Study Guide

Paris in The Iliad

By Homer


(Click the character infographic to download.)

Nothing sums up Paris's status in the Iliad like the end of Book 3. When Menelaos is looking for Paris—whom Aphrodite has carried off to safety—we learn that, even if the Trojans knew where he was, they wouldn't hide him, "since he was hated among them all as dark death is hated" (3. 454).

There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, as we are reminded at the beginning of Book 24, Paris chose Aphrodite over Hera and Athene in a beauty contest, thus setting off a chain of events that led to the Trojan War. Most notable among these events was the kidnapping of Helen; even though the Iliad takes place long before Gallup polls, we're guessing that the average Trojan was in favor of giving her back. (See the old men's grousing in the beginning of Book 3.)

The other big reason people hate Paris is that he doesn't pull his weight in battle, preferring to strut around like a one-man fashion show. Even his weapon of choice—the bow—was often regarded as a cowardly form of combat. And yet, as the Iliad foreshadows, it is with this weapon (plus the help of the archer god, Apollo) that Paris will kill Achilleus at the Skaian Gates.

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