‘What is left when honour is lost?’
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?
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.
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.