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
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
Eris, being difficult to get rid of, came to the
party and threw a golden apple through the door
with the inscription:
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
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
Helen was queen, left the
city as her lover and sailed with her to
Troy. But her husband
Menelaus and his
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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
since it is clear that there are no troubles
that this hard-hearted goddess cannot devise.
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
[Hesiod, Works and Days 30]