Once upon a time, Eris the goddess of strife, was uninvited at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, and in revenge, she threw a golden apple inscribed with the word “Kallistēi” meaning “For the fairest”, amidst the wedding party. With the desire of possessing the golden apple, a vanity-fueled dispute erupted between Hera, Aphrodite and Athena. Unable to come at a resolution, they asked Zeus to decide as to who was the fairest.
Knowing that choosing any one of them, would bring the hatred of the other two, Zeus excluded himself and instructed Hermes to take them to Paris, the son of Hecuba and King Priam of Troy, to pronounce the judgement. At that time, Paris was unaware of his royal lineage and lived as a shepherd on Mount Ida.
Escorted by Hermes, the three goddesses approached Paris, as he herded his cattle. Hermes told Paris to judge the beauty of the goddesses and to give the golden apple, to the fairest. Paris gently bent his eye and quietly began to assess the beauty of each. He looked at their fine eyes, shapely eyebrows, rosy cheeks, full lips, swan like necks, delicate limbs, and found them to be equally beautiful.
Seeing that Paris was unable to decide, the bright-eyed Athena smiled and offered to teach him manly skill in war. Grabbing the cue, the white-armed Hera offered Paris the lordship of Asia. Observing that both Hera and Athena were offering bribes to Paris, the rose-cheeked Aphrodite, without any shame, lifted up her deep-chested robe, along with the girdle of Erotes, and without heeding her breasts, fully bared her exquisite bosom. Then with a smile far sweeter than the sweetest honey, she offered Paris the love of the most desired Helen of Sparta.
Forgetting hot manly prowess, Paris chose the bridal warmth of Helen, and instead of entering into kingship, he chose to enter the bed of Helen. Hence, Paris judged Aphrodite as the fairest and gave her the golden apple.
Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani