Paris (wallet) In Greek mythology, abductor of Helen, second son of King Priam of Troy and Queen Hecuba; brother of Aesacus, Cassandra, Creusa, Deiphobus, Hector, Helenus, Polyxena, and Troilus; married to Oenone; father of Corythus and Daphnis. Before Paris was born, Hecuba dreamed she would deliver a firebrand that would destroy Troy. Priam, therefore, had Paris, also called Alexander (champion), exposed at birth on Mount Ida. But the child was suckled by a shebear for five days and then raised by a shepherd, Agelaus, as his own son. While a youth, Paris married the nymph Oenone, whom he later deserted. To settle an argument among the goddesses about who would receive a golden apple and have the honor of being called the fairest, Zeus, who did not wish to make a choice, sent his messenger god Hermes to Paris to ask him to make the choice. The three goddesses, Aphrodite, Artemis, and Hera, appeared before the youth in what has come to be known as the Judgment of Paris. Hera, wife of Zeus, promised Paris royal power, Athena promised victory in war, and Aphrodite promised him the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose Aphrodite as the fairest and gave her the golden apple. Of course, he made enemies of
the other goddesses by his decision. His prize, the most beautiful woman in the world, was Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta and mother of Hermione. Keeping her word, the goddess Aphrodite led Paris to Sparta, where he was entertained by Menelaus and Helen as a guest. While Menelaus was away, Aphrodite made Helen fall in love with Paris, and the two fled. Eventually this rash act led to the Trojan War when the Greek forces under Agamemnon sought to return Helen to Menelaus.
During the Trojan War, Paris’s reputation was that of a coward because he was apt to run away from the fight and go home to have sexual intercourse with Helen. After 10 years of war Paris and Menelaus met one to one on the battlefield. It was believed that the war would end when the duel was over. Paris threw his spear at Menelaus, but Menelaus turned the spear aside with his shield. Then Menelaus cast his spear, which only ripped Paris’s tunic. The two men then drew their swords. Menelaus’s sword broke during the first exchange, but he was so angry he grabbed Paris by his helmet and dragged him toward the Greek camp by his helmet’s chin strap. Aphrodite, fearful that her favorite would die, cut the strap, covered Paris in a cloud, and took him to Helen’s bedroom to make love. Homer’s Iliad does not tell us of the end of Paris, but later Greek myth says he killed Achilles with a poisoned arrow in the hero’s vulnerable heel and was then killed by a poisoned arrow of Philoctetes. Paris asked his men to take him to Oenone, the nymph he had deserted. She refused to save his life, but when he died she killed herself. Paris appears in Homer’s Iliad; Vergil’s Aeneid (books 1, 7);
Ovid’s Metamorphoses (book 12) and Heroides (16, 17); William Morris’s “Death of Paris” in The Earthly Paradise; W. S. Landor’s Death of Paris and Oenone; Tennyson’s “Dream of Fair Women,” Oenone, and Death of Oenone; and in David’s painting Paris and Helen.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante