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Holocaust Essay, Research Paper

The Judgement of Paris

According to the legend, the chain of events that led to the Trojan War started at a royal wedding. Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, was marrying a sea nymph named Thetis. Many gods went to the the wedding, but Eris, daughter of Zeus, king of the gods, wasn’t invited because she was the goddess of discord and was going to cause trouble.

Angry for not being invited, Eris decided to disrupt the wedding banquet. She threw a golden apple marked “for the fairest” among the guests. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were there, and each thought that she was the fairest of them all. They bickered for a while about who deserved the apple, then asked Zeus to decide the matter.

But Zeus didn’t want to get involved, so he sent them to a prince named Paris or Alexander, the son of King Priam of Troy in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Despite his royal heritage, Paris had been raised as a simple shepherd after his mother learned in a vision that he would cause the destruction of Troy.

Zues chose Paris to judge the contest because Paris was the most honest person on earth. Perhaps Zeus was being a bit sarcastic toward those bickering goddesses when he chose Paris, who was known as a good judge of cattle.

Or perhaps it was simply fate, because the judgment of Paris did indeed lead to the downfall of Troy.

The goddesses tried to rig the contest by bribing Paris. Athena promised to help him lead Troy to victory in a war against the Greeks. Hera promised to make him the king of all Europe and Asia. And Aphrodite, the goddess of love, promised to give Paris the most beautiful woman in the world. The beautiful woman sounded better to Paris than power and glory, so he awarded the Apple of Discord to Aphrodite. She sent him to Sparta to collect his prize. There was just one problem. The most beautiful woman in the world was already married.

The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships

She was Helen, a half-mortal daughter of Zeus. Many powerful men had wanted to marry her, and her step-father, King Tyndareus of Sparta, was afraid this would lead to war. He was also afraid that someone would try to kidnap her (she had already been abducted by Theseus, the king of Athens, but her brothers had rescued her and brought her home).

Tyndareus convinced Helen’s suitors to swear an oath that they would protect her and her husband, whoever he might be. Then Helen married Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae. After Tyndareus’s death Helen’s husband became the king of Sparta.

When Paris showed up in Sparta, Menelaus and Helen welcomed him as a guest. Then Menelaus left Sparta for a while. When he returned, Helen was gone. She had eloped with Paris. Menelaus was furious. Determined to win his wife back, he summoned the princes who had promised to protect Helen, and they agreed to help him attack Troy. Menelaus’s brother Agamemnon was the leader of the expedition.

Another member of the expedition was the hero Achilles, son of Peleus and Thetis, at whose wedding the trouble had started. When Achilles was a baby Thetis had dipped him in the River Styx. This made him invulnerable; no weapon could pierce his skin. He just had one weak spot – his heel. Thetis had held him by the heel when she dipped him, so Achilles could still be injured there.

At first the Greek army couldn’t set sail because there was no wind. Agamemnon solved that problem by sacrificing his daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess Artemis. Then the winds turned favorable and one thousand Greek ships set sail for Troy.

The Siege of Troy

The Greeks battled Troy for ten years. According to legend, the gods took great interest in the war. Hera and Athena still resented Paris for not giving them the Apple of Discord, so they helped the Greek side. Aphrodite assisted the Trojans. Zeus also favored the Trojans, but tried to remain impartial. Eris and her brother Ares helped both sides because they loved war.

In the tenth year of the siege Agamemnon took Achilles’s female prisoner, Briseis, for himself. Achilles was so angry that he refused to fight for the Greeks any longer. But when his friend Patroclus was killed by the mighty Trojan warrior Hector, Achilles returned to the war and killed Hector. Eventually Paris tried to shoot Achilles in the back, but the arrow struck Achilles’s heel and he died. Soon Paris, too, was wounded in battle and he also died.

After the deaths of Achilles and another hero, Ajax, the Greeks wanted to give up and go home. But the king of Ithaca, Odysseus, came up with a plan to get the Greek army into Troy. The Greeks built an immense wooden horse and Odysseus, Menelaus, and other warriors hid inside it. After leaving the horse at the gates of Troy, the Greek army sailed away. The Trojans thought the Greeks had given up and had left the horse as a gift.

Paris’s sister Cassandra, a priestess with psychic powers, knew the horse was trouble. She tried to warn her father, King Priam, but he wouldn’t listen. A priest named Laocoon also warned the Trojans to beware of the Greeks gift. He too was ignored. The horse was brought inside the walls of Troy.

The Fall of Troy

That night, while the Trojans were sleeping, the Greek ships quietly returned. The soldiers in the horse slipped out and opened the city gates, and the Greek army quietly entered Troy. They started fires all over the city. The Trojans awoke to find their city burning. When they tried to flee, they were killed by Greek soldiers. King Priam and almost all of the other Trojan chiefs were killed. Only Aeneas – the son of Aphrodite and a Trojan royal named Anchises – escaped.

Most of the Trojan women were enslaved. Cassandra became Agamemnon’s captive. He brought her back to his palace, where both were murdered by Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra in revenge for the death of her daughter Iphigenia.

Helen was more fortunate. During the sack of Troy, Odysseus found her and took her to her husband, Menelaus. He told Menelaus that Helen had helped him steal a sacred Trojan statue, the Palladium. Pleased to hear that Helen was still loyal to the Greeks, Menelaus returned with her to Sparta (it took them seven years to get home) where,they lived happily ever after.

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