Throughout Greek myth, we often see gods and goddesses favouring mortals over others. A prime example of this is with Aphrodite and Paris during the Trojan War – a nine year battle between the city of Troy and the Achaeans. Paris would come to duel the King of Sparta, Menelaus, who nearly killed him. Paris only escaped with the help of Aphrodite, who swept him up in a cloud of darkness and returned him to his bedchambers.
Why did Aphrodite save Paris? Zeus granted Paris the authority to judge the recipient of a Golden Apple inscribed “For The Fairest”. Paris judged Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite on their beauty. But the goddess decided to bribe the judge. In the end, Paris chose Aphrodite’s bribe. With the boost of self-esteem, Aphrodite would grow protective over Paris, so she ensured she would keep him safe.
While this action may seem harmless, it would lead to the start of the Trojan War. Paris only chose Aphrodite because she bribed him with the most beautiful girl in the world, Helen of Troy, who was actually already married to the King of Sparta, Menelaus. The ensuing abduction of Helen would be the start of the Trojan War as Menelaus waged a war to bring his wife home.
Who is Paris?
Paris was the child of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Right before his birth, Paris’ mother had a dream that she gave birth to a flaming torch. Alarmed by the vision, she sought answers from the seer, Aesacus. The seer proclaimed that the vision meant that the newborn would be the eventual downfall of Troy and must be killed upon birth. But the King and Queen could not bring themselves to kill their baby boy once he was born, so they abandoned him on Mount Ida where he would later be saved by shepherds.
Growing up with the shepherds as paternal figures, Paris would become well-versed in rural domestic life. He was often described as handsome, intelligent, and just. Paris gained trust of those around him, especially after being a judge at a local cattle show. The contest had been narrowed down to two bulls, one being his own and the other mysteriously unknown. Instead of simply choosing his own bull, Paris awarded the unknown bull the prize basing his judgement solely on merit. The bull turned out to be the god, Ares, in disguise! This fair judgement would be the reason Zeus would choose Paris to judge the three goddesses in the future.
What is Aphrodite’s history and relationship to Paris?
We’re going to have to back up a bit to understand how Aphrodite and Paris’ relationship came to be. Our origin story takes place at the wedding of King Peleus and sea nymph Thetis. They invited every being in the realm of Olympus, except for one – Eris, the goddess of discord.
Naturally, she was upset that she wouldn’t be able to join in the festivities. So Eris decided to throw a golden apple with the inscription “For The Fairest”. Every goddess fought over the apple, but in the end only three remain – Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.
The goddesses asked Zeus to make the final judgement call on who was the fairest. Zeus made the wise decision that he would not get in the middle of the goddesses’ quarrel. Instead Zeus assigned the judgement to Paris, who (as we now know) was highly regarded amongst the Greek deities for his fairness.
Zeus sent the three goddesses with the messenger god, Hermes, to find Paris on Mount Ida. While Paris assessed the three goddesses, they each bribed him with something worthwhile. Hera ended up telling Paris she would make him the King of Asia and Europe.
Athena promised him that she would give him all the wisdom and skill associated with war. But Aphrodite offered the world’s most beautiful woman and her hand in marriage. Everyone knew the most beautiful woman in the world was Helen of Troy. But Helen was already married to the mighty warrior King of Sparta, Menelaus. But Aphrodite didn’t care – she knew that this bribe would make Paris choose her, and so he did.
Aphrodite and Paris set off to Sparta to obtain Helen from King Menelaus. Initially, Paris was a welcomed guest into Sparta by the King. But when Menelaus had to go on a voyage, Paris and Aphrodite took this opportunity to abduct Helen. Some say that Paris forcibly took Helen into the getaway ship, while others argue that Aphrodite put a spell on Helen and made her fall in love with Paris. Regardless, this action would spark the beginning of the bloody Trojan War.
Helen’s abduction by Paris and Aphrodite invoked the Oath of Tyndareus – an oath created by Helen’s father, Tyndareus, which required that each suitor of Helen would take an oath to protect her once she was married. This way, Tyndareus would be able to keep his daughter and
his Kingdom safe. All of the suitors gathered in Aulis when they heard of the abduction and set sail with a fleet of 1000 ships to retrieve Helen.
What Other Role did Aphrodite play in the Trojan War?
We can see that Aphrodite started the Trojan war and unsurprisingly, that would not be her only bit of action during the war. Aphrodite would side with the Trojans, which included Paris and her son Aeneas. During the war, both sides agreed that Paris and Menelaus should fight in single combat to settle the marriage of Helen.
Both sides agreed that this deul would end the war and that either side was not to interfere with the combat. But when Paris was dealt a deadly blow that should have killed him, Aphrodite swooped in and shielded him in a dark cloud of mist that would transport him to his bedchambers. Aphrodite would then go on to threaten and harass Helen to go and comfort Paris in his time of need. This was not the first time nor the last time that Aphrodite’s favoritism would end in more blood and battle.
Due to Aphrodite’s favoritism of Paris, one of the most significant events in the Trojan War occurred. Since Paris was spared by Aphrodite during his combat with Menelaus, Paris would go on to fight another day. Paris would go on to give the final blow to the renowned warrior, Achilles. With his incredible skill with the bow and arrow, Paris shot Achilles with a poison arrow into his heel. The Trojan War would eventually rage on for years to come.
After Diomedes struck Aphrodite’s son, Aeneas, she had to come to his aide. But when she faced Diomedees, she was wounded in the hand. Granted the power to see the immortal gods by Athene, Diomedes cut the flesh of Aphrodite’s immortal palm. It was unheard of for a Greek god to be injured. It is said that modern day Italians’ DNA can be traced back to Aeneas, who led surviving Trojans to safety during a raid.
Aphrodite’s ego may well have been the cause of one of the major wars in Greek mythology. The Trojan war raged for 10 years or more and brought together gods, demigods and heroes on all sides. Aphrodite’s role in saving Paris was but a small but influential part of the tale.
We hope you enjoyed this overview of why Aphrodite saves Paris.