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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

Apple of his eye turns a city to ashes

"The Apple of Discord" is a Greek legend.

Adapted by Amy Friedman

Once, long ago, Queen Hecuba, wife of King Priam of Troy, awoke from a terrible nightmare. Hecuba was pregnant, and that night, just weeks before the child's birth, she dreamed that Troy was burning.

When Hecuba told Priam her dream, he listened closely. He never could have imagined that his wife's dream might change the course of the country, but he decided to seek the wisdom of the seer Aisacros. It was his duty to keep his country safe.

"Tell me," said the king to the seer, "what will happen when my child is born?"

Aisacros answered solemnly. "One day your son will be the cause of Troy's destruction."

Horrified, Priam knew he must not let this happen. When his son, Paris, was born, Priam ordered his servants to take Paris to Mount Ida. "Leave him to die there." Priam's heart broke with these words, but he had to protect Troy.

But Paris did not die. He was found by a shepherd, who raised him as his own. He grew to be a handsome, proud young man, wise and witty, earning the admiration of the gods. Years passed.

The day came for Peleus, a hero warrior, to wed beautiful goddess Thetis. Thetis invited the gods and goddesses to Mount Pelion for the celebration. She invited all of them except Eris, goddess of strife. Eris was too hideous and unpleasant.

Eris flew into a rage. In the middle of the party, she strode into the hall atop Mount Pelion and rolled a golden apple into the crowd to land at the feet of the three most powerful goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite.

Zeus picked up the apple and discovered inscribed in the fruit's shimmering skin the words: "For the Fairest."

"And who is the fairest?" everyone asked, looking in turn at Zeus' wife Hera, powerful Athena, and magnificent Aphrodite.

The goddesses stared at Zeus, each waiting for the apple.

But Zeus knew he could not choose any one of these goddesses over the other two. "I will send for a judge," he announced, and sent his messenger, Hermes, to fetch Paris. "The shepherd will be able to choose the one who should receive the apple."

Paris agreed to judge. The goddesses, it was decided, would appear before him atop Mount Ida.

Paris, sitting on the mountain and waiting, was dreaming of greatness when the three goddesses arrived in a shower of light.

Hera stepped forward. "Young shepherd," Hera said, "I am the fairest," and she whirled to show him how lovely she was.

"Award me the apple, and you will have wealth and power. You will rule over the Earth. This I shall bestow upon you."

Paris lit up with pleasure at the thought. As a boy he had been abandoned. Now he could seize the power he had thought was out of his reach.

As he imagined himself upon a throne, Athena walked forward.

"Award me the apple," she said softly.

"If you do, you will win every battle you fight, whether by strength or cunning. Glory will be yours."

Paris imagined men standing before him in awe and others quivering at the very sight of a man with such a strength.

Then Aphrodite approached. Her face was blushed with beauty. Her hair glowed like a halo. And when she spoke, Paris thought her voice the sweetest he had ever heard.

"Give me the apple," Aphrodite said. Paris' heart leaped. His head swam. "I will give you the gift of love," she whispered. She stood so close, he could smell her heavenly scent.

Suddenly Paris was deaf and blind to all others.

"You will love and possess the most beautiful woman in the world," Aphrodite promised. "She will be a woman equal to me in perfection."

"Impossible," Paris gasped, and intoxicated by the thought, he handed the golden apple to Aphrodite.

Hera and Athena flew into a rage.

"You will be sorry," they said, and departed Mount Ida, swearing to be the shepherd's enemies forever.

Paris soon returned to Troy, and Aphrodite kept her promise. No one is certain how, but she somehow led Paris to the palace of Menelaus, king of Greece.

"She is here," Aphrodite said, "the woman you will love." And there she was, Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world and the wife of King Menelaus.

But as Paris sailed away from Greece, taking with him the marvelous Helen, the angry king and his brother, Agamemnon, gathered a huge and loyal army of men.

Greece declared war on Troy.

And so it was that King Priam's sacrifice of his son failed to overcome his queen's dream, and 10 years of terrible war and many deaths and other tragedies followed.

In the end, Troy burned to the ground.