Judgement of Paris

   Aphrodite is the erotic impulse absolute, and her counterpart in The Odyssey is Circe.  Hera, the spouse of Zeus, is the matron, the household mother of the universe, and her counterpart is Calypso with whom Odysseus lived for seven years.  Athena is the virgin goddess, born from Zeus’s brain, the daughter of the Father, she who is the inspirer and patron of heroes, and her counterpart is little Nausicaa.  Each represents these aspects of the female power, aspects of the energy of life: sakti.   

   When Paris is asked to judge the three goddesses, says Jane Harrison in her wonderful book Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, it amounts to a male put-down of the Goddess.  For here were the three major classical goddesses, the three aspects of the one Goddess who is manifested in these three modes, and here is Paris, a languid young man, judging them as though in an Atlantic City beauty contest!  And they are vying for his vote by giving him bribes and promises. 

   Aphrodite says, “Choose me and I’ll get you Helen of Troy.  Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world – only inconveniently married to Menelaus, but so what, I’ll get her for you.” 

   Hera says, “Choose me and I will give you majesty, dignity, and power among men.”

   And Athena says, “Choose me and I will give you heroic fame.”

   Now, what is actually happening here, as Jane Harrison points out, is that this young man is choosing a life’s career: deciding which of these patron goddesses he is to follow as the dominant one.  He is choosing his spiritual mistress as guardian and guide, and the reinterpretation of this is nothing but a patriarchal put-down of the Great Goddess herself.  

So there you have the supposed cause of the Trojan War, ten years of he-man stuff – woman and booty.  When Achilles, the great Greek hero, goes off and sulk in his tent, what is the big quarrel between him and Agamemnon about?  The argument that causes Achilles to neglect the war – is it strategy or tactics?  No, it is “who gets the blonde?”

   Now, this is an attitude toward the female that is totally different from that which is proper in a dialogue between the sexes.