Richibi’s Weblog

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Tag: Menelaus

the judgment of richibi


        “The Judgment Of Paris (1625) 

                         Peter Paul Rubens


at the end of a long overdue visit to 
friend’s home the other night, she 
asked me, did you notice their facial
skin, which of us do you think had 
the best complexion, you can be 
honest, she insisted

we had intended to watch the finals
of a voice competition we’d both 
been following, over a glass of 
wine, or two, each, when a friend 
called, from, essentially, the door,
with a second friend in tow on their
way to a concert in the city

the friend of the friend, a lovely,
effervescent woman, from Poland
originally, with a story to tell of
growing up behind the Iron 
Curtain, was also a beautician in 
spa she runs in a nearby resort

the first friend, equally effervescent, 
had been telling my own friend of the 
intervening events since last they’d  
met, while I lapped up, more or less  
by default, this other alternate Soviet 
reality, perfumed as it was irresistibly 
throughout with the friend’s  
friend’s mellifluous Polish accent

I hadn’t paid any attention whatsoever
to skin quality apart from accepting  
a spa courtesy card for my mother, who 
would, naturally, be interested 

my dearest dear, I answered, I am  
not going anywhere near that one
look what happened to Paris when
he fell into that trap

what happened, she asked

the Trojan War, I answered  

the Trojan War, she asked

Paris was the son of Priam and Hecuba
king and queen of Troy, explained, he, 
one of its princes, he’d been awarded 
Helenwife of Menelausking of Sparta, 
by Aphroditegoddess of lovehe’d 
chosen Aphrodite to be the most 
beautiful among the goddesses, that 
was her prize

but let me step back a little, I  
interrupted, you need more context

Eris, goddess of discord, had not been 
invited to the marriage of Peleus and 
Thetis, I recounted, he a Greek hero, 
she a sea nymph, parents both later to 
Achilleshero at Troy, slain, incidentally, 
by that very Paris, you can read all about 
it in the Iliad“, I highly recommended

during the festivities, Eris tosses a 
golden apple among the assembled 
divinities, which reads

            “to the fairest” 
you can hear the stirrings of the much 
later Sleeping Beautyincidentally, in 
this earliest of tellings, reconfigured 
from the original myth

AthenaAphrodite and Hera, all assume
they are meant to receive the apple, and 
ask Zeus, father and husband, to decide

you’ll have to get someone else to touch 
that one, he replies, much as I did

and delegates the task, with the help 
of Hermes, the messenger god, to the
the guileless Paris, son of Priam and 
Hecuba, Trojan king and queen, as I 
said, he, Parisprince

Paris was tending sheep on Mount Ida
when, fatefully, by a spring, the nubile 
goddesses appeared vaunting their 
unadorned splendours, stark, flagrant, 
manifest, to the musical accompaniment 
of the Graces, Faith, Hope and Charity, 
also the Horae, the Hoursgoddesses 
of the seasons, maidens all in complicit  

Paris, mere mortal, would never have 
stood a chance 

but to sweeten, nevertheless, the 
deal, were it not yet sufficiently sweet, 
Hera promises Paris Europe and Asia 
should he choose her, Athena
conquest in war, Aphroditegoddess 
of love, was set to give him the most
beautiful woman in the world

Paris opts for Aphrodite, and is 
awarded Helenthe face that
launched the thousand proverbial 
ships, the wife, not incidentally,  
and completely inconveniently, of 
the King of Sparta, Menelauswho 
attacks thereupon Troy with his 
brother, Agamemnon, and their 
allied legions, to reclaim 
Menelaus’, whether abducted, or 
indeed unfaithful, wife, no one 
has ever conclusively determined
Paris having been Paris

no one won 

no one survived but Odysseus
but that’s another story

I walked home shortly afterwards, 
crossed my own Aegean, ten or
eleven blocks back, red lights, 
nighttime traffic, watched the voice 
competition I’d taped in any case at 
homewhooped it up along with my
favourite contestants, drank to my
narrow miss, had gotten away, I
considered, with the equivalent of 
Europe and Asia, if only in my 

beauty might be in the eye of the 
beholder, I surmised, but it can 
have its thorny indeed 


“The Trojan Women” – Euripides

the purpose of any art essentially is to either
inform or entertain, preferably both together,
therefore comedy would be associated with
entertaining whereas tragedy with informing
and, as such, this last would be perhaps more
intellectually demanding, so be it 
the strength nevertheless of great tragedy is in
its level of delivering immediacy and fascination,
which is to say entertainment, of great comedy
its obverse, insight  
The Trojan Women” was written in 415 BC by
Euripides, a tragedian at the very summit still,
2400 years later, count them, of remarkable 
historical achievement 
the war with Troy had taken place a full 800
hundred years earlier, Homer had written the
alternate Bible to our Western civilization,
The Iliad“, still with Proust to my mind the
very summit of our Occidental accomplishment,  
resonating across the ages as powerfully as
even the pyramids, extraordinary to read,
from about, again count them, astounding
millennia, nearly unimaginable centuries, 
850 BC  
Helen had been abducted from Sparta, according
to that side of the story, by Paris, the son of King
Priam of Troy, she had been whisked away not
unwillingly according to that prince of that city,
from where she became known to us as Helen of
Troy, rather than of her original Sparta
the Trojan War ensued
the Trojans were creamed by the Achaeans, the
Greeks, the Spartans, interchangeable terms,
under Menelaus, king of Sparta, and his brother,
Agamemnon, older brother, and king of Mycenae,
the greater incorporating kingdom   
the Trojan women remain to pay the price of
war, after so many centuries still their horror is
vivid, nor do we need to look far for equivalent
modern instances, they were all slaughtered or
enslaved, ‘nough, or maybe not ‘nough, said 
here we get perhaps the best interpretation
we’ll ever see, with a cast we’ll probably not
in a long while again put together – Katharine
Hepburn in perhaps her greatest role – “Once
I was queen in Troy”, she says, and you will
profoundly believe her – Vanessa Redgrave
doesn’t get ever much better as she reaches
chthonically, which is to say from the very
entrails of her earth, her soul, for a cry of
anguish you are not likely to ever forget – 
Geneviève Bujold, a mad Cassandra, and
Irene Papas, the very incarnation of the
most beautiful woman in the world
all tear up the screen in their moments,
leaving you breathless and helpless before
their art and evocative power, only Helen,
because of her beauty, insidiously manages
in the story to reasonably comfortably
survive, making mincemeat meanwhile
out of her big bad, he would have it, 
Helen had been the gift to Paris, who’d had
to choose among the goddesses, Hera, Athena,
Aphrodite, which of these was the most
beautiful, but only when Aphrodite had bribed
him with the gift of the most beautiful woman
in the world instead of from either other deity
power and glory, had he chosen Helen
the other two of course reponded with the
devastation at Troy, Olympians were not prone
to be easy, Christian mercy would find in that
pagan unequivalency propitious ground 
wonderful rendering of the traditional Greek
chorus – the Greek version of back-up girls,
“doo-wop, doo-wop” or “she loves him, she
loves him” – commenting on the tempestuous
one of my favourite ever films