Paris (mythology)

  In Greek legend, Paris was the second son of Priam, king of Troy. Before his birth his mother Hecuba dreamed that she had given birth to a firebrand that set fire to the city. As this dream was interpreted to mean that her child would bring disaster upon Troy the infant was exposed on Mount Ida. Here he was found and nourished for a time by a she-bear. Later the shepherd, whose task it had been to leave the child on the mountain, finding him still alive, took him home and cared for him.

   Paris grew to be a beautiful youth. His birth was discovered and he was received in Priam's household, where he married Oenone, daughter of a river god. When the dispute over the golden apple, inscribed "to the fairest," arose between Hera, Aphrodite and Athene, Zeus ordered that the decision be left to Paris. Hera promised him power and riches should he decide in her favor; Athene offered glory and wisdom; Aphro­dite promised the most beautiful woman in the world for his wife. Paris decided in favor of Aphrodite and by the aid of the goddess carried off Helen, the wife of Men­elaus, king of Sparta, and thus brought on the Trojan War. Of course Paris won the enmity of Hera and Athene in deciding for Aphrodite.

   Paris is represented in the Iliad as skillful in war, but he was light and fickle in character and failed to distinguish himself during the siege of Troy, especially as he obstinately refused to give up the fair Helen. At the time of the fall of the city he was wounded by a poisoned arrow and sought Oenone to be healed. The neglected nymph repulsed her faithless husband and let him die of his wound. The judgment of Paris, representing him with the apple in his hand, appears on antique vases.

The Judgement of Paris by Rubens