Stories of the Ancient Greeks - Charles D. Shaw

The Shepherd Prince of Troy

Priam, king of Troy, lived in a splendid city called Ilion, with many sons and daughters around him. One of the sons, named Paris, had a strange history. He was only a few days old when his mother dreamed that he caught up a blazing torch and ran through the city, setting it on fire. The king asked an oracle what that dream meant. He was told that it would all come true. Priam ordered that the child should be taken to Mount Ida, on the eastern side of the kingdom, and left there to die.

Some shepherds found the boy and brought him up as their son. He was strong and bold and liked to fight, to wrestle, and to run with the other young shepherds. They called him Alexander, which means, "Defender of men."

When everybody was afraid to race or fight with him, he was made umpire of their games. He always gave just decisions, and even the gods knew that he was fair and honest.

At a feast on Olympus the goddess of Discord threw on the table a golden apple, marked, "For the most beautiful." Her said, "That is for me. Who is so beautiful as the queen of heaven?"

But Athene stretched out her hand and said, "No, it is for me. Who can equal me in the beauty of wisdom?"

Then Aphrodite rose up and said, "It is for me. Gods and men know that I am most beautiful."

There was a bitter quarrel, until some one said, "Let us go to the shepherd of Mount Ida; he will decide rightly." It was agreed, and Paris saw all heaven coming to him on the mountain-side. Among so much beauty and power the shepherd found it hard to choose. The goddesses made him fine promises.

Hera said, "Give me the prize, and I will make you the most powerful king in the world."

Athene said, "None shall be like you for wisdom if you give me the apple."

Aphrodite smiled on the youth and said, "Give it to me, and you shall have for a wife the most beautiful woman in the world."

He gave her the golden apple, and from that moment Hera and Athene hated him and his family.

Paris and the apple


King Priam knew nothing of all this. He intended to have a contest among the young princes, his neighbors, and the prize was to be the finest bull upon Mount Ida. Officers looking for such an animal found it in the herd of Paris.

"Shepherd," they said, "the king has need of this beast."

"Why does he want him?" inquired Paris. The officers answered, "To be the prize of the royal games. How much is he worth?"

Paris replied, "He is not for sale." When the officers urged him he said, "You can not have the bull unless I may enter the games and have a chance to win the prize."

When this was told the king he said, "Let the bold shepherd come." Paris went to Troy, and in the games conquered everybody except Hector, the king's oldest son. The younger man was afraid of this great hero, so he dropped his sword and ran for his life.

When Paris reached the temple of Zeus he went in and was safe. Nobody would dare to harm him in that holy place.

Cassandra, his sister, was a prophetess in that temple. She cried out that this was not a shepherd, but the king's son; that his name was not Alexander, but Paris; and that Hector was his brother. They all went to the palace, and Priam was glad to see again his child whom he had sent away to die. He welcomed the youth to his royal home, and gave him every right of a king's son.

Paris as a prince was not so happy as he had been when a shepherd. He lived in the city instead of on the mountain, and had nothing to do but amuse himself. His clothes were very fine and set off his handsome face and figure. But he grew tired of home and friends.

"Father," he said to Priam, "let me go abroad and see something of the world."

The king thought well of the plan, so he gave Paris money, and sent him to travel with several gay young men like himself. They journeyed from island to island, and came at last to Sparta where Menelaus was king. He welcomed the young travelers and was very kind to them. In a few days he said to his guests, "I must go to Crete on important business. Excuse me for leaving you, but my queen will do all she can to make you comfortable while I am gone."

That queen was named Helen and was the most beautiful woman in the world. When she was a girl many princes asked her in marriage, but she did not care for any of them.

Her father said to these princes, "I can give her to only one. You must not quarrel about her. Let each man promise to be satisfied when she has made her choice, and to defend her husband against all enemies."

They promised, and she choose Menelaus, king of Sparta, and went with him to his home.

They had lived happily for some years when Paris came. He was a prince, rich, fair to see, and with very pleasant manners. Helen was young and weak. She forgot her duty, fell in love with Paris, and went with him to Troy.

Aphrodite had kept her promise. Paris had the most beautiful wife in the world. But sorrow, misery, and death followed, as they are sure to follow selfishness and deceit. Menelaus called all the princes of Greece and of the islands to help him get back Helen. They raised a large army and sailed against Troy. This was the beginning of the Trojan war, which lasted for ten years.