Zeus. Hermes. Hera. Athene. Aphrodite. Paris

Zeus. Hermes, take this apple, and go with it to Phrygia; on the Gargaran peak of Ida you will find Priam’s son, the herdsman. Give him this message: ‘Paris, because you are handsome, and wise in the things of love, Zeus commands you to judge between the Goddesses, and say which is the most beautiful. And the prize shall be this apple.’—Now, you three, there is no time to be lost: away with you to your judge. I will have nothing to do with the matter: I love you all exactly alike, and I only wish you could all three win. If I were to give the prize to one of you, the other two would hate me, of course. In these circumstances, I am ill qualified to be your judge. But this young Phrygian to whom you are going is of the royal blood—a relation of Ganymede’s,—and at the same time a simple countryman; so that we need have no hesitation in trusting his eyes.

Aph. As far as I am concerned, Zeus, Momus himself might be our judge; I should not be afraid to show myself. What fault could he find with me? But the others must agree too.

Hera. Oh, we are under no alarm, thank you,—though your admirer Ares should be appointed. But Paris will do; whoever Paris is.

Zeus. And my little Athene; have we her approval? Nay, never blush, nor hide your face. Well, well, maidens will be coy; ‘tis a delicate subject. But there, she nods consent. Now, off with you; and mind, the beaten ones must not be cross with the judge; I will not have the poor lad harmed. The prize of beauty can be but one.

Herm. Now for Phrygia. I will show the way; keep close behind me, ladies, and don’t be nervous. I know Paris well: he is a charming young man; a great gallant, and an admirable judge of beauty. Depend on it, he will make a good award.

Aph. I am glad to hear that; I ask for nothing better than a just judge.—Has he a wife, Hermes, or is he a bachelor?

Herm. Not exactly a bachelor.

Aph. What do you mean?

Herm. I believe there is a wife, as it were; a good enough sort of girl—a native of those parts—but sadly countrified! I fancy he does not care very much about her.—Why do you ask?

Aph. I just wanted to know.

Ath. Now, Hermes, that is not fair. No whispering with Aphrodite.

Herm. It was nothing, Athene; nothing about you. She only asked me whether Paris was a bachelor.

Ath. What business is that of hers?

Herm. None that I know of. She meant nothing by the question; she just wanted to know.

Ath. Well, and is he?

Herm. Why, no.

Ath. And does he care for military glory? has he ambition? Or is he a mere neatherd?

Herm. I couldn’t say for certain. But he is a young man, so it is to be presumed that distinction on the field of battle is among his desires.

Aph. There, you see; I don’t complain; I say nothing when you whisper with her. Aphrodite is not so particular as some people.

Herm. Athene asked me almost exactly the same as you did; so don’t be cross. It will do you no harm, my answering a plain question.—Meanwhile, we have left the stars far behind us, and are almost over Phrygia. There is Ida: I can make out the peak of Gargarum quite plainly; and if I am not mistaken, there is Paris himself.

Hera. Where is he? I don’t see him.

Herm. Look over there to the left, Hera: not on the top, but down the side, by that cave where you see the herd.

Hera. But I don’t see the herd.

Herm. What, don’t you see them coming out from between the rocks,—where I am pointing, look—and the man running down from the crag, and keeping them together with his staff?

Hera. I see him now; if he it is.

Herm. Oh, that is Paris. But we are getting near; it is time to alight and walk. He might be frightened, if we were to descend upon him so suddenly.

Hera. Yes; very well. And now that we are on the earth, you might go on ahead, Aphrodite, and show us the way. You know the country, of course, having been here so often to see Anchises; or so I have heard.

Aph. Your sneers are thrown away on me, Hera.

Herm. Come; I’ll lead the way myself. I spent some time on Ida, while Zeus was courting Ganymede. Many is the time that I have been sent here to keep watch over the boy; and when at last the eagle came, I flew by his side, and helped him with his lovely burden. This is the very rock, if I remember; yes, Ganymede was piping to his sheep, when down swooped the eagle behind him, and tenderly, oh, so tenderly, caught him up in those talons, and with the turban in his beak bore him off, the frightened boy straining his neck the while to see his captor. I picked up his pipes—he had dropped them in his fright and —ah! here is our umpire, close at hand. Let us accost him.— Good-morrow, herdsman!

Par. Good-morrow, youngster. And who may you be, who come thus far afield? And these dames? They are over comely, to be wandering on the mountain-side.

Herm. ‘These dames,’ good Paris, are Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite; and I am Hermes, with a message from Zeus. Why so pale and tremulous? Compose yourself; there is nothing the matter. Zeus appoints you the judge of their beauty. ‘Because you are handsome, and wise in the things of love’ (so runs the message), ‘I leave the decision to you; and for the prize,—read the inscription on the apple.’

Par. Let me see what it is about. FOR THE FAIR, it says. But, my lord Hermes, how shall a mortal and a rustic like myself be judge of such unparalleled beauty? This is no sight for a herdsman’s eyes; let the fine city folk decide on such matters. As for me, I can tell you which of two goats is the fairer beast; or I can judge betwixt heifer and heifer;—’tis my trade. But here, where all are beautiful alike, I know not how a man may leave looking at one, to look upon another. Where my eyes fall, there they fasten,—for there is beauty: I move them, and what do I find? more loveliness! I am fixed again, yet distracted by neighbouring charms. I bathe in beauty: I am enthralled: ah, why am I not all eyes like Argus? Methinks it were a fair award, to give the apple to all three. Then again: one is the wife and sister of Zeus; the others are his daughters. Take it where you will, ‘tis a hard matter to judge.

Herm. So it is, Paris. At the same time—Zeus’s orders! There is no way out of it.

Par. Well, please point out to them, Hermes, that the losers must not be angry with me; the fault will be in my eyes only.

Herm. That is quite understood. And now to work.

Par. I must do what I can; there is no help for it. But first let me ask,—am I just to look at them as they are, or must I go into the matter thoroughly?

Herm. That is for you to decide, in virtue of your office. You have only to give your orders; it is as you think best.

Par. As I think best? Then I will be thorough.

Herm. Get ready, ladies. Now, Mr. Umpire.—I will look the other way.

Hera. I approve your decision, Paris. I will be the first to submit myself to your inspection. You shall see that I have more to boast of than white arms and large eyes: nought of me but is beautiful.

Par. Aphrodite, will you also prepare?

Ath. Oh, Paris,—make her take off that girdle, first; there is magic in it; she will bewitch you. For that matter, she has no right to come thus tricked out and painted,—just like a courtesan! She ought to show herself unadorned.

Par. They are right about the girdle, madam; it must go.

Aph. Oh, very well, Athene: then take off that helmet, and show your head bare, instead of trying to intimidate the judge with that waving plume. I suppose you are afraid the colour of your eyes may be noticed, without their formidable surroundings.

Ath. Oh, here is my helmet.

Aph. And here is my girdle.

Hera. Now then.

Par. God of wonders! What loveliness is here! Oh, rapture! How exquisite these maiden charms! How dazzling the majesty of Heaven’s true queen! And oh, how sweet, how enthralling is Aphrodite’s smile! ‘Tis too much, too much of happiness.—But perhaps it would be well for me to view each in detail; for as yet I doubt, and know not where to look; my eyes are drawn all ways at once.

Aph. Yes, that will be best.

Par. Withdraw then, you and Athene; and let Hera remain.

Hera. So be it; and when you have finished your scrutiny, you have next to consider, how you would like the present which I offer you. Paris, give me the prize of beauty, and you shall be lord of all Asia.

Par. I will take no presents. Withdraw. I shall judge as I think right. Approach, Athene.

Ath. Behold. And, Paris, if you will say that I am the fairest, I will make you a great warrior and conqueror, and you shall always win, in every one of your battles.

Par. But I have nothing to do with fighting, Athene. As you see, there is peace throughout all Lydia and Phrygia, and my father’s dominion is uncontested. But never mind; I am not going to take your present, but you shall have fair play. You can robe again and put on your helmet; I have seen. And now for Aphrodite.

Aph. Here I am; take your time, and examine carefully; let nothing escape your vigilance. And I have something else to say to you, handsome Paris. Yes, you handsome boy, I have long had an eye on you; I think you must be the handsomest young fellow in all Phrygia. But it is such a pity that you don’t leave these rocks and crags, and live in a town; you will lose all your beauty in this desert. What have you to do with mountains? What satisfaction can your beauty give to a lot of cows? You ought to have been married long ago; not to any of these dowdy women hereabouts, but to some Greek girl; an Argive, perhaps, or a Corinthian, or a Spartan; Helen, now, is a Spartan, and such a pretty girl—quite as pretty as I am—and so susceptible! Why, if she once caught sight of you, she would give up everything, I am sure, to go with you, and a most devoted wife she would be. But you have heard of Helen, of course?

Par. No, ma’am; but I should like to hear all about her now.

Aph. Well, she is the daughter of Leda, the beautiful woman, you know, whom Zeus visited in the disguise of a swan.

Par. And what is she like?

Aph. She is fair, as might be expected from the swan, soft as down (she was hatched from an egg, you know), and such a lithe, graceful figure; and only think, she is so much admired, that there was a war because Theseus ran away with her; and she was a mere child then. And when she grew up, the very first men in Greece were suitors for her hand, and she was given to Menelaus, who is descended from Pelops.—Now, if you like, she shall be your wife.

Par. What, when she is married already?

Aph. Tut, child, you are a simpleton: I understand these things.

Par. I should like to understand them too.

Aph. You will set out for Greece on a tour of inspection: and when you get to Sparta, Helen will see you; and for the rest—her falling in love, and going back with you—that will be my affair.

Par. But that is what I cannot believe,—that she will forsake her husband to cross the seas with a stranger, a barbarian.

Aph. Trust me for that. I have two beautiful children, Love and Desire. They shall be your guides. Love will assail her in all his might, and compel her to love you: Desire will encompass you about, and make you desirable and lovely as himself; and I will be there to help. I can get the Graces to come too, and between us we shall prevail.

Par. How this will end, I know not. All I do know is, that I am in love with Helen already. I see her before me—I sail for Greece I am in Sparta—I am on my homeward journey, with her at my side! Ah, why is none of it true?

Aph. Wait. Do not fall in love yet. You have first to secure my interest with the bride, by your award. The union must be graced with my victorious presence: your marriage-feast shall be my feast of victory. Love, beauty, wedlock; all these you may purchase at the price of yonder apple.

Par. But perhaps after the award you will forget all about me?

Aph. Shall I swear?

Par. No; but promise once more.

Aph. I promise that you shall have Helen to wife; that she shall follow you, and make Troy her home; and I will be present with you, and help you in all.

Par. And bring Love, and Desire, and the Graces?

Aph Assuredly; and Passion and Hymen as well.

Par. Take the apple: it is yours.


[Source: Lucian of Samosata, Works, Translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler]