ART AND MYTHOLOGY
A Little Backstory on Aphrodite and the Trojan War
Though most of us are familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse, I’m willing to bet most of you do not recall — or ever knew — the beginning of this historical event, which took place over three millennia ago.
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The impetus for this impudent act occurred on another plane, at the wedding of Peleus (a sea-nymph) and Thetis (a king), the future parents of Achilles.
All the gods of Olympus were invited except Eris, the goddess of discord. Angered by the snub, Eris gets her vengeance. Despite being uninvited, she shows up anyways and places a golden apple on the banquet table. The golden apple has an inscription: “For the Most Beautiful.”
Naturally there was no shortage of beautiful goddesses present, this being Mount Olympus and all. Three of the goddesses claimed the apple was intended for them. As a result, a beauty contest ensued for which a judge had to be selected.
Though Zeus was asked to be the final arbiter of their beauty, he knew better than to get into that kind of situation. No doubt they were all beautiful, so let’s just avoid that minefield altogether. He chooses instead to appoint a mortal, Paris of Troy, because of the wise manner in which Paris had handled a previous incident involving making a judgment.
Well, these goddesses were wily. As each presented herself to the young man, each also offered a bribe to help improve his ability to assess her worthiness. Hera, queen of the gods and wife of Zeus (you see why Zeus declined to be judge), promised Paris that he could be king of Europe and Asia. Athena — goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill — offered him wisdom and skill in war, her forte. Aphrodite — goddess of love, beauty, sensuality, pleasure and procreation — offered Paris the world’s most beautiful woman.