Study Guide

The Judgment of Paris Summary

How It (Supposedly) Went Down

Brief Summary

When Eris, goddess of strife, isn't invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the spiteful goddess tosses a golden apple into the crowd, with the words "to the fairest" written on it. This causes a big argument among Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite over who is the most beautiful goddess. The job of beauty contest judge falls on Paris of Troy, who decides that Aphrodite is the fairest after she promises him the hand of Helen of Sparta. Unfortunately, Helen is the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, so when Paris makes off with his prize, the Trojan War quickly follows after.

Detailed Summary

  • It all starts out happily enough.
  • The mortal hero, Peleus, is getting married to the lovely sea goddess, Thetis.
  • It's shaping up to be a majorly awesome wedding: feasting, dancing, the works.
  • All the gods are invited... well, almost all of them. 
  • Only Eris, goddess of strife and discord, is left off the list. (Yeah, who would want somebody like that at their wedding, right?)
  • Eris is not pleased. 
  • About the time the party really gets popping, Eris swings by and throws a golden apple into the middle of the crowd.
  • The godly guests all gather around the gleaming fruit. 
  • They see that it has "for the fairest" written on it. 
  • Uh oh. 
  • An argument breaks out over who is the fairest goddess of them all. 
  • Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena all think their stunning good looks make them a shoe-in for the golden apple. 
  • The trio of angry goddesses go to Zeus to ask him to judge.
  • Zeus is like, "No way am I getting involved in this, ladies." (Smartest thing he ever said.) 
  • Zeus, however, tells the ladies he knows just the guy. 
  • There's this mortal shepherd named Paris, who's recently shown that he's an excellent judge in a case with Ares and a bull.
  • Zeus is sure he's the perfect guy to solve the dispute, and sends Hermes to guide the ladies to Paris. 
  • (Quick flashback: Paris is actually the Prince of Troy, but his parents told their slaves to kill him after his mother dreamed he would cause the downfall of their city.
  • The slaves didn't have the heart to kill the little baby themselves, though, and just left him out on a mountain to die.
  • Baby Paris was then suckled by a she-bear and raised by shepherds.)
  • Anyway, so Paris, who happens to be incredibly handsome, is just chillin' with his sheep when Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera descend from the sky. 
  • The goddesses tell him the whole deal, and he's more than happy to oblige. 
  • To help... um... make their case each goddess gets totally naked.
  • Hera is the first one to present herself to Paris.
  • To sweeten the deal, she offers him the rulership of all of Europe and Asia.
  • Next comes Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, who says she'll make Paris a skilled warrior. 
  • Last comes Aphrodite, goddess of love, sex, and beauty, who offers Paris the love of the most drop dead gorgeous woman in the world. 
  • It turns out that this is the offer that Paris just can't refuse. 
  • He hands the apple over to Aphrodite, and says, "All right, let's see this gorgeous girl."
  • Unfortunately for a ton of people, the most beautiful woman in the world just so happens to be Helen, Queen of Sparta, who is married to Menelaus, the Spartan king. 
  • Uh oh. 
  • So, Paris heads to Sparta to pick up his prize.
  • There are different versions of Helen's reaction to him. 
  • Some say that she's super flattered, falls in love with the handsome foreigner, and ditches her brutish husband without a care in the world. 
  • While others say that Helen protests, and Paris kidnaps her. 
  • Either way, Paris and Helen head back to Troy. 
  • When Menelaus finds out he is beyond ticked off. 
  • Before long, he and his brother Agamemnon have roused the largest army of Greeks ever assembled, and the bloody Trojan War is on.