|VR Publish Date:||May 22 2015|
Eris (Roman name Discordia) was a fearful goddess to the ancient Greeks, being the patron of strife, discord, contention and rivalry. Usually this was perceived negatively, as in the Eris who was the starter of wars. Some ancient theologans however took a more positive view of Eris, instead attributing human growth and betterment to her aspects of competition and rivalry.
Eris was then thought to have borne several children, again singly (who needs a man!) - the Kakodaimones, the evil spirits which plagued mankind:
Hesiod, Theogony 226 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"But abhorred Eris (Strife) bare painful Ponos (Toil), and Lethe (Forgetfulness), and Limos (Starvation), and the Algea (Pains), full of weeping, the Hysminai (Fightings) and the Makhai (Battles), the Phonoi (Murders) and the Androktasiai (Man-slaughters), the Neikea (Quarrels), the Pseudo-Logoi (Lies), the Amphilogiai (Disputes), and Dysnomia (Lawlessness) and Ate (Ruin), who share one another's natures, and Horkos (Oath) who does more damage than any other to earthly men, when anyone, of his knowledge, swears to a false oath."
So you can see Eris gets quite a bad rap in ancient books, being attributed many of the qualities either herself, or from her extended family, which caused grief and pain to men.
While Eris delighted in causing chaos and strife, her most famous exploit touched off the worst war in ancient history: the Trojan war.
The story goes that Thetis was getting married to Peleus. Zeus invited all gods to the wedding, excluding only Eris. Eris was justifiably upset by this slight, and turned up anyway. When she was refused admittance, she stole a golden apple from the Hesperides (nymphs of the evening, sisters as they were daughters of Nyx and Erebus). Eris inscribed on the apple the word "Kallisti" (for the fairest). She returned to the wedding banquet and tossed the golden apple into the throng. Three goddesses stood up to claim it: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. They quarrelled between themselves for ownership of the golden apple. They called upon Zeus to settle their quarrel, and Zeus then called upon a mortal named Paris, son of the king of Troy, to judge which of the three goddesses were indeed the fairest.
Each goddess spent some time bribing Paris. Hera offered of mortal power, Athena offered wisdom, and Aphrodite offered love. Paris being a young, hot blooded man, was swayed by the offer of the love of a beautiful woman, and chose Aphrodite as the fairest. He received the beautiful Helen of Sparta as his new bride, the most beautiful woman in the world. Unfortunately she was married to Menelaus of Sparta at the time, and the Spartans being a warlike tribe, immediately took their vengeance on the Trojans using sharp, pointed instruments. And the rest is history.
The above aside, not much else is known about the goddess Eris in classical times. Did she have worshippers? If she did, was said worship open or secret? Was their worship structured or free flowing? Where there any rites, festivals, deeds attributed to the worship of Eris? Did worshipper sing songs or construct poetry or odes in praise of their goddess? And this is what we are left with today: Vague memories of a chaotic goddess.
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