Judgment of Paris

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From Robert Graves, Greek Myths:

He was herding his cattle on Mount Gargarus, the highest peak of Ida, when Hermes, accompanied by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite delivered the golden apple and Zeus' message: "Paris, since you are as handsome as you are wise in affairs of the heart, Zeus commands you to judge which of these goddeses is the fairest."

"So be it," sighed Paris. "But first I beg the losers not to be vexed with me. I am only a human being, liable to make the stupidest mistake." The goddesses all agreed to abide by his decision. "Will it be enough to judge them as they are?" Paris asked Hermes. "Or should they be naked?"

"The rules of the contest are for you decide," Hermes answered with a discreet smile.

"In that case, will they kindly disrobe?"

Hermes told the goddesses to do so, and politely turned his back.

Aphrodite was soon read, but Athena insisted that she shoudl remove the famous magic girdle, which gave her an unfair advantage by making everyone fall in love with the wearer. "Very well," said Aphrodite spitefully. "I will, on condition that you remove your helmet -- you look hideous without it."

"Now, if you please, I must judge you one at a time," announced Paris .... "Come here, Divine Hera! Will you other two goddesses be good enough to leave us for a while?"

"Examine me conscientously," said Hera, turning slowly aorund, and displaying her magnificent figure, "and remember that if you judge me the fairest, I will make you lord of all Asia, and the richest man alive."

"I am not to be bribed, my Lady... Very well, thank you. Now I have side all that I need to see. Come, Divnine Athena!"

"Here I am," said Athena, striding purposefully forward. "Listen, Paris, if you have enough common sense to award me the prize, I will make you victorious in all your battles, as well as the handsomest and wisest man in the world."

"I am but a humble herdsman, not a soldier," said Paris.... "But I promise to consider fairly your claim to the apple. Now you are at liberty to put on your clothes and helmet again. Is Aphrodite read?"

Aphrodite sidled up to him and Paris blushed because she came so close they were almost touching. "Look carefully, please, pass nothing over .... By the way, as soon as I saw you, I said to myself: 'Upon my word, there goes the handsomest young man in Phrygia! Why does he waste himself here in the wilderness herding stupid cattle?' Well, why do you, Paris? Why not move into the city and live a more civilized life? What have you to lose by marrying somebody like Helen of Sparta, who is as beautiful as I am, and no less passionate? .... I suggest now that you tour Greece with my son Eros as your guide. Once you reach Sparta, he and I will see that Helen falls head over heels in love with you."

"Would you swear to that?" Paris asked excitedly.

Aphrodite uttered a solemn oath, and Paris, without a second thought, awarded her the golden apple.


For more, see the wikipedia page.