The Judgement of Paris


Water jar, made in Athens about 470 BC


Eris, the goddess of Discord, was angry that she had not been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis and so she threw among the guests a golden apple inscribed with the words 'For the Fairest'. Three goddesses - Hera, the wife of Zeus, Athena, his daughter, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love - immediately claimed the prize. Zeus, wary of making the decision himself, sent the three contenders to Paris, a prince of Troy, temporarily acting as a shepherd.

Paris is shown on the vase seated at the far right playing a lyre, with one of his sheep beside him. The three goddesses approach him. Hera leads, holding the sceptre that indicates her regal rank and proferring the apple to Paris so that he can award it to the winner. Athena comes next, holding a spear and wearing her snake-fringed aegis. Aphrodite comes last, her charms carefully concealed, ready to be revealed at just the right moment.

According to tradition each goddess offered Paris a bribe: Hera offered wide empire, Athena military glory and Aphrodite the most beautiful woman in the world. Aphrodite's offer proved irresistible to Paris, who awarded the apple to her.