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By Carlos Parada, author of Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology

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Eris

 

A winged Eris throws the apple at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (sitting to the right). Athena, holding her spear, stands behind Aphrodite and her son Eros; in front of them, Hera, the third goddess to claim the apple sits besides her husband Zeus, and behind the latter is Hermes, who later led the three goddesses to Mount Ida. Artemis, wearing a diadem with a half-moon, is seen in the background to the left.

 

Relevant links:

 

"Discord strides exulting in her torn mantle, followed by Bellona wielding a bloodstained scourge." [Virgil, Aeneid 7.702]

 

Eris is Discord, and may be called strife and quarrel as well .

 

Nurse of War.

Eris has been said to be the daughter of Nyx, but she has also been called the sister of Ares and the nurse of War, helping her brother in arms to accomplish his bloody work. For being a great lover of the groans of dying men, she fills their hearts with hatred, so that they may slay each other.

Famous trouble caused by Eris.

Being of such a deplorable nature, the gods have kept Eris apart and, as it is widely known, she was not in the list of guests who were invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of Achilles. Nevertheless Eris, being difficult to get rid of, came to the party and threw a golden apple through the door with the inscription:

"For the fairest"

And Hera, Athena and Aphrodite started disputing on account of the apple and were therefore sent by Zeus to Mount Ida near Troy in order to be judged by the shepherd Paris, who chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful, accepting Helen's hand for a bribe.

Consequences of that trouble.

This is one cause of the Trojan War, for Paris, having come to fetch his bribe at Sparta, where Helen was queen, left the city as her lover and sailed with her to Troy. But her husband Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, against all odds, for war had never before broken up for the sake of a woman, sent a powerful army against Troy and created such a conflagration that still today causes such awe and amazement as if the flames of Troy were still burning.

Loved by no one, and yet possesses many.

The cruel works of Eris, who fosters battles and wars, awake the minds and hearts of mortals and set them in motion to exchange death for death, as did the Pelopides Atreus and Thyestes 1 or the sons of Oedipus, in spite of the fact that no one loves her, which is shown in the fact that artists represented her as a most repulsive woman. Some believe that this is so because mortals must pay Eris her due following the will of the gods; yet others have said that discord among mortals displeases Zeus. In any case, despite the fact that nobody loves her, many are possessed by her.

Little at the beginning, becomes soon a giant.

When Eris causes a dispute she has at the beginning an insignificant appearance, but, as they say, she soon reaches heaven with her head while having her feet still on the ground. And there is no disagreement between the contenders concerning Discord itself, for they usually agree in carrying the quarrel as far as they deem it necessary and desirable, which normally is, as some put it, "to the bitter end", since those possessed by contention never stop agreeing in the necessity of letting division prevail. That is why there is no end to quarrels until some other force takes Eris' place, for nothing can be expected from this cruel divider to end a strife:

"Discord is the last of the gods to close an argument." [Antigone 2 to a Herald. Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 1057]

But when Eris leaves, the state of harmony that was previously enjoyed returns, for harmony has no part in discord.

Discord inside.

Similarly, in one and the same person, if the body is in harmony then health prevails, and if the mind is in harmony then happiness prevails. But when Discord makes herself master of body and mind, disease and madness ravage both. And this is likely to happen when things fall out of proportion or when the mind is torn apart by opposite opinions and desires. For a diseased mind is like a melody out of tune, which ignorant of the laws of harmony, falls in discordant noise or dissonance, and that is why it has been said that nothing is worse than to live in internal discord and contradiction in one's own single self.

Discord in music.

When in musical performances harmonies and rhythms are not adapted to each other, or songs are provided with unsuitable accompaniments, or theme and tune disagree, Discord finds her place in that art and turns music into ugly noise, painful to the ear and to the heart that must endure it.

Discord in civil life.

And the same occurs when Justice, who nourishes harmony in human affairs, is banished; for when she leaves Discord takes her place. And when Eris and her children have made themselves at home, Lawlessness takes over, and simple Quarrel ends in Murders, and Disputes feed in Lies, and Oath comes to trouble the forsworn, and Battles and Fightings ensue, leading the whole community to Ruin and filling it with Sorrows, Toil and Famine.

Unavoidable goddess.

But some think that Discord cannot be avoided, arguing that equality and fairness have no existence beyond the name, and that is why they do not hesitate, when they deem it necessary in order to achieve the attractive aims that Eris whispers in their ears, to plunge family, friends and country into darkness in order to win, through debauched contention, whatever they fancy is of unsurpassable value, be it gold, power, Fame or whatever these three may provide.

Goddess to fear.

Discord do not say to mortals "look at my repulsive face, be nasty against your neighbours", but instead stirs up everybody to win pre-eminence, letting them be persuaded of their own superiority, or be convinced that their rights should come first. That is why they say:

"Truly Eris is a goddess to fear." [Euripides, Phoenician Women, 799]

since it is clear that there are no troubles that this hard-hearted goddess cannot devise.

Two Eris.

Seeing that Eris is often present in the life of mortals, some have said that there are two of them, distinguishing two kinds of strife. One of them, they say, is she who causes war and battles, and the other is she who makes a man grow eager to work by showing him the prosperity of his neighbours. This Eris, they add, is wholesome for men, since she, creating enmity between craftsman and craftsman, and causing beggar to be jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel, makes them all hurry after wealth.

The poet's counsel and rule.

For these reasons, they say, this Eris may be worthy of praise, whereas the Eris who delights in mischief should be avoided. For the latter holds men back from the work that will make their fortune and right, keeping them close to troubles and wangles and court-houses and the like. And considering these realities the poet Hesiod established this rule:

"He has no time for courts and public life
Who has not stored up one full year's supply."

[Hesiod, Works and Days 30]

 

Family

 

Parentage

Nyx.-

(By herself)

 

These are the notorious Children of Eris:

Battles, Disputes, Famine, Fightings, Lawlessness, Lies, Manslayings, Murders, Oath, Oblivion, Quarrels, Ruin [see Ate at Abstractions], Sorrows, Toil.

 

Eris in GROUPS

 

 

Sources

 

Sources

Abbreviations

Apd.Ep.3.2; Col.39; CYP.1; Eur.Ore.1000; Hes.The.211ff.; Hes.WD.1ff.; Hom.Il.4.440; Hyg.Fab.92; Lib.Met.11; Nonn.20.35, 39.385; Pau.5.19.2; Pla.Gorg.482c; Pla.Laws 859e et seq.; Pla.Phaedo 94a; Pla.Soph.228a et seq.; QS.5.31, 8.191, 10.53.

 

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This page belongs to the Greek Mythology Link, created and maintained by Carlos Parada since September 18, 1997. Except stated otherwise all material in this site is copyright © Carlos Parada. E-mail: maicar@swipnet.se

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