E R I S : Part 3



ERIS is named after the Greek goddess of discord and trouble, whose Roman equivalent is Discordia. Her name is associated in the Greek mythology with many of the human destructive passions; such as lawlessness, discord, fighting, rivalry, jealousy, maritial strife and quarrelling. Homer describes her as the twin sister of Ares (Mars), the god of War, and she always remains his close companion Like him, Eris is both insatiate and lustful for and carnage especially on the battle-field. She is often given the personification of noble rivalry, by representing stimulation towards even fools or imbeciles towards her desire for conflict, struggle and toil.

She commonly features in some of the ancient myths. For example, Hesiod; the 8th Century Greek poet, who says in his Works and Days (11);

[Eris] is hateful… [she is the one] who builds up evil war, and slaughter. She is harsh; no man loves her, but under compulsion and by will of the immortals, men promote this rough Eris (Strife).

As Hesiod also wrote in his Shield of Herakles (139);

[Eris upon [Phobos (Fear)] grim brow hovered frightful Eris (Battle-Strife) who arrays the throng of men: pitiless she, for she took away the mind and senses of poor wretches who made war against the son of Zeus…

Hesiod in the Pantheon of Greek gods places her as the vicious daughter of Nyx (Night)- the mother of trouble, oblivion, hunger, pain, murder and carnage, brawls and deceit.

…deadly Night bare Nemesis (Indignation) to afflict mortal men, and after her, Apate (Envy) and Philotes (Friendship) and hateful Geras (Age) and hard-hearted Eris (Strife).

Among my own favourite quotes about Eris is from Quintus Smymaeus (or sometimes Quintus Calabar), a Roman poet from the 4th Century AD, whose book Fall of Troy (9,324) vehemently states;

But the sons of men fought on, and slew; and Eris (Strife incarnate) gloating watched.


Caught she two javelins in the hand that grasped
Her shield-band; but her strong right hand laid hold
On a huge halberd, sharp of either blade,
Which terrible Eris gave to Ares child
To be her Titan weapon in the strife
That raveneth souls of men. Laughing for glee
Thereover, swiftly flashed she forth the ring
Of towers. Her coming kindled all the sons
Of Troy to rush into the battle forth
Which crowneth men with glory.

And towards her victims;

In flames, my kindred in disastrous strife
Perishing: bitterer sorrow is there none!

In one important legend, both Eris and Ares were the only ones among the Pantheon gods who was not invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis. In revenge she threw an apple made gold among the guests inscribed with the words To the fairest. Needless to say, these three goddesses then claim the prize for themselves, and in doing so set-out the precursory reasons for the legendary story of the Trojan War.

Side by side with this destructive Eris was another more beneficent Eris, being her opposing twin sister. She, according to Hesiod, was instead the compassionate reflection of the other good side of human nature, but was oddly described as a non-person like some background invisible metaphysical or non-corporeal entity. Like most of the allegorical myths or emblematic legends throughout ancient Greek mythology, there must always be some equal and opposite counterpoint — an opposing god who brings some needed balance to Nature.

COMMENT : Her name is appropriately hidden in the word perish means literally to suffer death. To be on the wrong side of Eris is certainly central to what she will inflict on individuals who do not respect or properly venerate her.

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Last Update : 09th July 2012

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