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Mythology Women

The Judgement of Paris

The Golden Apple of Discord

The goddess of quarrel and strife was Eris. She was sister and companion of murderous Ares, the Greek  god of war and daughter of Nyx (Night). Unhappy and displeased that she was not invited to the wedding ceremony of Peleus (the king of the island of Aegina) and Thetis (the sea-nymph), Eris felt pushed aside and soon came up with a cunning plan in revenge for not being invited

Eris
Eris. Attic plate, ca. 575–525 BC (Berlin Antikensammlung)

The feast was attended by most of the Olympian Gods. Eris’ idea was to ‘forget’ a golden apple in the great banquet. That apple carried an inscription: “TO THE FAIREST” (ΤΗ ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗΙ). Eris knew that her shiny apple would quickly draw attention.

Yes, that was all she had to do. Soon, three goddesses at the wedding were fascinated by the golden apple and wanted it for themselves. Aphrodite, Athena and Hera immediately competed for it. They asked the other Greek Gods who should own it, but they proved smart and they chose not to interfere. They immediately smelled trouble. What was the point? If they chose one, then the other two goddesses would probably hold this against them. It sure was a hard call so the Gods agreed that Paris, being the most handsome mortal, should be the judge.

judgement Paris 1
Walter Crane – The Judgement of Paris (watercolor on paper, 1909)

Everyone was happy with this solution and the gods were very pleased. Paris had a difficult task laying ahead. Athena, Hera and Aphrodite stripped naked in front of Paris and each goddess offered him an appealing gift trying to win his decision.

  • Athena tried to tempt him offering infinite wisdom.
  • Hera promised him absolute power over great kingdoms.
  • Aphrodite offered him the love of the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen.

Deal-maker! Paris made his choice

As you know, Paris gave the golden apple tot he Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. Spoiler alert: This decision would soon lead to the outbreak of one of the most famous wars ever, the Trojan War… And the fall of Troy would later lead to the foundation of Rome!

All this, for an apple.

gold apple

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Mythology

The owl of Athena

When in Athens, you know you’re in the favorite city of goddess Athena.
Athena is accompanied by an owl, which over time became her symbol and one of the symbols of Athens too.
The exact reason why the owl became a bird sacred to Athena is lost in time. No story survives that gives us a clear explanation but we can piece together bits from ancient sources to understand why Athena chose the owl as her favorite animal.owl 4
The owl was meant to reveal unseen truths to the goddess (having also the ability to light up Athena’s blind side) and it enabled her to see and speak the whole truth. This was fervently believed by the Romans too -who called her Minerva. Let’s not forget that Athena frequently appeared to mortals by night – giving them advice and guidance- which made the owl a fitting companion to have by her side. The Ancient Greeks saw the bird’s ability to see in the dark, representing watchfulness, wisdom and even omniscient!
Going further into Greek Mythology, Athena was also known as a storm and lightning goddess. In Homer’s poems she’s described as “the bright-eyed goddess” linking once again the owl to Athena, due to the owls’ eyes being so distinctively large and shiny that it instantly reflected Athena with her stare of knowledge that seemed to bore into you.

Athena_owl
There were large numbers of owls scattered all over Athens for centuries. There were so many, that the rest of the Greeks had a saying to tease the Athenians. When something was in abundance the saying was: ‘bring owls to Athens’ much like the English ‘carry coal to Newcastle’.
Surprisingly enough, there’s still a population of owls in the 21st century huge metropolis that modern Athens is nowadays!
The owl in flight was also a symbol of good luck: the sudden appearance of such an owl before the naval battle of Salamis, instantly boosted the morale of the Greek fleet. The larger part of the warships were contributed by Athens, so seeing an owl flying high  above their heads, just before the battle started, that was the best omen Athenian sailors and marines could wish for!