1. THE APPLE OF DISCORD
Once upon a time Zeus, the king of the gods, organized a banquet on Mount Olympus to honor the wedding of two good friends of him, the hero Peleus and the nymph Thetis. He invited to the marriage celebration all the gods and goddesses, demigods, titans, nymphs, satyrs, giants, heroes and monsters. He invited all of them but one: Eris, the goddess of discord. He didn’t invite her because she was a troublemaker, and Zeus wanted no trouble at the banquet. Eris had a terrible reputation for ruining parties!
So the wedding took place on Mt Olympus and all the guests were there happily eating, drinking and chatting. Zeus was in the central table, presiding over the banquet with the bride and the groom. Thetis and Peleus were very happy. Everyone was. Everyone? Well, Eris knew about the celebration and felt extremely offended. She vowed to take revenge!
So she made a beautifully shiny, golden apple and sent it to the banquet as her personal present to the newly married couple and their guests. When her messenger left the apple in the middle of the banquet, everyone looked at it. They read something engraved on the apple: καλλίστῃ ,”for the prettiest one”.
They looked at each other. Who was the prettiest one? Who exactly was intended the present to? They started to discuss this issue between them. Hera, wife of Zeus said “Of course, that lovely apple is for me. It’s obvious!” Athena laughed at her, “you should stop drinking my dear, I am the prettiest one, everyone knows that!” Aphrodite stood up angrily: “Shut up, you morons! I am the goddess of love and the most beautiful creature on earth indeed! Give me that bloody apple!” The three goddesses started to have a very intense argument about who was the prettiest one.
Eventually, as they couldn’t agree on this, they asked the great Zeus. But Zeus was really embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. If he chose his wife Hera, he would be accused of nepotism. But if he chose any of the others, his wife would hit him with a kitchen roller! Oh no! What could he do? Needless to say, the banquet was absolutely ruined by the Apple of Discord. Eris was very happy.
2. THE JUDGEMENT OF PARIS
Zeus had an idea to decide who was the prettiest one. He said to the three angry goddesses: “I mustn’t take part in this sensitive matter because I must be neutral, but I know a mortal who is very clever. His name is Paris, the young and handsome son of Priam, the king of Troy. Just go down from Mount Olympus and you will find him taking care of a herd of sheep.” “Why is the son of king Priam with a herd of sheep, just like a vulgar shepherd?” asked Athena. “Oh, his father sent him there because Paris is very lazy. He had terrible marks at the high school. It is a punishment from his severe father!” said Zeus.
The three goddesses found the boy and asked him “Paris, who’s the most beautiful among us?” The boy was very confused and didn’t know what to say because the three were very attractive, and he equally liked the three of them. Hera said to Paris “If you choose me, I’ll give you the whole of Europe and Asia. You will be the most powerful king in the world!” Paris liked this. Then Athena said to him “That’s rubbish! If you choose me, I’ll give you my intelligence and you will conquer the whole world with my military strategy!” That sounded to Paris even better! Then Aphrodite came to him and said “Don’t listen to these! You are already the son of a powerful king, so you will be a powerful king, too. You don’t need more power than that. What you need is love. If you choose me, I’ll give you the love of the most beautiful girl in the world!” Paris, who loved beautiful girls, liked the proposal and finally said, “OK, I declare Aphrodite the prettiest one!”
So, Aphrodite was given the golden Apple of the Discord by Zeus. Athena and Hera were furious! They vowed to take revenge after this insult from Paris!
3. THE KIDNAPPING OF HELEN
Aphrodite said to Paris, “You have to go to Sparta. There, you will find the most beautiful girl in the world. You will recognize her immediately! She will be my present to you for choosing me!” Paris was very happy! He left the sheep and went to Troy. Then, he took a ship and went to Sparta.
Paris was walking on the streets of Sparta when he suddenly saw a good looking woman with her face covered with a veil. “Can I see your face?” he said. The girl showed her face: she had a prominent mustache. Paris ran away very scared. Later he saw another nice looking girl, but he could only see her back. He asked her “Could you please turn around?” She did. She had a big beard. Paris ran away terrified. Finally, when he recovered from the shock, he saw a girl walking on the street. He looked at her. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She was the one! He fell in love immediately. Paris grabbed the girl, put her on his ship and sailed to Troy immediately! He was very happy.
But there was a problem. Aphrodite didn’t tell him the truth about her. That girl was no other than Helen, the wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta! The king was informed about what had happened. When the king realized that his wife had been kidnapped by a foreigner he was outraged. He called all the kings of Greece and explained his problem to them.
They were all outraged too and immediately declared war upon Troy. They quickly assembled a huge army from all Greece. The army boarded hundreds of warships and the fleet departed for Troy immediately. They arrived, surrounded the city and a siege began. The war lasted for ten years and there were thousands of dead and injured.
4. THE TROJAN HORSE
After ten long years of war, both armies, Greeks and Trojans, were exhausted. Some of the best Trojan warriors were dead. Hector, brother of Paris and the best Trojan soldier, was killed by Achilles, the Greek champion, who was the son of the hero Peleus and the nymph Thetis (yes, the ones whose wedding was ruined by the Apple of Discord!). But the Greeks had the same problem and their best warriors were also dead, like Achilles himself, who was killed by Paris, who was himself killed later, too! It seemed that the war was so balanced that neither Greeks nor Trojans could win it.
But finally, Odysseus, king of Ithaca and the most intelligent of the Greek commanders, had a wonderful plan to win the war. The Greeks built a hollow gigantic wooden horse and gave it to the Trojans as a present, while the Greek army abandoned the siege. But the Greeks didn’t leave really. They just hid not far away, ready to return at any moment. When the Trojans saw the Greeks leaving, they thought Troy had won the war! They pulled the horse inside the walls of the city and happily celebrated victory all night long, dancing and drinking wine.
But inside the hollow horse, Odysseus and a few elite Greek warriors waited until all the Trojans were asleep. Then, they opened a hidden door in the wooden horse and they went out. Silently, they killed the sentinels and opened the gates of Troy. Then, the Greek army entered the city and massacred the inhabitants and soldiers. That was how Menelaus took Helen back to Sparta and the great city of Troy was destroyed by the Greeks.
What a tragedy, just for an apple!