1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Paris (legend)

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PARIS (also called Alexandros), in Greek legend, the son of Priam, king of Troy and Hecuba. Before he was born his mother dreamed she was delivered of a firebrand. The dream was interpreted that her child would ruin his country, and when Paris was born he was exposed on Mt Ida. His life was saved by the herdsmen, and he grew up among them, distinguished for beauty and strength, till he was recognized and received by his parents. He was said to have been called Alexandros from his bravery in defending the herds against raids. When the strife arose at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, each claiming the apple that should belong to the most beautiful, Paris was selected as the judge. The three rivals unveiled their divine charms before a mortal judge on Mt Ida. Each tried to bribe the judge, Hera by promising power, Athena wisdom, Aphrodite the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris decided in favour of Aphrodite, and thus made Hera and Athena bitter enemies of his country (Homer, Iliad, xxiv. 25; Euripides, Troades, 925; Andromache, 284; Helena, 23). To gain the woman whom Aphrodite had promised, Paris set sail for Lacedaemon, deserting his old love Oenone, daughter of the river-god Cebren, who in vain warned him of the consequences. He was hospitably received by Menelaus, whose kindness he repaid by persuading his wife Helen to flee with him to Troy (Iliad, vi. 290). The siege of Troy by the united Greeks followed. Paris proved a lazy and backward fighter, though not wanting in actual courage when he could be roused to exert himself. Before the capture of the city he was mortally wounded by Philoctetes with an arrow (Sophocles, Philoctetes, 1426). He then bethought him of the slighted nymph Oenone, who he knew could heal the wound. He was carried into her presence, but she refused to save him. Afterwards, when she found he was dead, she committed suicide (Apollodorus iii. 12). The judgment of Paris became a favourite subject in Greek art. Paris is represented as a beautiful young man, beardless, wearing the Phrygian cap, and often holding the apple in his hand.