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It all started with an apple!

I am not talking about Adam and Eve, but about the event which started the Trojan war. Going round museums, I have been amazed at how this episode has been popular throughout the ages and has been depicted in many ways and styles.

The story starts at the wedding feast of Peleus and Thetis on Mount Olympus. Unfortunately, the goddess of discord, Eris, has not been invited. Furious, she gatecrashes the party, and brings a rather peculiar present: a golden apple on which the following words are inscribed “To the fairest of them all”. She throws the golden apple amongst the guests, and, straightaway, three goddesses, Hera, Aprodite and Athena claim it as their right. Zeus finds himself in an awkward position since Hera is his wife, so he asks Hermes to find someone to decide who the right claimant is. The chosen judge will be Paris: son of the king of Troy, who has already settled in a just manner a difficult dispute between gods, so should be the right arbiter.

Le Rêve de Pâris, Paris’s dream, school of Pieter Coecke Van Aelst circa 1530. On show in the Louvre.

There are several versions of the actual judgement. It is said that each goddess offered Paris some enticement : Hera promised him an empire, Athena offered him military prowess and glory, and Aphrodite told him he would win the favours of the most beautiful woman on earth.

Three Greek representations

These three vases are more or less contemporary: all three are Greek and date from the 6th century B.C

Two Roman representations

A cameo

A mosaic

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A Syrian representation from the 2nd or 3rd century

A representation from Limoges circa 1500

A Dutch representation from the 16th century

An English watch from the 17th century

A tapestry from the Gobelins

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A Chinese representation from the 18th century

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