Eris, the goddess of discord and strife, was pissed off. The other gods were having a party and nobody had thought to invite her. Perhaps they had snubbed her; she had a habit of ruining parties by disagreeing with everyone and trying to start a fight. Nobody liked to sit next to the goddess of discord when all she did was whisper gossip into their ears. “Hera finds your hunchback repulsive, Hephaestos”; “Demeter thinks you smell a bit fishy, Poseidon”; “You are literally the only Olympian Zeus wouldn’t fuck”.
It pissed Eris off, being left out like that: a perfectly enjoyable night of low-level discord at a wedding, which doubled the fun. She had been planning on seeing just how much she could ruin the happy couple’s union before the marriage were even consumated. If they had only invited her to the party, perhaps she would have played nice and spent just one evening without deciding that the world needed more wars and it was her job to make that happen.
Eris thought hard about how to spoil the party for those bastards who excluded her. Something simple, something divisive, something that would fuck shit up entirely. Turning an apple over in her hands, a plan formed.
Catfight, Eris thought. A catfight so epic it will be remembered for thousands of years to come.
Taking a knife, she carved a message into the apple. One word, a few letters with the potential to bring down cities.
The wedding feast was in full swing. Gods and heroes danced together, wine flowed. They did not see her there. Eris could have joined the party, but she was pissed off.
Eris lobbed the apple, high into the air. It tumbled, glinting gold. Heads turned skyward.
The apple landed with a bounce between three goddesses. Eris stood back to watch; a smile playing at her lips. They read the message.
Kallistei. For the fairest.
Aphrodite, goddess of love, declared that it must be hers. She was beautiful, she embodied passion and love. Surely it must be hers?
Cow-eyed Hera, the goddess of marriage, claimed the apple for her own. Her own marriage was a shambles: her husband Zeus fucked his way around the pantheon. They had never had the conversation about boundaries and limits. If they had, Zeus would not have heeded it, so Hera responded to his transgressions with vengeful wrath. Her insecurities led her believe that someone must see her as the fairest.
Even smart Athene, clever Athene, goddess of wisdom and warfare, fell prey to the apple’s message. Athene wished fervently that she were the fairest. She declared it hers.
To settle the dispute of who was most beautiful, the goddesses took what they believed to be the only democratic approach: they would ask a man to validate their beauty. They petitioned Zeus, king of the gods with a roving eye for beauty.
He refused. His relationship with his wife was fraught enough. Any answer he gave, he thought, would be wrong.
And so they chose a mortal man, Paris of Troy, who had a decent track record in settling disputes. The three goddesses agreed that he could judge their beauty and tell them, once and for all, who was the fairest, and who owned the apple.
Paris chose Aphrodite in the end. She had the power of enchantment and love, and promised Paris the love of the most beautiful mortal woman alive. The other goddesses bickered, knowing Aphrodite had played dirty. They were gratified as a war began. Athene returned to her rightful place, strategising over the Trojan war. Troy fell after a war of ten years.
The golden apples of the days of gods with human failings shift forms. They were, after all, only symbols of scarcity.
Yet the curse of Eris remains as potent as ever. Kallistei, emblazoned across this season’s must-have Louboutins. Kallistei, tattooed on the arm of the rock star boyfriend. Kallistei, vajazzled across a bald cunt. Divisive symbols, belonging only to the fairest.
We squabble, we beg men to validate our beauty, and Eris smiles.