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RI.1-1338: Eris, Vasenbild nach Gerhard, Ges. akad. Abhandl. Atlas Taf. X Fig. 5. Roscher, 1884.

"Discord strides exulting in her torn mantle, followed by Bellona wielding a bloodstained scourge." (Virgil, Aeneid 7.702).

Eris is Discord, and may be called strife and quarrel as well.

Nurse of War

Eris has been said to be the daughter of Nyx, but she has also been called the sister of Ares and the nurse of War, since she helps her brother in arms to accomplish his bloody work. And enjoying the groans of dying men, she fills their hearts with hatred, so that they may slay each other.

Famous trouble caused by Eris

Being of such a deplorable nature, the gods have kept Eris apart, and as it is widely known, she was not in the list of guests who were invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of Achilles. Nevertheless, Eris, being difficult to get rid of, came to the party and threw a golden apple through the door with the inscription:

"For the fairest"

And Hera, Athena and Aphrodite started disputing on account of the apple, and were therefore sent by Zeus to Mount Ida near Troy in order to be judged by the shepherd Paris, who chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful, accepting Helen's hand for a bribe.

Consequences of that trouble

This is one cause of the Trojan War, for Paris, having come to fetch his bribe at Sparta, where Helen was queen, left the city as her lover and sailed with her to Troy. But her husband Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, against all odds—for war had never before broken up for the sake of a woman—sent a powerful army against Troy, and produced a conflagration that still today causes such an awe and amazement as if the flames of Troy were still burning.

Loved by no one, and yet possesses many

The cruel works of Eris foster battles and wars, awake the minds and hearts of mortals, and set them in motion to exchange death for death, as did the Pelopides Atreus and Thyestes 1, or the sons of Oedipus. Although no one loves her, which is seen in that artists represent her as a most repulsive woman, many are possessed by her and mortals must pay Eris her due, following the will of the gods; yet it has been said that discord among mortals displeases Zeus.

Little at the beginning, becomes soon a giant

When Eris causes a dispute, she has at the beginning an insignificant appearance, but as they say, she soon reaches heaven with her head while having her feet still on the ground. And there is no disagreement between the contenders concerning Discord itself, for they usually agree in carrying the quarrel as far as they deem it necessary, which normally is, as some put it, "to the bitter end", since those possessed by contention never stop agreeing in the necessity of letting division prevail. That is why there is no end to quarrels until some other force takes Eris' place, for nothing can be expected from this cruel divider to end a strife:

"Discord is the last of the gods to close an argument." (Antigone 2 to a Herald. Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 1057).

But when Eris leaves, the state of harmony that was previously enjoyed returns, for harmony has no part in discord.

Eris | il211flax: "Zeus sent forth Eris unto the swift ships of the Achaeans, dread Eris, bearing in her hands a portent of war." (Hom.Il.11.4) John Flaxman (1755 – 1826).

Discord inside

Similarly, in one and the same person, if the body is in harmony then health prevails, and if the mind is in harmony then happiness prevails. But when Discord makes herself master of body and mind, disease and madness ravage both. And this is likely to happen when things fall out of proportion, or when the mind is torn apart by opposite opinions and desires. For a diseased mind is like a melody out of tune, which ignorant of the laws of harmony, falls in discordant noise or dissonance. That is why it has been said that nothing is worse than to live in internal discord and contradiction in one's own single self. When in musical performances harmonies and rhythms are not adapted to each other, or songs are provided with unsuitable accompaniments, or theme and tune disagree, Discord finds her place in that art, and turns music into ugly noise, painful to the ear and to the heart that must endure it. And the same occurs when Justice, who nourishes harmony in human affairs, is banished; for when she leaves Discord takes her place. And when Eris and her children have made themselves at home, Lawlessness takes over, and simple Quarrel ends in Murders, and Disputes feed in Lies, and Oath comes to trouble the forsworn, and Battles and Fightings ensue, leading the whole community to Ruin and filling it with Sorrows, Toil and Famine.

Unavoidable goddess

But some think that Discord cannot be avoided, arguing that equality and fairness have no existence beyond the name. Accordingly, they do not hesitate, when they deem it necessary in order to achieve the attractive aims that Eris whispers in their ears, to plunge family, friends and country into darkness in order to win, through debauched contention, whatever they fancy to be of unsurpassable value, be it gold, power, Fame, or anything that these three may provide.

Fearful goddess

Discord do not say to mortals "look at my repulsive face, be nasty against your neighbors", but instead stirs up everybody to win pre-eminence, letting them be persuaded of their own superiority, or that their rights should come first. That is why they say:

"Truly Eris is a goddess to fear." (Euripides, Phoenician Women 799).

since it is clear that there are no troubles that this hard-hearted goddess cannot devise.

Night, mother of Discord. 8834: Allegorisk kvindefigur, 'Natten'. Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564), 1526-31. Firenze, San Lorenzo, Sagrestia Nuova. (Royal Cast Collection, Copenhagen).

Two Eris

Seeing that Eris is often present in the life of mortals, some distinguish two kinds of strife. One of them, they say, is she who causes war and battles, and the other is she who makes a man grow eager to work by showing him the prosperity of his neighbors. This Eris, they add, is wholesome for men, since she, creating enmity between craftsman and craftsman, and causing beggar to be jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel, makes them all hurry after wealth.

The poet's counsel and rule

For these reasons, they affirm, this Eris may be worthy of praise, whereas the Eris who delights in mischief should be avoided. For the latter holds men back from the work that will make their fortune and right, keeping them close to troubles, wangles, court-houses, and the like. And observing these realities, the poet Hesiod established this rule:

"He has no time for courts and public life
Who has not stored up one full year's supply."

(Hesiod, Works and Days 30).



Nyx.- (by herself)

Related sections

Apd.Ep.3.2; Col.39; CYP.1; Eur.Ore.1000; Hes.The.211ff.; Hes.WD.1ff.; Hom.Il.4.440; Hyg.Fab.92; Lib.Met.11; Nonn.20.35, 39.385; Pau.5.19.2; Pla.Gorg.482c; Pla.Laws 859e et seq.; Pla.Phaedo 94a; Pla.Soph.228a et seq.; QS.5.31, 8.191, 10.53.