that was addressed “to the Fairest”.

Three goddesses all laid claim to the apple, each certain that they alone were the fairest and most beautiful. These were: Hera (Zeus’ wife and sister), Athena (Zeus’ daughter) and Aphrodite (rumoured to be Zeus’ other daughter, although her parentage is unclear).

They argued for quite some time over the apple before they decided to put the matter to Zeus, demanding him to choose one of them to be “the Fairest”. Zeus, however, simply refused to choose between the goddesses, and so ordered Hermes to escort them to Paris of Troy, who would choose for him.

Paris was a mortal man, but was considered by many to be the most handsome man on Earth. He’d been banished by his father from the city of Troy after his mother had a dream about Paris destroying the city, and had become a lonely shepherd, and therefore the perfect candidate to solve the dispute between the goddesses.

Upon reaching Paris, each goddess spoke of their own beauty, trying to win him over, but, when Paris still couldn’t decide, each goddess promised Paris a gift if he were to chose them to be “the Fairest”.

Hera, Goddess of Marriage and Children, promised Paris control over all of Asia; Athena, Goddess of War and the protector of Athens, promised wisdom and victory in all battles; and Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, promised him a wife. She swore to him that he would be married to the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen, who was already married to King Menelaus of Sparta.

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[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Paris instantly chose Aphrodite as the winner, and “the Fairest” of the three goddesses, and so, to fulfil her promise, she helped him to kidnap Helen and bring her back to Troy, so that she could be his wife.

Menelaus, outraged, declared war against Troy. It was thought that Paris had brought dishonour to Menelaus’ name through the capture of his wife, and so he rallied the Greek army together, and, in doing so, initiated the Trojan War.

Sources

March, Jenny. “The Trojan War.” The Penguin Book of Classical Myths, Penguin, 2009, pp. 294-389.
Wikipedia contributors. “Judgement of Paris.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Jun. 2017. Web.

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