Fatal Lust, Fatal Consequences

‘What is left when honour is lost?’
Publilius Syrus

To love and be loved is the greatest desire every person hopes to have. It is human nature, written in our DNA since the conception of people. The image of stone-age man dragging a female by her hair, whether correct hypothesis or not, is a scene a few may recognise. The point is love is an illogical emotion, it makes people do things they may not normally do. Maslow understood this as he ranked it as number 3 on his hierarchy of need:

• Social Needs – belongingness, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.

He believed people are ‘motivated to achieve certain needs’ and when you succeed that level you move onto the next. So was Paris motivated by need or the desire to possess the most beautiful woman in the world?

Enrique Simonet (1866–1927)  Spanish: El juicio de Paris The Judgement of Paris The painting shows the Judgment of Paris, an event in Greek mythology. Figures, from left to right: The goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite, then Aphrodite's son, Eros, and Paris. 1904 Museum of Málaga  Wikimedia

Enrique Simonet (1866–1927)
Spanish: El juicio de Paris
The Judgement of Paris
The painting shows the Judgment of Paris, an event in Greek mythology. Figures, from left to right: The goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite, then Aphrodite’s son, Eros, and Paris.
1904
Museum of Málaga
Wikimedia

Paris was married to a nymph Oenone, who he fell in love with while watching over his cattle on Mount Ida. She had the gift of foresight and predicted he would fall for another woman. She did not entirely accept this prophecy as Paris declared his undying love for her every day and etched her name on tree trunks. So when the three goddesses approached him to choose the most beautiful of three, why did he choose Aphrodite’s offer? Didn’t he already have a gorgeous wife he swore never to leave?

There wasn’t much thinking go on, not upstairs in any case. Paris fell in love with the bribe. To be offered the most ‘beautiful woman in world’ was the ultimate prize. And that’s what the goddesses presented—three choices, three incredible options. He didn’t stop to consider the consequences of his decision:

1. Helen was a married woman
2. She had a child
3. She came from a powerful and warrior family

‘…when Paris first committed that act of blind folly at the judgement in his shepherd’s hut, when he humiliated Hera and Athena by preferring Aphrodite—whose reward was his fatal lust for women.’
Book 24, Lines 27-30

Paris had his reasons for choosing love over power and bravery. He thought he could do better than Theseus, who had kidnapped Helen, raped and kept her imprisoned until her brothers rescued her. He wasn’t going to let the same thing happen to him. After all, he was visited by three goddesses and saw this as a sign of his fortunes changing. And they did.

Paris, in "Phrygian dress", a second-century CE Roman marble The King's Library, British Museum Wikipedia

Paris, in “Phrygian dress”, a second-century CE Roman marble
The King’s Library, British Museum
Wikipedia

Apart from Helen, Paris was the most despised character in the Iliad. Besides what Menelaos and the Akhaians thought of him, the Trojans loathed him. He did bring war upon them which went on for ten long and bloody years. His brother Hektor didn’t like him and even Helen disclosed her disgust with him. ‘I was hoping you had fallen there to the mighty warrior who was once my husband!’ Harsh words, yet perhaps reveals Helen was abducted rather than a willing absconder.

Although Paris was a coward he did have a strong resolve, especially when it came to Helen. He recoiled at the thought of one to one combat with Menelaos knowing full well he was no match for the Spartan king and only does at Hektor’s insistence. He refused to negotiate Helen’s return and instead offered the precious items he stole when he took her. He does go out and fight, in the attempt to show he can be brave. He killed two men, wounded Diomedes and Makhaon and duelled Menelaos.

Was it Paris’ entire fault? In part. He made the choice, no-one twisted his arm, yet he was a pawn in this game played by the gods. What are your thoughts? Is Paris a pawn or a player? Love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading and visiting.

Further reading:
Judgement of Paris, Greek mythology
Paris, Greek mythology link
Paris, Greek and Roman mythology

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Accursed Women
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17 thoughts on “Fatal Lust, Fatal Consequences

  1. Paris made the choice himself. Yet this is an example the ancient greeks wanted to teach to the younger generations, Hubris. Paris was by all accounts a very handsome man and had it all by many standards of the day. A prince, good looks, a beautiful wife, luxury etc. But he wanted more and he thought because of his status he should have everything and did not care about the others.
    Even his idea that he was a great warrior when he was no wear near his brother. Perhaps pride that he wanted to best his brother in this area of possessing Helen, the most beautiful woman he would win a sibling rivalry. “You might be a great warrior but I had the most women and the most beautiful too.” Pride goeth before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 ‘Hubris’

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  2. The gods tempt Paris…..similar to God tempting Adam. But at the end of the day, Paris had free will and a certain amount of power! So many modern men make the same mistakes and betray their families. I love the painting: The Judgement of Paris.

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  3. Hi Luciana,

    I really enjoy your continuation of studying various characters from Homer’s Illiad. This epic tale has so many rich themes regarding the follies of the various heroes. Certainly, fatal lust for women has been the downfall of many great men and it is interesting that Paris would choose love over power and bravery. As it was ultimately his decision, I believe Paris was a player whose action had tragic consequences on his homeland and family. This has been a flaw that has been repeated throughout history, including King Henry VIII whose fatal love for Anne Boleyn resulted in the establishment of a new church.

    Thank you for sharing your insight on another thought-provoking article.

    Best wishes,
    Linnea

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    • Hi Linnea,
      Thank you, it has been so far a interesting process, delving into the characters from the Iliad and in a way, insight into Homer’s persona. Lust rather than love is the main theme in the story and in history. It seems it will always be a flaw in the human psyche, the confusion between love and lust.
      I do enjoy reading your comments.
      Best wishes
      Luciana

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  4. Paris like many of us fall for those things we can’t have. This tale has always made me wonder about whether it is love or lust that drives Paris. Which you have captured in your quote ‘…when Paris first committed that act of blind folly at the judgement in his shepherd’s hut, when he humiliated Hera and Athena by preferring Aphrodite—whose reward was his fatal lust for women.’ Book 24, Lines 27-30

    I thank you for sharing these stories. To find one’s true love has been the tale in many a myth and many a story, but to love oneself truly must be the place to start. It is the warning in Book 24, Lines 27-30 for all of us that to be driven by lust will be fatal to us and for humankind but love well that is another story.

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    • Your first line captures it all James, we are subjected to want things we can’t have and in some cases suffer the consequences.
      Paris’ story and that of his people is a cautionary tale one that in our current times needs to be heeded!
      thank you for your comment 😀

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  5. Hi dear Luciana.
    What a wonderful post… As you know I have once written about The apple of discord and The Judgement of Paris… And we both recognize these events as the first ones leading to trojan War..
    Was it Paris’ entire fault?… I believe he was more a player than a pawn… Otherwise he wouldn’t have taken his choice so far… By abducting Helen (Menelaus wife)…
    Paris reminded me of Icarus somehow… A good looking young prince who wanted to take it further, guided by passions and neverending desires.
    One thing is sure though… If he hadn’t made that choice, there wouldn’t have been Trojan War.
    Thanks for sharing, cara amica. Ciao, Luciana,
    Aquileana 🙂

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    • Ciao Cara Aquileana

      I like the parallel between Icarus and Paris. Both made choices which were detrimental to each and where hubris was a major factor.
      Paris did have a choice, he was already married and yet still chose another woman over power and wealth. What was he exactly looking for? I think that’s another question that needs addressing.
      Mille grazie bella
      Luciana

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  6. Great post, but I really wanted to add something about Carthage (but for some reason, WP wouldn’t let me comment): After Hannibal, such was Rome’s rage against Carthage that its legionaries sowed salt in its soil upon conquering it, to ensure that nothing ever grew there again!

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  7. I think Paris was a pawn, as all humans were in the gods’ exploits, but he also could have made a wiser choice than he did. The shallowness of his choice stands out in my mind, but I try to remember how different the times and cultures were back then.

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    • Very true, times and cultures were very different yet I also think he was fickle. He made a decision based on possessing a woman, a beautiful one, yet for his own pleasure.
      Hmmm… somethings don’t change!
      Thank you JM.
      😀

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