Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad

by Rosemary Sutcliff
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What do others think of Aphrodite in Black Ships?  

Others think of Aphrodite either as a rival or an ally in Black Ships before Troy. The goddesses Hera and Athene look at Aphrodite as their rival for the golden apple and the title of “fairest.” Paris sees only Aphrodite's beauty and her promise of a bride. He also turns to her as his guardian and rescuer during the Trojan War.

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In Rosemary Sutcliff's Black Ships before Troy: The Story of the Illiad, Aphrodite, while not one of the main characters, still plays an important role in the story, and other characters have decided opinions about her.

The tale begins with a wedding. Eris, the goddess of discord, is...

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In Rosemary Sutcliff's Black Ships before Troy: The Story of the Illiad, Aphrodite, while not one of the main characters, still plays an important role in the story, and other characters have decided opinions about her.

The tale begins with a wedding. Eris, the goddess of discord, is not invited, and she does not take well to being left out. She maliciously throws a golden apple into the midst of the guests with a label on it: “To the fairest.” Immediately three goddesses claim the apple: Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite. At this point, Hera and Athene look upon Aphrodite (and each other) as a rival and even an enemy. None of the other guests dare to choose the recipient of the apple, and the goddesses go home still quarreling among themselves.

As the years pass, the three goddesses get tired of their argument and decide to solve it once and for all. They choose Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, as the judge, and they each offer him gifts in return for his support. Aphrodite offers him a wife as beautiful as herself. The other two goddesses likely think that Aphrodite is quite sneaky and less than fair at this point. Paris, on the other hand, is enchanted by Aphrodite and her promise, and he gives her the apple.

Aphrodite keeps her promise in a highly destructive way, for she arranges for Paris to abscond with Menelaus's wife, Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman in the world. War breaks out, and Aphrodite defends Paris and the Trojans; this again makes her a rival of Athene, who supports the Menelaus and the Greeks.

Aphrodite continues to help Paris out. She supernaturally rescues Paris from Menelaus. And when Helen wants to return to Menelaus, Aphrodite stops her through an image of Paris. Helen returns to Paris, but she is bitter and unhappy.

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