Golden Apple, photo by Chris ParfittThe first of a two part series on Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos and discord, in which we explore Her origins and most famous myth.

Eris is a Greek goddess, the Latin form of her name being Discordia. She is best known as a goddess of chaos; She is mischievous and something of a trickster. She is sometimes described as the twin of Ares, daughter of Zeus and Hera, or, alternately, as the daughter of Nyx.

The most well known story of Eris recounts how She instigated the Trojan War. Due to Her reputation of spreading discord, She was not invited to the wedding feast of Peleus and Thetis, the king of Aegina and a sea-nymph, respectively. Bitter as a result of the snub, She tossed into the party a golden apple inscribed with the word Kallisti, which translates “To the Prettiest One,” also known as the Apple of Discord.

Naturally, all the goddesses fought for it, but in the end it came down to three, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. They petitioned Zeus to make the final decision on who it was intended for, but He wisely declined, and instead pointed to young Paris, son of Priam, the king of Troy’s estranged son. Due to an unfortunate prophesy, Paris had been banished to Mount Ida and raised as a shepherd.

The three goddesses appeared before Paris with the golden apple, and demanded he make his choice. In secret, each of the goddesses attempted to sway his opinion in their favour; Hera promised Paris political power, Athena offered war victories, but clever Aphrodite pledged him the most beautiful woman on Earth. Being the lusty young fellow that he was, Paris gave Aphrodite the golden apple and expected to receive Aphrodite, Herself.

Aphrodite, surely amused, explained that She offered him the most beautiful woman on Earth, and clearly, She was a goddess. But true to her word, she manoeuvred circumstances so Paris could claim his prize, the beautiful Helen of Sparta, wed to Menelaus. Paris woos Helen, with the aid of Aphrodite, and they leave for Troy.

Of course, upon discovering the disappearance of Helen and her new whereabouts, Menelaus demanded of Troy the return of his queen, and everyone knows what happened after that.

First published on on 23 May 2006.

Image credit: Chris Parfitt