Wall Fragment with the Judgment of Paris / Roman
The escapades of Aphrodite and her offspring were a popular subject in Greek and Roman art. Mythological tales vividly relate Aphrodite's involvement in matters of the heart, and these have contributed greatly to our conception of the goddess as primarily concerned with love and sex. Few were immune to her seductive charms, and Zeus punished her for the many improper unions that she caused.

The Judgment of Paris

Aphrodite's manipulative character is most apparent in the story of Helen, queen of Sparta, whom she offered as her bribe in the Judgment of Paris, inciting ten years of dreadful war at Troy.

The Judgment was a popular subject in Pompeian wall painting, an example of which is shown here. The Trojan prince Paris, deep in thought, sits on a rock in front of the three goddesses, accompanied by the messenger god Hermes.

Each goddess is clearly identifiable: Hera with her diadem and scepter; Athena with her armor; and standing proudly before them both, Aphrodite, unabashedly displaying her body to full effect.

Paris chose Aphrodite, seduced by the prospect of Helen and her famed beauty. His elopement with the wife of Menelaos was the cause of the Trojan War. Two critical moments in this story are depicted on the Athenian vase shown below.
On the side of the vase shown at left, Paris leads Helen off to Troy from Sparta, grasping her wrist in a gesture associated with marriage. Aphrodite herself, with assistance from Eros, acts as Helen's bridal attendant and adjusts her attire. Peitho (personification of persuasion) follows behind.

On the side of the vase shown at right, Menelaos finally finds his wife Helen after ten years of fighting at Troy. Raging at her betrayal, he draws his sword and rushes toward her. But the sight of Helen's beauty is sufficient to quell his wrath. Helen wears a garment so sheer that her entire body is visible; the desire it arouses is Aphrodite's doing. Standing beside Helen, the goddess directs her to face Menelaos.
Cup with the Departure and Recovery of Helen / Greek
Cup with the Departure and Recovery of Helen / Greek


Related Information

On The Iris