The Goddess Eris in Greek Mythology

Updated on August 30, 2016
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

In Greek mythology, the Trojan War is probably the most famous event; today, those with some knowledge of the war will think that it started as a result of the abduction of Helen. The abduction of Helen by Paris is just one starting point, and preceding this was another starting point where the goddess Eris was involved.

Eris was the goddess of strife or discord, and was the Greek equivalent of the Roman Discordia. Eris was considered the direct opposite of Harmonia.

One or Two Goddesses

Generally speaking, Eris was considered to be the daughter of Nyx (Night), with Erebus (Darkness) possibly being the father. This parentage makes Eris a “dark” goddess.

Eris though is occasionally referred to as the sister of the war god Ares, making her a daughter of Zeus and Hera; this parentage was one identified by Homer. The probability though, is that Homer was using the names Eris and Enyo interchangeably, with Enyo being the goddess of war and destruction.

Role of Eris in Greek Mythology

Eris could cause division between groups of friends, neighbours or between a married couple, causing discord which could spark hatred and war.

The goddess could invade the individual, infecting body and mind, resulting in disease and madness to take over; only when the body and mind were in harmony could a person be truly happy. It was impossible for Harmonia and Eris to be in the same place at the same time.

Likewise Justice and Eris could not co-exist; and once Justice is forced to leave, Eris takes her place, opening up a place to her children, including Lawlessness (Dysnomia) and Murder (Phonoi).

When referred to as the Nurse of War, Eris was described as a goddess of the battlefield, and the deity or stirred men to fight and kill each other. In this role Eris would be depicted alongside Ares, and would rejoice in the pain and suffering of dying men.

There were some positive elements to the role of Eris for it would be her who stirred up the lazy to work, and would make man strive to achieve when in competition with his neighbour.

Eris - Parent to Many

One area in which Eris was famous was as the mother of other “dark” deities. Hesiod’s famous genealogical work, the Theogony, lists a series of other gods, goddesses and spirits.

The most famous of these children were Lethe (Forgetfulness), a deity associated with the river of Hades, and also Dysnomia (Lawlessness); but other children also included Ponos (Toil), Limos (Famine), Phonoi (Murder), Amphilogiai (Dispute) and Pseudologoi (Lies)

The Golden Apple of Discord

Eris’ most prominent role, in stories of Ancient Greece, occurred in the lead up to the Trojan War.

Zeus had arranged for Peleus to marry the sea nymph Thetis; although the hero had to trap the sea nymph to finally get her to marry him. A huge wedding ceremony was planned, and all of the gods and goddesses of the Greek pantheon were invited to the festivities; all, that was, aside from Eris. Eris was not invited as she would have brought division to the assembled guests.

Such a huge wedding ceremony could not be kept hidden from Eris, and her omission from the guest list, only riled the goddess more. Eris therefore decided to attend the festivities anyway, and once there threw the Golden Apple of Discord amongst the assembled guests. On the golden apple was inscribed the words “for the fairest”.

Due to the inscribed words, three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, believed that the Golden Apple was meant for them.

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis

Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)  PD-art-100
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) PD-art-100 | Source

The Judgement of Paris

Adriaen van der Werff (1659–1722)  PD-art-100
Adriaen van der Werff (1659–1722) PD-art-100 | Source

The Judgement of Paris and the Trojan War

The dispute between the three goddesses required resolution, but Zeus was too sensible to pass judgement himself. So Zeus decreed that Paris, a prince of Troy, would judge the one worthy of the golden apple.

With the judge chosen, bribery followed. Hera offered Paris power, Athena offered skill in the art of war, but Aphrodite’s bribe proved the most tempting to Paris. Aphrodite offered the Trojan prince the most beautiful mortal in the woman, a woman believed to be Helen of Sparta; it did not matter that Helen was already married to Menelaus. Paris’ subsequent abduction of Helen would of course lead to the Achaean leaders raising an army to retrieve.

During the subsequent war, Eris was talked of as having stalked the battlefield alongside Ares, although unlike other deities, Eris was not mentioned as having actually fought.

Some of the ancient sources do put forward the thesis that Zeus was the instigator of the Trojan War, having planned the war with Eris, or simply having used the goddess for his own means. This would mean that Zeus had induced Eris to throw the Golden Apple amongst the wedding guests.

The reasons for Zeus’ action partially to reduce the world’s population, and partially to remove many heroes and demi-gods who might have threatened his position as supreme ruler of the cosmos.

Aphrodite with Golden Apple

Alessandro Allori (1535–1607)  PD-art-100
Alessandro Allori (1535–1607) PD-art-100 | Source

Questions & Answers

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)