Prince Paris of Troy was a common figure in Greek mythology. He is first seen when a seer predicted that he would bring about the ruin of Troy. Unable to kill the newborn prince, his parents gave him to a herdsman to expose in the country. legend has it that he was suckled by a bear until the herdsman returned and discovered that he was alive. He kept the child and raised him as a herdsman. When he grew up, he was recognized by the god Ares for his honesty in judging a bull fight. Later, when Eris, the goddess of discord, threw a golden apple labeled “for the fairest” into a wedding celebration of the Greek gods, Paris was asked to judge between three goddesses. Since the goddesses were all beautiful, he agreed to accept a bribe for his judgment. Hera offered him ownership of Europe. Athena offered him warrior skills and wisdom. Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman. That happened to be Queen Helen of Sparta who was already married to King Menelaus. After some encouragement from Aphrodite, Helen ran off with Paris to Troy with Menelaus and all of the Greek kings and heroes in pursuit. What happened is a story for next week.
The Attic red figure vase at Antikenmuseen in Berlin, Germany dates from the 5th century BC. Hermes (with the winged cap) leads the three goddesses Aphrodite (the figure in the middle), Athene and Hera to Paris for his judgement. The prize is a golden apple for the fairest. The Trojan prince sits in the doorway holding a royal staff and lyre. Before him stands Hermes, holding a kerykeion (herald’s wand) and wearing a chlamys (traveler’s cloak) and winged cap. Of the three goddesses, Aphrodite is veiled, and holds a winged Eros (god of love) and myrtle wreath in her hands; Athene holds a spear and helm; Hera is crowned and bears a miniature lion and royal lotus-tipped staff. Paris is about to make a judgment that will fulfill the prophecy made at his birth.