While people are fairly used to hearing rumors of the unqueenly nature of beauty queens, they are not quite as used to hearing that infighting in beauty contests could start a war. However, classical Greek mythology describes just such a circumstance. According to myth, the Trojan War began with a beauty competition, among the three top goddesses, Athena, Aphrodite and Hera.
Accounts from myths have it that the three goddesses wished to have an impartial person judge which goddess was most beautiful. They took their argument to Paris, who was accounted very wise and was incidentally the son of the king of Troy. The prize for being most beautiful was a golden apple, probably more likely a pomegranate or another more common Mediterranean fruit. Thus far, hint of the Trojan War was far off.
However, the goddesses decided not to play fair. They each bribed Paris with various offerings. Athena offered great wisdom and skill in battle for winning the coveted title. Hera offered high kingship above men. Aphrodite clinched the title by offering the love of the most beautiful woman on earth.
Paris could not resist Aphrodite’s offer and claimed her the most beautiful goddess. Unfortunately, there was a slight hitch in Aphrodite’s plan. The most beautiful woman on earth, Helen, was already married to Menelaus. Accounts differ as to how Helen was taken by Paris, but those who courted Helen prior to her marriage all agreed to defend her honor and each other, should anyone attempt to steal Helen after her marriage.
So, the Trojan War was essentially started by what is called the Judgment of Paris, and his further actions to kidnap Helen and bring her to Troy. It is also important to evaluate the prize of the apple in relationship to the Trojan War.
It is told in various accounts, that the goddess Eris, who was the goddess of discord, created the golden apple. She was angry at having not received an invitation to a special feast of the gods held by Zeus. The golden apple is often called the apple of discord, since it did cause the goddesses to immediately begin fighting and contesting their right to be claimed most beautiful.
The enmity between the goddesses continues in Homer’s Iliad, which is a partial account of the Trojan War. During the Trojan War, Hera and Athena tended to side with the Athenians, ultimately allowing Troy to be destroyed to the last man, woman and child. Aphrodite was naturally on the side of the Trojans during the Trojan War. There is a notable passage in Homer, where Aphrodite attempts to interfere and save the life of one of her favorites. She is wounded and Zeus laughs at her, suggesting love and war should never mix.