The story of Paris sitting in judgment, offering an apple to the fairest is a story we have all heard. But why not a pear?
“A pear wouldn’t have worked.”
Wretched captured Hecuba,
after she saw dead her [youngest daughter] Polyxena
and found on the beach her [youngest son] Polydorus,
was driven mad by grief
and began barking like a dog…
Once upon a time, long ago, Queen Hecuba of Troy had a dream.
Pregnant and awaiting the birth of her first child, she dreamed one night she gave birth to a fiery torch. Her husband, King Priam, worried and called his eldest son, Aesacus, son of his first wife, a seer, to divine the dream’s meaning.
“Your newborn son will be the downfall of Troy,” Aesacus said. “He must be killed.”
And so, when the baby boy, Paris, was born, King Priam called upon his chief herdsman, Agelaus, to do the deed and kill him, for neither father nor mother could do the deed.
Agelaus took the child to cold Mount Ida, windswept and bare, and left the infant on the mountainside, certain to perish. But a she-bear, taking pity, kept the child safe and warm and suckled it with milk. When Agelaus returned after nine days, he found the boy child alive and took this as a sign by the gods that he was meant to live.
In secret, Agelaus reared Paris as his own son, returning to Priam bearing a dog’s tongue as evidence of the deed’s completion.
Paris grew up beautiful, intelligent and wise, beloved by women and men alike. Like Agelaus, Paris became a herdsman and pitted his prize bull against the bulls of other herdsmen. One day, he proposed a challenge: His bull would fight anyone’s bull to a battle. The winner would receive a golden crown.
Ares, the god of war, heard this and transformed himself into a bull, accepted the challenge, and easily won. Paris, in fairness, awarded Ares the crown. Thus, the gods of Olympus accepted Paris as one man who kept his word.
That was the beginning of the troubles of Paris and the end of Troy.
On Olympus, Zeus planned a wedding feast for Thetis, the sea nymph, and her beloved, Peleus, a mortal. Thetis, it is told, was a goddess of prophecy and Zeus had once sued for her hand, but she prophesied that she would produce a child greater than the father, and so Zeus wisely let Peleus be her mate. At the wedding feast, Zeus invited all the gods and goddesses but one, Eris, the goddess of discord, chaos and misery, for obvious reasons. But Eris learned of the wedding feast and was furious. In the midst of the gaiety, she stormed into the great hall and flung into the crowd a golden apple inscribed with the word “kallisti,” meaning “to the fairest.”
Naturally, every goddess claimed the fruit, and soon they were arguing and fighting, but by the end of the day only three goddesses still made their claim – Aphrodite, goddess of beauty; Athena, of wisdom and war; and Hera, of women and marriage, and, forebodingly, Zeus’ wife. The three turned to Zeus and said,
“You must choose – who is fairest of all?”
Zeus understood that no matter who he selected, the other two would cause him grief. And so, he decreed:
“The shepherd Paris of Troy will select the fairest.”
The decision was made at Mount Ida with Paris alone with the tree goddesses.The goddesses being women began to offer him bribes.
“I will make you king of Europe and Asia,” Hera said. “Select me and give you power to rule over men and women.”
Athena came next. “I offer wisdom, and strength and courage, and make you a warrior to be feared.”
Last was Aphrodite, who with flowers in her hair and smelling of perfume, said, “I offer you love, no more. Take Helen, Queen of Sparta, acknowledged by all as the loveliest of mortals.”
There on snowy Mount Ida, perhaps overcome with the emotion of his own abanonment as a child, Paris could not resist Aphrodite and exchanged Eris’ golden apple for love.
That is how love caused the downfall of Troy.
And Aphrodite, in repentance for what she had done, made the pear. For the pear, dear friends, does not roll to far, and keeps discord in its place, near the giver and not the taker.