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THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS
PELEUS AND THETIS celebrated their marriage with a lavish ceremony on Mount Ida to which they invited all the deities of Mount Olympus. They had a large reception that included Zeus, king and father of the gods and goddesses; his wife, Hera; and their children: Athena, the goddess of wisdom who was born from Zeus's head; Aphrodite, the sea-foam—born goddess of beauty and love; Hermes, the wing-footed god whose mother was Maia, not Hera; and Ares, the god of war.
Only one of the divine group was not invited—Eris, the goddess of conflict and malicious gossip. Everybody knew Eris's amazing ability to provoke quarrels and arouse negative feelings and bad moods wherever she went. Had she been invited to the wedding, the bride and groom probably would have broken up before the end of the banquet!
Eris resented being excluded and sought revenge. She went to the garden that belonged to a group of nymphs called the Hesperides. In the garden there was a wonderful tree that bore golden apples and was guarded by Ladon, a terrible dragon that wound itself around the tree's trunk. Eris knew many tricks to assist her in such situations, so she was able to sneak into the garden and steal an apple before the dragon noticed. She carved secret words into the apple and slyly made her way to Mount Ida. Hiding behind a tree, Eris awaited her chance. When all the gods and goddesses had gathered at the banquet table, she tossed the fruit toward them and ran away.
The deities were dining merrily when they noticeda golden apple drop onto the middle of the table as if from the sky. After recovering from their initial surprise, they approached the fruit and read the message carved into it:
For the fairest
Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite looked at one another. Who of them, the three fairest goddesses of all, would claim the fruit?
"The fruit should come to me!" exclaimed Hera. "I am the fairest!"
"You? I am the fairest!" cried Athena.
"Who could be fairer than I, the goddess of love?" marveled Aphrodite.
The three goddesses argued and argued. Zeus was extremely annoyed by the bickering, but he did not dare intervene in a situation that was too much even for him. He decided to deal with the problem by calling upon someone else to do the judging.
A young shepherd named Paris was grazing his herd on the slopes of Mount Ida. Paris was actually the prince of Troy, whose father, Priam, had abandoned him because he had had a dream that Paris would one day destroy his country. Paris was very attractive and Zeus decided he would make the perfect judge, so he sent Hermes, the divine messenger, to summon Paris to the party.
When he arrived, Paris stared at the golden fruit in his hand and shook his head. "How can I, a simple shepherd, judge divine beauty?" he said. "I will divide the apple equally among the goddesses."
"No, no," cried Hermes. "That is not possible. Great Zeus commands you to choose."
Paris sighed and begged the goddesses to accept his decision no matter what the outcome would be. He decided to interview each goddess privately. The first was Hera. "If you choose me as the fairest," she said, "I will make you the richest of all men and allow you to rule all of Asia!"
Paris laid his hand over his heart. "You are splendid, divine Hera," he said. "But before I can choose, I must see the others. I will not be corrupted."
"If you name me the fairest," Athena said when it was her turn, "I will make you the most fascinating, wisest, and strongest of men." Paris gave the same reply he had given Hera.
Then it was Aphrodite's turn. Paris's heart sank the instant he spotted her. He was in love. The goddess smiled. "Your eyes say that I am the fairest, but restrain yourself," she said. "How could my divine life and your mortal life meet? It is not possible. But I know of another—mortal—woman for you. Her name is Helen, and she is as fair as I."
"If there is such a woman my heart already beats for her!" Paris replied and handed the apple to Aphrodite.
The goddess instructed him to journey to the kingdom of Menelaus, where the fair Helen lived. With Aphrodite's help, Paris stole Helen away, sparking the flames that erupted into the Trojan War. His father's dream had come true, but that is another story.
|The JUDGMENT of PARIS * A Greek Myth||10|
|DAEDALUS and the LABYRINTH * A Greek Myth||14|
|HERACLES'S LAST LABOR * A Greek Myth||18|
|RHEA SILVIA * A Roman Legend||22|
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|THOR'S HAMMER * A Scandinavian Myth||28|
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|RAMA, the INCARNATION of VISHNU * An Indian Myth||54|
|RAMA against the DEMON RAVANA * An Indian Myth||56|
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|IZANAGI and IZANAMI * A Japanese Myth||64|
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