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The Judgment of Paris, Prince of Troy

Large painting: Judgment of Paris

Aphrodite (Venus) bares herself before Paris, with Hera and Athena standing to her left

in The Judgment of Paris by Enrique Simonet, c. 1904.




First, a little necessary background to more fully appreciate the convoluted story behind this picture. Perhaps it began with Zeus/Jupiter falling for the sea-nymph Thetis when he saw here desporting herself off the coast in the Aegean Sea. Thetis had a history with the old boy: she had saved him from his brother Poseidon, his wife Hera, and his daughter Athena who had been conspiring together to throw him in chains—knowing Zeus, probably for good reason. To do this Thetis had to call up the Hecatonchire Briareus with a hundred arms and fifty heads, son of Gaia and Zeus’ grandfather Ouranos, who was such a monster that just by hunkering down next to Zeus he scared off the three Olympians.

Now despite his amour for the lovely Nereid Thetis, Zeus knew there was a prophesy that one of Thetis’ sons would become greater than his father. So for once in his life Zeus, the principle of expansion, restrained himself, and not wanting to be the "father" of that prophesy, he married Thetis off to the old human King Peleus. Eventually Thetis and Peleus' son Achilles fulfilled the prophecy by becoming the son of Thetis who was greater than his father, Peleus.

In the process of dodging this bullet Zeus threw a wedding banquet for Thetis and Peleus to which all the gods were invited—but when Eris/Discord* showed up Hermes, under Zeus' orders, barred her from entering. Not pleased at this slight, Eris tossed an apple labeled "To the Fairest" into the throng of happy wedding guests. Hera, Aphrodite and Athena (left to right in the above painting) all claimed the apple, and to avoid this bullet as well Zeus had Hermes lead the three goddesses to Mt. Ida where Paris, prince of Troy, was made to judge who was the most beautiful of the three goddesses.

Mythologies differ slightly as to what happened next, but essentially each of the three goddesses, not convinced her beauty alone would win Paris' judgment, bribed him. Hera offered Paris the thrones of Europe and Asia, essentially to rule all the world; Athena offered him to be the mightiest among mortals and to know every skill in war; but Paris chose Aphrodite who had merely offered him the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Sparta, wife of Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, commander of the Greeks who had just united the Greek city-stares under himself. And thus the Trojan War began. Ovid's lovely poetry (Heroides, 16.51 ff) speaks eloquently through Paris the words of his judgment:

"...there appeared and stood before my eyes, propelled on pinions swift, [Hermes] the grandchild of mighty Atlas and Pleione ...I was mute, and chill tremors had raised my hair on end, when ‘Lay aside thy fear!’ the winged herald said to me; ‘thou art the arbiter of beauty; put an end to the strivings of the goddesses; pronounce which one deserves for her beauty to vanquish the other two!’ And, lest I should refuse, he laid command on me in the name of Jove, and forthwith through the paths of ether betook him toward the stars.
My heart was reassured, and on a sudden I was bold, nor feared to turn my face and observe them each. Of winning all were worthy, and I who was to judge lamented that not all could win. But, none the less, already then one of them pleased me more, and you might know it was she by whom love is inspired. Great is their desire to win; they burn to sway my verdict with wondrous gifts. Jove's [Zeus'] consort loudly offers thrones, his daughter, might in war; I myself waver, and can make no choice between power and the valorous heart. Sweetly Venus smiled: ‘Paris, let not these gifts move thee, both of them full of anxious fear!’ she says; ‘my gift shall be of love, and beautiful Leda's daughter [Helene], more beautiful than her mother, shall come to thy embrace.’ She said, and with her gift and beauty equally approved, retraced her way victorious to the skies."

Now Zeus had an agenda in the Trojan War. It had also been prophesied that one of his sons (independent of Thetis) would overthrow him, just as Zeus overthrew his father Kronos/Saturn, and Kronos overthrew his father Ouranos/Uranus. Because of his history this was a cogent prophesy to Zeus who had had so many goddesses and mortal women alike (see genealogy tree on pg. 73) that his seed was legion. He saw the Trojan War as a great means of depopulating the Earth and hopefully killing off this unidentified prophesied son in the process—or all his sons, the more the merrier for Zeus.

Meanwhile Hera and Athena were still smarting from Paris' judgment, so Hera conspired with Aphrodite to put Zeus out of commission on Mt. Ida so she could aid the Greeks unopposed against the hated Paris, Helen, and their Trojans. Armed with Aphrodite's magic breastband and assisted by the god Sleep, she seduced Zeus and caused him to enter a deep sleep.

*First known as 2003 UB313 and then nicknamed "Xena," Eris' 2005 discovery in the Kuiper Belt led directly to Pluto's being dethroned as the ninth planet of the solar system. Pluto is now known as a "dwarf planet," along with Eris, Ceres, Haumea and Makemake.

painting: Deception of Zeus


This is the story behind the painting above: James Barry's Jupiter and Juno on Mt. Ida, also known as The Deception of Zeus. Set among the heavenly clouds above Mt. Ida, Zeus' eagle is apparent in the upper right of the painting. It is also apparent, at least according to Tom Lubbock, that what would normally be a scene of married intimacy is, in rare honesty, depicted here as an "image of sexual hatred and marital bondage."

This Judgment of Paris, Prince of Troy page and much of this 600-page resource website are taken from You and the Universe.



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© Carl Woebcke: Judgment of Paris, Prince of Troy: Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, 1991-2017. All rights reserved.