Eris, the Goddess of Discord

Eris is the ancient Greek goddess of discord and strife. Eris appears as a personification in ancient and classical Greece. She achieves the personality of a goddess later during the Hellenic and Roman period. The story is that all the gods and goddesses were invited to the wedding of Pelias and Thetis, except Eris the goddess of discord. They probably just forgot her because she is not allowed in the palace of Zeus. She was insulted and devised a scheme. She devised an apple of gold and wrote on it “for the fairest”. She then tossed the apple into the wedding party for Peleus and Thetis. The apple was quickly noticed and a discussion immediately arose. Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena began to contend with each other as to who this phrase “for the fairest” was to be applied. The result of this contention was the Judgement of Paris incident in the tale of the beginning of the Trojan war. Even though the personification of Eris is not that old, the story of the Judgement of Paris is older because only three goddesses are to be judged. There seems to be a relation to the following from the Homer,

Homer, Odyssey 20.67: “…daughters of Pandareus. Their parents the gods had slain, and they were left orphans in the halls, and fair Aphrodite tended them with cheese, and sweet honey, and pleasant wine, [70] and Here gave them beauty and wisdom above all women, and chaste Artemis gave them stature, and Athena taught them skill in famous handiwork. But while beautiful Aphrodite was going to high Olympus to ask for the maidens the accomplishment of gladsome marriage— [75] going to Zeus who hurls the thunderbolt, for well he knows all things, both the happiness and the haplessness of mortal men—meanwhile the spirits of the storm snatched away the maidens and gave them to the hateful Erinyes to deal with.”

Notice that Hesiod relates the Erinyes and Eris. This seems akin to the story of Pandora also where the deities give gifts to Pandora only to result in suffering to man. Notice also that Homer relates four goddesses and gifts while the story of the Judgement of Paris references three. This may relate to the fact that Artemis was more important in Homer’s time than when the mytho fo the Judgement of Paris was formulated.

References to Eris in Ancient Greek Literature

Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis, line 573, “You came, O Paris, to the place where you were reared to herd the cows [575] among the white heifers of Ida, piping in foreign strain and breathing on your reeds an echo of the Phrygian airs Olympus played. Full-uddered cows were browsing at the spot [580] where that verdict between goddesses was awaiting you—the cause of your going to Hellas to stand before the ivory palace, kindling love in Helen’s [585] entranced eyes and feeling its flutter in your own breast; from which the fiend of strife(Eris) brought Hellas with her spear and ships to the towers of Troy.”

Apollodorus, Epitome, E.2.16, “And Menelaus married Helen and reigned over Sparta, Tyndareus having ceded the kingdom to him. But afterwards Alexander carried off Helen, as some say, because such was the will of Zeus, in order that his daughter might be famous for having embroiled Europe and Asia; or, as others have said, that the race of the demigods might be exalted. For one of these reasons Strife threw an apple as a prize of beauty to be contended for by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite; and Zeus commanded Hermes to lead them to Alexander on Ida in order to be judged by him.”

Hesiod, Theogony line 223, Also deadly Night bore Nemesis (Indignation) to afflict mortal men, and after her, Deceit and Friendship [225] and hateful Age and hard-hearted Strife. But abhorred Strife bore painful Toil and Forgetfulness and Famine and tearful Sorrows, Fightings also, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words, Disputes, [230] Lawlessness and Ruin, all of one nature, and Oath who most troubles men upon earth when anyone willfully swears a false oath.

Hesiod, Works and Days line 802: “Avoid fifth days: they are unkindly and terrible. On a fifth, they say, the Erinyes assisted at the birth of Horcus (Oath) whom Eris (Strife) bore to trouble the forsworn.

Hesiod, Works and Days line 11:”So, after all, there was not one kind of Strife alone, but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are wholly different in nature. For one fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: [15] her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honor due. But the other is the elder daughter of dark Night, and the son of Cronos who sits above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and she is far kinder to men. [20] She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbor, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbor vies with his neighbor as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men.”

Hesiod, Shield of Heracles, line 147, “upon his grim brow hovered frightful Strife(Eris) who arrays the throng of men: pitiless she, for she took away the mind and senses of poor wretches [150] who made war against the son of Zeus.”

Hesiod, Shield of Heracles, line 154, “Upon the shield Pursuit and Flight were wrought, [155] and Tumult, and Panic, and Slaughter. Strife(Eris) also, and Uproar”

Homer, Iliad, 5.737, “About her shoulders she flung the tasselled aegis, fraught with terror, all about which Rout is set as a crown, [740] and therein is Strife, therein Valour, and therein Onset, that maketh the blood run cold, and therein is the head of the dread monster, the Gorgon, dread and awful, a portent of Zeus that beareth the aegis.”

Homer, Iliad, 11.2,”Zeus sent forth Strife unto the swift ships of the Achaeans, dread Strife, bearing in her hands a portent of war.”

Homer, Iliad, 11.72, “And Strife, that is fraught with many groanings, was glad as she looked thereon; for alone of the gods she was with them in their fighting:”

Homer, Iliad, “then up leapt mighty Strife, the rouser of hosts,”

In Pausanias, Description of Greecet, 5.19.2, there are descriptions of two images of strife: “Ajax is fighting a duel with Hector, according to the challenge,1 and between the pair stands Strife in the form of a most repulsive woman. Another figure of Strife is in the sanctuary of Ephesian Artemis; Calliphon of Samos included it in his picture of the battle at the ships of the Greeks.”

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