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The Judgement of Paris

April 13, 2013

Following on from yesterdays review of Helen of Troy I wanted to reflect on The Judgement of Paris.

Hermes came to Paris with a directive from Zeus that he would judge a competition between the goddesses to decide who was the most beautiful and deserved the Golden Apple of the Hesperides; upon which the words ‘to the fairest’ were inscribed.

Judgement of Paris

Judgement of Paris

Each of the goddesses attempted to bride Paris with something of value; Hera, power, Athene, Wisdom and Aphrodite, love. The bribes offered by the goddesses reflect the attributes that were a part of their personification. Paris, seduced by Aphrodite’s offer, granted her the apple incurring the wrath of Hera and Athene; who then conspired together to ensure the downfall of Troy.

This is considered a key episode in the myth which led to the Trojan War; Paris’ desire for Helen resulted in a complete disregard for the sanctity of marriage (something that Hera was the patron goddess of). Furthermore, Paris’ rejection of Hera and Athene created two powerful enemies with a grudge against the prince of Troy.

The title given to this episode, The Judgement of Paris, can be interpreted in two ways. Paris is judging the beauty contest but also he is being judged himself. Paris’ choice determined the fate of both sides in the campaign to come.

I consider that the choice itself maybe representative of a certain belief in respect of human desires. It is possible that it was thought that the human need for love and passion was the over arching drive; all reason left a person when this took hold (this has been referred to as the madness of Aphrodite).

Regardless of my views it can certainly be agreed that Paris was given an impossible task; the myth tells that Zeus refused to settle the argument between the goddesses as he knew any decision he made would upset the others and cause centuries of strife on Olympus. Therefore, it can be inferred that whomever Paris chose it would be unlikely that the goddesses would have been content.

The only one content as a result of Paris’ choice, in the end, was Aphrodite who won her prize; the goddesses may have got their revenge but in the sacking of Troy their temples were pillaged and destroyed. The choice also ultimately cost Paris his life.

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From → Mythical Figures

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