The trial of Paris is an event and tale from Greek mythology where the origin for the Trojan War is found. According to the graphic and oral narratives, Eris, goddess of discord, would have been irritated when she was not invited to a party on Olympus.
The goddess then sent to the event a golden apple, on which one could read the inscription "belonging to the most beautiful. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite then responded to Eris' challenge by throwing themselves on the apple.
Zeus, unable to choose a winner, assigned such honor to Paris, prince of Troy, a mortal whose skills were already proven. Dealing with the cause, each of the goddesses attempted to assign a bribe to Paris, which resulted in his "trial."
Among the many pictorial representations of this story are the painting painted by Lucas Cranach and the famous paintings of Rubens. In literature, Homer alludes to the theme in a more austere way while the comedy branch treats it as a satire and more broadly.
As with many mythological tales, the details vary according to the source. The brief allusion to the trial in the Iliad showing that the episode that would initiate the later action was already familiar to the public; a fuller version was told in the Cypria, a lost work of the epic cycle, of which only fragments (and a reliable summary) remain.
Later writers Ovid, Lucian, the Bibliotheca, and Hyginus retold the story with a skeptical or ironic eye. The myth appeared in the 7th century BCE in Cypselus, Olympia and was described by Pausanias in this way:
Hermes...bringing to Alexandria Paris, son of Priam, who the goddesses must judge beauty, their words being, "Here is Hermes, who is bringing Paris to Alexandria, that he may arbitrate on the beauty of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite."
The subject was favored by painters of vase paintings as early as the 6th century BCE and remained popular in Greek and Roman art before enjoying a significant renaissance as an opportunity to show three naked women in the Renaissance.
He narrates that Zeus gave a banquet in celebration of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (Achilles' parents). However, Eris, goddess of discord was not invited, because she would have made the party unpleasant for everyone.
Angry at this affront, Eris arrived at the party with a golden apple from the Garden of the Hesperides, which she threw on the table, on which was written καλλλίστῃ (kallistēi, "to the most beautiful").
Three goddesses claimed the apple: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.
They asked Zeus to judge which one was most deserving, and eventually he, reluctant to favor any one, declared that Paris, a mortal from Troy, would judge the case, for he had recently shown his exemplary loyalty in a contest in which Ares in bull form had defeated the prize-winning bull himself, and Paris, the shepherd-prince, unhesitatingly awarded the prize to the god.
So it came to pass that, with Hermes as their guide, the three candidates bathed in the Ida spring, and then went to see Paris on Mount Ida, at the moment of the climax which is the crux of the tale.
While Paris inspected them, each uses their powers to bribe him; Hera offered (bribed) to make him king of Europe and Asia, Athena also offered (bribed) wisdom and skill in war, and Aphrodite, who had the graces and the hours to improve her charms with flowers and music (according to a fragment of Cypria quoted by Athenagoras of Athens), offered (as a bribe) the most beautiful woman in the world at the time (Euripides, Andromache, l.284, Helena l. 676).
This was Helen of Sparta, wife of the Greek king Menelaus. Paris accepted Aphrodite's gift and decorated the apple for her, receiving Helen, as well as the enmity of the Greeks and especially Hera. The Greeks' expedition to retrieve Helen from Paris in Troy is the mythological basis of the Trojan War.
The mythological theme of the trial of Paris naturally gave the artists the opportunity to depict a kind of beauty contest between three beautiful naked women , but the myth, at least since Euripides, has been seen as a choice between the gifts each goddess embodies. The bribery involved is ironic and the final ingredient.
According to a tradition suggested by Alfred J. Van Windekens, objectively, Hera was indeed the most beautiful, not Aphrodite. However, Hera was the goddess of civil order and of betrayed wives, among other things.
She was often portrayed as a shrewish wife, jealous of Zeus, and who often escaped his controls by cheating on her with other women, mortal and immortal.
She had fidelity and chastity on her mind and was careful to be modest while Paris was inspecting her. Aphrodite, though not as beautiful as Hera, was the goddess of sexuality, and was easily more sexual and charming than she was. Thus, she was able to influence Paris to judge her the most beautiful.
Athena's beauty is rarely commented on in the myths, perhaps because the Greeks posited her as an asexual being, able to "overcome" her "feminine weaknesses" to become wise and talented in war (both considered male domains by the Greeks). Her anger at having lost causes her to join the Greeks in the battle against Troy by Paris, a key event at the turning point of the war.
In a modern addendum from 1965, in the book Principia Discordia, it is stated that after she threw the golden apple into the banquet hall she left and went to eat a hot dog. This by the adherents of Discordianism being the cause of the "original snub."