Greek Mythology: The Judgement of Paris

Updated on June 11, 2018
'The Judgement of Paris', Peter Paul Rubens, cc. 1632-35
'The Judgement of Paris', Peter Paul Rubens, cc. 1632-35 | Source

Taken on its own, the story of the Judgement of Paris is actually a very simple one - a story that seems almost comedic, in nature. Yet, it is also a small part of a much larger story - one that begins with what should have been a simple contest, but which ends with the destruction of the city of Troy.

The wedding of the sea nymph, Thetis, to the mortal king, Peleus, was set to be a lavish affair. Along with the greatest kings of Ancient Greece, it was a wedding to be attended by all of the gods of Mount Olympus - all, except for one. Fearing that she would inevitably cause some manner of disruption Eris, the Goddess of Strife and Discord, was not invited to attend. When Eris put in an appearance anyway, she was quickly turned away.

Eris was, quite naturally, angered by this insult. In the end, the issue of whether the Goddess of Discord actually would have ruined the wedding, had she been invited, became entirely moot - she was certainly willing to do so after being insulted so blatantly.

Eris was clever, though - simply disrupting the wedding, herself, was not good enough for her. Instead, the revenge that she planned was both subtle, and very simple. Travelling to the Garden of the Hesperides, an orchard belonging to the goddess Hera, where golden apples capable of granting immortality grew, Eris plucked the largest she could find from the branches of the tallest tree. On this apple, Eris inscribed the single word 'Kallistai', which roughly translates to 'to the fairest'. Making her way back to the wedding ceremony, Eris tossed the apple into the gathered throng of deities - then, fell back into the shadows to enjoy the result of her efforts.

Eris did not have to wait for long, of course. Upon seeing the apple, three goddesses immediately reached forward to claim it - each believing that it was meant for them. They were Hera, the wife of Zeus and Queen of Mount Olympus, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

With each believing that the golden apple was clearly theirs, the inevitable argument that ensued between the three goddesses brought on abrupt halt to what had been a joyous wedding ceremony - just as Eris had intended. Barely able to contain her own amusement, Eris slipped away before she was noticed. The three goddesses, meanwhile, turned to Zeus, demanding that the king of Mount Olympus should decide who was most deserving of the golden apple. For reasons which should be fairly obvious, though, Zeus found that this was decision that he wanted no part of - so, instead, the rule of the gods sought to pass the responsibility off onto someone else, by offering to find a fair and impartial judge.

Zeus's chosen judge was a young man called Paris - a shepherd who had already earned himself a reputation for fairness. Previously, Paris had come to the attention of the gods of Mount Olympus when, upon declaring one of his own bulls to be the finest in all of the world, he had found himself presented with a new bull that was actually the god of war, Ares, in disguise. For Ares, this had simply been intended as a joke - yet, he was still impressed when the one shepherd immediately recanted on his earlier boasting and declared that the disguised deity made for a much finer specimen than his own.

It was for this reason that Zeus came to the conclusion that Paris would be the most capable of making a fair and impartial decision between the three goddesses - and, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite agreed with this decision. So, guided by the messenger god, Hermes, the three goddesses made their way to Mount Idea, where they confronted Paris and demanded that he make his judgement.

Despite his best efforts, though, Paris soon found that he could not choose between them. Each was beautiful, of course - but, their beauty was of such a different sort, that it proved impossible for Paris to fairly measure one against the other.

In time, the three goddesses began to grow weary of waiting for Paris to make his final judgement - and so, each approached him in secret, attempting to sway his decision in their favour. Hera offered to make Paris the king of all of Europe and Asia, if he would declare her to the fairest of the three. Athena offered to grant him wisdom, and the skills of the mightiest warriors of ancient Greece. Aphrodite offered him to the love of the most beautiful mortal woman in all of the ancient world - Helen of Sparta, the wife of King Menelaus.

In the end, it was Aphrodite's promise that swayed Paris, and he presented the golden apple to her - instantly earning himself the enmity of both Hera and Athena.

Of course, Paris had never been a simple shepherd. In truth, Paris as a prince of the city of Troy - the son of King Priam. Upon his birth, it was prophesied that Paris would bring about the ruin of that grand city - and so, it was decided that he should be sent away.

In the years that followed, though, Paris was ultimately welcomed back to the city of his birth, and invited to claim his true status as prince. As he made his return to the city of Troy, though, Paris did so in the company of Helen who, with the aid of Aphrodite, he had managed to steal away from her husband.

When Paris returned to Troy, he brought anger of a well-respected king and two powerful goddesses with him - setting in motion a series of events which would eventually lead to the Trojan War.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)