But Destiny has nurtured ominous
plants from little seeds; and this is how
one evil grew great enough to overshadow
heaven and earth.
The sea-nymph Thetis (whom Zeus himself had
once desired for his wife) was given in
marriage to a mortal, Peleus, and there was
a great wedding-feast in heaven. Thither all
the immortals were bidden, save one, Eris,
the goddess of Discord, ever an unwelcome
guest. But she came unbidden. While the
wedding-guests sat at feast, she broke in
upon their mirth, flung among them a golden
apple, and departed with looks that boded
ill. Some one picked up the strange missile
and read its inscription: For the Fairest;
and at once discussion arose among the
goddesses. They were all eager to claim the
prize, but only three persisted.
Venus, the very goddess of beauty, said that
it was hers by right; but Juno could not
endure to own herself less fair than
another, and even
Athena coveted the palm of
beauty as well as of wisdom, and would not
give it up! Discord had indeed come to the
wedding-feast. Not one of the gods dared to
decide so dangerous a question, not Zeus
himself, and the three rivals were forced to
choose a judge among mortals.
Now there lived on Mount Ida, near the city
of Troy, a certain young shepherd by the
name of Paris. He was as comely as
himself, that Trojan youth whom Zeus, in the
shape of an eagle, seized and bore away to
Olympus, to be a cup-bearer to the gods.
Paris, too, was a Trojan of royal birth, but
like Oedipus he had been left on the mountain
in his infancy, because the Oracle had
foretold that he would be the death of his
kindred and the ruin of his country. Destiny
saved and nurtured him to fulfil that
prophecy. He grew up as a shepherd and
tended his flocks on the mountain, but his
beauty held the favor of all the wood-folk
there and won the heart of the nymph Śnone.
To him, at last, the three goddesses
entrusted the judgment and the golden apple.
Juno first stood before him in all her glory
as Queen of gods and men, and attended by
her favorite peacocks as gorgeous to see as
"Use but the judgment of a prince, Paris,"
she said, "and I will give thee wealth and
Such majesty and such promises would have
moved the heart of any man; but the eager
Paris had at least to hear the claims of the
other rivals. Athena rose before him, a
vision welcome as daylight, with her
sea-gray eyes and golden hair beneath a
"Be wise in honoring me, Paris," she said,
"and I will give thee wisdom that shall last
forever, great glory among men, and renown
Last of all, Venus shone upon him, beautiful
as none can ever hope to be. If she had
come, unnamed, as any country maid, her
loveliness would have dazzled him like
sea-foam in the sun; but she was girt with
her magical Cestus, a spell of beauty that
no one can resist.
Without a bribe she might have conquered,
and she smiled upon his dumb amazement,
saying, "Paris, thou shalt yet have for wife
the fairest woman in the world."
At these words, the happy shepherd fell on
his knees and offered her the golden apple.
He took no heed of the slighted goddesses,
who vanished in a cloud that boded storm.
From that hour he sought only the counsel of
Venus, and only cared to find the highway to
his new fortunes. From her he learned that
he was the son of King Priam of Troy, and
with her assistance he deserted the nymph
Oenone, whom he had married, and went in
search of his royal kindred.
For it chanced at that time that Priam
proclaimed a contest of strength between his
sons and certain other princes, and promised
as prize the most splendid bull that could
be found among the herds of Mount Ida.
Thither came the herdsmen to choose, and
when they led away the pride of Paris's
heart, he followed to Troy, thinking that he
would try his fortune and perhaps win back
The games took place before Priam and Hecuba
and all their children, including those
noble princes Hector and Helenus, and the
young Cassandra, their sister. This poor
maiden had a sad story, in spite of her
royalty; for, because she had once disdained
Apollo, she was fated to foresee all things,
and ever to have her prophecies disbelieved.
On this fateful day, she alone was oppressed
with strange forebodings.
But if he who was to be the ruin of his
country had returned, he had come
victoriously. Paris won the contest. At the
very moment of his honor, poor Cassandra saw
him with her prophetic eyes; and seeing as
well all the guilt and misery that he was to
bring upon them, she broke into bitter
lamentations, and would have warned her
kindred against the evil to come. But the
Trojans gave little heed; they were wont to
look upon her visions as spells of madness.
Paris had come back to them a glorious youth
and a victor; and when he made known the
secret of his birth, they cast the words of
the Oracle to the winds, and received the
shepherd as a long-lost prince.
Thus far all went happily. But Venus, whose
promise had not yet been fulfilled, bade
Paris procure a ship and go in search of his
destined bride. The prince said nothing of
this quest, but urged his kindred to let him
go; and giving out a rumor that he was to
find his father's lost sister Hesione, he
set sail for Greece, and finally landed at
There he was kindly received by Menelaus,
the king, and his wife, Fair Helen.
This queen had been reared as the daughter
of Tyndarus and Queen Leda, but some say
that she was the child of an enchanted swan,
and there was indeed a strange spell about
her. All the greatest heroes of Greece had
wooed her before she left her father's
palace to be the wife of King Menelaus; and
Tyndarus, fearing for her peace, had bound
her many suitors by an oath. According to
this pledge, they were to respect her
choice, and to go to the aid of her husband
if ever she should be stolen away from him.
For in all Greece there was nothing so
beautiful as the beauty of Helen. She was
the fairest woman in the world.
Now thus did Venus fulfil her promise and
the shepherd win his reward with dishonor.
Paris dwelt at the court of Menelaus for a
long time, treated with a royal courtesy
which he ill repaid. For at length while the
king was absent on a journey to Crete, his
guest won the heart of Fair Helen, and
persuaded her to forsake her husband and
sail away to Troy.
King Menelaus returned to find the nest
empty of the swan. Paris and the fairest
woman in the world were well across the sea.
The Legend and Myth of the Apple of Discord
The Myth of the Apple of Discord
The story of the Apple of Discord is featured in the book
entitled Old Greek Folk Stories by Josephine
Preston Peabody, published in 1907 by
Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.