The Illiad and The Trojan War Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein 3 - The Judgment of Paris The goddess of discord was not invited to very many parties on Olympus; hence, she didn’t get an invitation to the wedding of King Peleus and the nymph Thetis (who became the parents of Achilles). So she threw a golden apple into the assembled guests with the inscription “for the fairest.” The list of fair goddesses finally was narrowed to three: Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena (the three who are noted above as not having been born of women!). Zeus didn’t want to get into trouble with any of them, so he suggested they go to Paris, whose father King Priam of Troy had sent him off to herd sheep because of a prophecy that Paris would eventually destroy the kingdom. Zeus said Paris was a good judge of female beauty, so Paris was brought to do the judging. However, he made his judgment based on a bribe that was to be given to him by Aphrodite: should he choose her as the fairest, she promised him the most beautiful woman in the world. So Aphrodite got the golden apple, and she took Paris to meet Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. As noted above, when Helen married Menelaus, all her suitors had to swear that whatever might happen in the future, should she become the focus of a problem, they would fight on the side of her selected husband. Hence, when she ran off with Paris, all of the former suitors had to join Menelaus in seeking to get her back. So Helen was the “face that launched a thousand ships,” because the Greeks all had to set sail for Troy to go after her. Some family relationships are important here: Menelaus was the brother of King Agamemnon; Helen was the sister of Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra, as well as of the twins Castor and Pollux, who became the Gemini constellation. Zeus, who was always open to unusual liaisons, came to their mother Leda in the form of a swan. Leda had two eggs as a result of the union, so two sets of twins came forth when the eggs cracked. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had three children: Iphigenia, Electra, and Orestes. (You can read the full story of their bloody connections in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology under the “House of Atreus” section.) As the Greeks sailed off to battle, a great storm came up because a Greek had offended Artemis by killing a hare, sacred to the goddess, as well as its babies. To appease the goddess, it was determined the Greeks would have to sacrifice a virgin.  It fell to Agamemnon to produce the sacrifice, so he contacted Clytemnestra and had her send Iphigenia, under the pretext that she was to be married to Achilles. Instead, Iphigenia was sacrificed when she arrived for her nuptials, so this gives us a sense of the character and personality of Agamemnon. (Clytemnestra got even later by having him killed when he got home from the war; however, she then became the target of Electra and Orestes—so the beat goes on, so to speak. And in a later play written for a more sensitive culture, a different ending was written to the story: Iphigenia turned out not to be dead after all because Artemis wouldn’t do such a thing as accept the slaughter of a poor innocent virgin. However, by this time, everybody else was dead.) The Greeks in the poem are also referred to at times as the Achaians or Argives or Danaans. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily