Paris was the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, who eloped with Helen, queen of Sparta, thus causing the events that led to the Trojan War.

Parents: Priam and Hecuba
Consort: Helen
Sibling: Hector, Cassandra, Deiphobus and Helenus

Prince Paris with an apple by H.W. Bissen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

Early Life

Before he was born, Hecuba saw a dream in which her child was a flaming torch. The explanation to the dream that was given by the seer Aesacus was that the unborn child would be the doom of Troy. Aesacus also said on the day of Paris’ birth that a child born of royals that day should be killed in order to save the kingdom.

However, Priam and Hecuba could not kill their baby son so instead gave the baby to a herdsman so that he would do the deed. The herdsman, also unable to kill the baby, left him to die on Mount Ida, but the boy was saved by drinking milk from a female bear. When the herdsman returned nine days later, he found the baby still alive and took him back to Troy. While growing up, Paris met the nymph Oenone, and they fell in love.

The Judgement of Paris

All the gods and goddesses as well as various mortals were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis and brought many gifts. Only Eris, goddess of discord, was not invited and was stopped at the door by Hermes, on Zeus‘ orders. She was annoyed at this, so she threw from the door a gift of her own: a golden apple inscribed with the word καλλίστῃ (kallistēi, “To the most beautiful”). AphroditeHera, and Athena all claimed to be the most beautiful, and thus the rightful owner of the apple.

Golden Apple of Discord, painting by Jacob Jordaens.

The goddesses quarreled bitterly over it, and none of the other gods would venture an opinion favouring one, for fear of earning the enmity of the other two. They chose to place the matter before Zeus, who, not wanting to favour one of the goddesses, put the choice into the hands of Paris, a Trojan prince. After bathing in the spring of Mount Ida where Troy was situated, they appeared before Paris to have him choose. The goddesses undressed before him, either at his request or for the sake of winning. Still, Paris could not decide, as all three were ideally beautiful, so they resorted to bribes. Hera offered Paris political power and control of all of Asia, while Athena offered wisdom, fame, and glory in battle, and Aphrodite offered the most beautiful mortal woman in the world as a wife, and he accordingly chose her.

Image result for judgement of paris
The Judgement of Paris by Walter Crane

The most beautiful woman in the world was Helen, queen of Sparta and wife to King Menelaus. Paris either stole Helen from Menelaus aided by Aphrodite or Helen had already fallen for him and they eloped together. After this event, Menelaus invoked the Oath of Tyndareus and as a result, the expedition to Troy was planned and the Greek forces sailed towards Troy, thus starting the Trojan War.

The Love of Helen and Paris by Jacques-Louis David, 1788, Louvre, Paris.

The Trojan War

Paris was considered unskilled in battle and a coward. He preferred to use a bow and arrow, which was not the weapon of choice of brave men. Late in the war, Achilles was killed by an arrow that hit him on his heel, loosed by Paris with the help of Apollo.

Paris was eventually mortally wounded by Philoctetes; at that point, Helen tried to find Oenone, who had promised to heal any wounds that he would suffer. However, the nymph, still angry that Paris had abandoned her for Helen, refused to give any help. Paris died that same day, and when Oenone heard about it, she threw herself in the same funeral pyre out of grief. Helen was then forced to marry Paris’ brother, Deiphobus, who was killed by Menelaus after Troy fell.

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