The wedding of Peleus and Thetis: while the gods feast at the table Eris throws her apple from a cloud.
Thetis was a sea nymph, whose beauty captured the heart of Zeus. However, it was told to Zeus that it was Thetis' fate to have a son who would be far more powerful than his father. Because of this, no god could marry her because her son would grow so powerful that he could overthrow Zeus, as Zeus had overthrown Cronus. In order to prevent this from happening, it was decided that Thetis would marry an ordinary mortal. The chosen mortal was Peleus. He was the son of Aecus, who was the son of Zeus.
The occasion of the wedding between Peleus and Thetis was a time of great celebration. All of the gods attended except Eris, the goddess of discord, and the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Understandably enough, nobody liked Eris as she was always causing trouble. Because of this, she was rarely asked to attend important Olympian events.
Furious at having been left off of the invitation list again, Eris decided to make trouble. Into the banquet hall at Peleus' and Thetis' wedding, Eris threw a golden apple, marked "For the Fairest". Of course, all of the goddesses wanted to claim it, the choice was narrowed down to the three most powerful and beautiful goddesses: Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. Wisely, upon being asked to judge to whom the apple should go, Zeus refused to choose. No god wanted to be a part of this decision. So, it was decided that the only thing to do would be to put judgment on a mortal whose judgment the goddesses would agree to accept.
Zeus suggested the choice be made by a young man who was a superb judge of beauty, by the name of Paris. Paris was the son of King Priam of Troy, but he had been ordered to leave the city because of a prophecy that someday he would bring misfortune to his country and its people. Thus, he was presently working as a shepherd. Paris was very handsome, as any god, but he lacked intelligence and tactfulness. For if he had very much intelligence, he would have refused to be such a judge.
The three goddesses appeared in the meadow where he was guarding his sheep. None of the three goddesses left the choice up to their own personal merits. Instead, they began to bribe Paris in order to win the apple. Hera promised him the status of lord of Europe and Asia for the apple. Athena said that she would make him a great warrior for the prized apple. The third goddess, Aphrodite, promised Paris the most beautiful woman in the world for his bride if he were to choose her as the "fairest".
Helen and Paris
Paris, being more interested in women than riches of being a lord or the status of a great warrior, chose Aphrodite. Hera and Athena were greatly offended, which led them to be deadly enemies of both Paris and of Troy. This was only the beginning of Paris' problems, as the most beautiful woman in the world was Helen, whom was already married. Aphrodite, not being much on marriage and faithfulness, took Paris to Sparta to meet Helen, who immediately fell in love with Paris. They fled Sparta to the city of Troy. When Helen's husband, Menelaus, came home to find the two had eloped, he called on all of Helen's suitors to help him attack Troy and kill Paris.