Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 140

The apple of discord.

This omission angered her, and made her determine to have her revenge by troubling the harmony which evidently reigned among all the guests. For a moment she stood beside the bountiful board, then threw upon it a golden apple, and, exhaling over the assembly her poisoned breath, she vanished. The general attention was, of course, turned upon the golden fruit, whereon the inscription “To the fairest” was clearly traced.

All the ladies were at first inclined to contend for the prize; but little by little all the claimants withdrew except Juno, Minerva, and Venus, who hotly disputed for its possession. Juno declared that the queen of the gods, in her majesty and power, surely had the best right; Minerva, that the beauty of wisdom and knowledge far surpassed external charms; and Venus smiled, and archly requested to be informed who might assert greater claims than the goddess of beauty.

The dispute grew more and more bitter, and the irate goddesses called upon the guests to award the prize to the most deserving; [307] but the guests, one and all, refused to act as umpires, for the apple could be given to but one, and the two others would be sure to vent their anger and disappointment upon the judge who passed over their charms in favor of a third. The final decision was therefore referred to Paris, who, although performing the lowly duties of a shepherd, was the son of Priam and Hecuba, King and Queen of Troy.

When but a babe, Paris had been exposed on a mountain to perish, because an oracle had predicted that he would cause the death of his family and the downfall of his native city. Although thus cruelly treated, he had not perished, but had been adopted by a shepherd, who made him follow his own calling.

Paris and Œnone.

When Paris reached manhood, he was a very handsome and attractive young man, and won the love of Œnone, a beautiful nymph to whom he was secretly united. Their happiness, however, was but fleeting, for the Fates had decreed that Paris’ love for the fair Œnone would soon die.

“The Fate,
That rules the will of Jove, had spun the days
Of Paris and Œnone.”
Quintus Smyrnæus (Elton’s tr.).
Judgment of Paris.

Instead of lingering by the fair nymph’s side, Paris wandered off to a lonely mountain top, where the three goddesses sought him to judge their quarrel. Minerva, in glittering armor, first appeared before his dazzled eyes, and proffered the bribe of extensive wisdom if he would but give her the preference.

Juno, queen of heaven, next appeared in royal robes and insignia, and whispered that he should have great wealth and unlimited power were he only to award the prize to her.

“She to Paris made
Proffer of royal power, ample rule
Unquestion’d, overflowing revenue
Wherewith to embellish state, ‘from many a vale
[308] And river-sunder’d champaign clothed with corn,
Or labor’d mine undrainable of ore.
Honor,’ she said, ‘and homage, tax and toll,
From many an inland town and haven large,
Mast-throng’d beneath her shadowing citadel
In glassy bays among her tallest towers.’”