"Gracious goddesses, I hardly know what to say" said Paris confused.
Hera smiled in a benignly patronising sort of way.
"You say I win it" she said.
Athene smiled in a superior sort of way.
"The wise choice is for ME to win it" she said.
Aphrodite smiled with a bat of the eyelashes and somehow she managed to move everything under her almost transparent gown with hardly a movement at all.
"But surely the goddess of love is OBVIOUSLY the fairest of them all" she pouted prettily.
"Ladies, I cannot decide this in one short moment" said Paris "I beg that you give me time; a full day round."
The goddesses exchanged looks. Each one was thinking 'give him time, let him be where I can get him to myself and we'll soon see."
They inclined their heads graciously and left Paris to it.
He stared at the golden apple morosely. How like the immortals, he thought; there you are, minding your own business – and the sheep and goats – and they come barging in disturbing your peace. Perhaps his wife Oenone would know what to do.
He gave a start.
The Queen of Olympus had returned; Hera, goddess of marital love and the home.
"Paris" she said caressingly "If you will choose me, I will make you king of all Europe and Asia" and she smiled and vanished.
Paris grunted. What did he need a kingdom for? He had his goats and sheep. People were much more trouble to herd than sheep were; they were sillier.
He sat down to wash his feet in a stream and leaped almost immediately back to his feet for Athene was there, her bronze breastplate tantalisingly tight and formfitting, promising much to any man who might be able to one day persuade her to give herself to a man.
"Paris" said Athene "I can give you wisdom; and wisdom and knowledge in war. You could be the greatest warrior of the age if you give ME the apple" and then she vanished.
Paris grunted again. He had enough of would-be warriors in autumn when the rams locked horns with each other over the privilege of mating with the ewes. War was ugly; life on Mount Ida was beautiful.
He bathed and flushed deep red when he realised that he was being overlooked by Aphrodite. Flowers in her arms and sweet song from unseen singers certainly enhanced her lush charms.
"Paris" her voice was soft and thrilling. "Let me show you what I could offer you" and before he knew where he was, Paris was floating through the air until the goddess indicated the most beautiful woman Paris had ever seen. "That is Helen of Sparta" said Aphrodite "Give the apple to me, and I will give her to you."
Paris almost forgot Oenone in his lust for the lovely Helen.
This Helen was a fancy looking piece; somehow he doubted she could barbecue lamb just the way he liked it or make the best stuffed vine leaves on all of Mount Ida. Besides, he was wet, naked, dragged off without so much as a by your leave and he was starting to get irritated.
Once the goddess of love had returned Paris to Mount Ida the young shepherd prayed to Gaia, and as he prayed he had an idea. He prayed to the goddess of the Earth to protect him from three angry goddesses; and went home to his wife.
The three goddesses arrived next day; Hera was self satisfied, Athene smiling in her superior sort of way and Aphrodite was positively smirking.
"Have you chosen?" asked Hera.
"I have, oh lovely goddesses" said Paris. "And I have chosen to disqualify you all because you all cheated and tried to bribe me. For me the loveliest thing is truth and the fairest thing is justice; and so I offer this apple to Themis, goddess of order and proper behaviour and her daughters the Horai and the Moirai" and with that he threw the apple directly up into the air where it vanished.
The three goddesses gave a collective gasp; and none of them was at all beautiful for a moment with looks of anger, chagrin and discontent on their divine faces.
Then Athene laughed.
"Divine Zeus was correct when he said that the judgement of Paris was faultless; and the shepherd is quite correct to disqualify us all! Why I cannot think why we made such fools of ourselves over so foolish a bauble in the first place!"
"Because…..well because the apple said it was for the fairest" pouted Aphrodite. "I AM the prettiest!"
"To a mortal we are all unspeakably lovely" said Athene. "And unfair to expect one to choose at all."
"Eris" said Hera "It was Eris who did it; goddess of discord. I'll discord HER when I see her next."
"I'm with you on that" said Athene.
"I don't understand; was it just a plot to get us to quarrel?" pouted Aphrodite.
"Yes dear" said Athene firmly. "Thank you Paris; you have taught us that wisdom comes from the truth and that truth is beauty. We will not forget this."
And they vanished.
Paris sighed, wondering what it might have been like to lead armies, or rule the world or bed the most beautiful woman in the world.
Well he had the second most beautiful woman in the world at home waiting for him; the nymph Oenone.
"You slipped up Apollo" said Zeus.
"He SHOULD have been a firebrand" said Apollo apologetically. "Back to the drawing board to make the war proceed?"
"On to plan B" said Zeus. "But I am rather pleased with that boy even if he has upset my plans…. I may smile upon Troy for the sake of his parentage."