Eris (/ˈɪərɪs, ˈɛrɪs/; Greek: Ἔρις Éris, "Strife") is the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Her Roman equivalent is Discordia, which means the same. Eris's Greek opposite is Harmonia, whose Roman counterpart is Concordia,[3] though she is also described as opposing Nike, counterpart of the Roman Victoria. Homer equated her with the war-goddess Enyo, whose Roman counterpart is Bellona. The dwarf planet Eris is named after the goddess.

Goddess of strife and discord
Eris on an Attic plate, ca. 575–525 BC
SymbolGolden Apple of Discord
Personal information
ParentsNyx[1] or
Zeus and Hera[2]
ChildrenDysnomia, Ponos, Atë, Lethe, Limos, Algos, Hysminai, Makhai, Phonoi, Androktasiai, Neikea, Amphilogiai, Horkos, Pseudea, Logoi
Roman equivalentDiscordia

She had no temples in ancient Greece and functions essentially as a personification, as which she appears in Homer and many later works.

Etymology edit

Eris is of uncertain etymology; connections with the verb ὀρίνειν orínein, 'to raise, stir, excite', and the proper name Ἐρινύες Erinyes have been suggested. R. S. P. Beekes rejects these derivations and suggested a pre-Greek origin.[4]

In Greek mythology edit

In Hesiod's Works and Days 11–24, two different goddesses named Eris are distinguished:

So, after all, there was not one kind of Strife alone, but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are wholly different in nature. For one fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honour due.

(Nyx), and the son of Cronus [i.e. Zeus] who sits above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel.

In Hesiod's Theogony (226–232), Eris, the daughter of Night, is less kindly spoken of as she brings forth other personifications as her children:

And hateful Eris bore painful Ponos (Hardship),
Lethe (Forgetfulness) and Limos (Starvation) and the tearful Algea (Pains),
Hysminai (Battles), Makhai (Wars), Phonoi (Murders), and Androktasiai (Manslaughters);
Neikea (Quarrels), Pseudea (Lies), Logoi (Stories), Amphillogiai (Disputes),
Dysnomia (Anarchy) and Ate (Ruin), near one another,
and Horkos (Oath), who most afflicts men on earth,
Then willing swears a false oath.[5]

The other Eris is presumably she who appears in Homer's Iliad Book IV; equated with Enyo as sister of Ares and so presumably daughter of Zeus and Hera:[6]

... and Discord [Ἔρις] that rageth incessantly, sister and comrade of man-slaying Ares; she at the first rears her crest but little, yet thereafter planteth her head in heaven, while her feet tread on earth. She it was that now cast evil strife into their midst as she fared through the throng, making the groanings of men to wax.[2]

She also has a son whom she named Strife.

Enyo is mentioned in Book 5, and Zeus sends Strife to rouse the Achaeans in Book 11, of the same work.

The most famous tale of Eris recounts her initiating the Trojan War by causing the Judgement of Paris. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had been invited along with the rest of Olympus to the forced wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who would become the parents of Achilles, but Eris had been snubbed because of her troublemaking inclinations.

She therefore (as mentioned at the Kypria according to Proclus as part of a plan hatched by Zeus and Themis) tossed into the party the Apple of Discord, a golden apple inscribed Ancient Greek: τῇ καλλίστῃ, romanizedtē(i) kallistē(i)  – "For the most beautiful one", or "To the Fairest One" – provoking the goddesses to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient. The hapless Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed to select the fairest by Zeus. The goddesses stripped naked to try to win Paris's decision, and also attempted to bribe him. Hera offered political power, while Athena promised infinite wisdom. But Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta, and Paris chose to award the apple to Aphrodite, thereby dooming his city, which was destroyed in the war that ensued.

Eris is also mentioned in Nonnus's Dionysiaca, when Typhon prepares to battle with Zeus:

Eris ("Strife") was Typhon's escort in the mellay, Nike ("Victory") led Zeus into battle.[7]

Another story of Eris includes Hera, and the love of Polytechnus and Aedon. They claimed to love each other more than Hera and Zeus were in love. This angered Hera, so she sent Eris to wreak discord upon them. Polytekhnos was finishing off a chariot board, and Aedon a web she had been weaving. Eris said to them, "Whosoever finishes thine task last shall have to present the other with a female servant!" Aedon won. But Polytekhnos was not happy by his defeat, so he came to Khelidon, Aedon's sister, and raped her. He then disguised her as a slave, presenting her to Aedon. When Aedon discovered this was indeed her sister, she chopped up Polytekhnos's son and fed him to Polytekhnos. The gods were not pleased, so they were transformed into birds.[8]

In Roman mythology edit

Discordia, the Roman counterpart of Eris, embodies similar attributes of strife and discord. While sharing the fundamental essence of her Greek counterpart, Discordia possesses distinct Roman characteristics and narratives. In Roman mythology, Discordia is often portrayed as the personification of chaos and strife, representing the disruptive forces that can unsettle order and harmony within society. She is typically associated with the concept of dissension and conflict, symbolizing the breakdown of social cohesion.[9]

Virgil presents Discordia as similar to the Greek Eris. Following Homer, she appears in the Aeneid together with Mars, Bellona, and the Furies.[10] She is most frequently depicted as the daughter of Nox and the sister of Mars, following Greek precedent;[11] though other sources present her as the sister of Nemesis and "the constant attendent of Mars".[12] Ennius describes her in his Annales as "a maiden in a military cloak, born with hellish body, of equal proportion with water and fire, air and heavy earth".[13]

In Roman mythology, Discordia is often intertwined with various tales of love and rivalry. While not traditionally depicted as having consorts or lovers in the same manner as some other Roman deities, her influence is evident in stories where conflicts arise due to jealousy, ambition, or betrayal. Discordia's presence exacerbates tensions and fuels the flames of discord, leading to dramatic consequences for mortal and divine alike. The most notable example of this simply follows the Greek story of the Judgement of Paris.

One notable aspect of Discordia's mythology is her role in the political and social sphere of ancient Rome. As a personification of discord, she was invoked during times of political unrest or upheaval, serving as a symbolic representation of the turmoil and division within society.[9] Her influence extended beyond individual conflicts, shaping the course of history and influencing the destiny of nations.

Despite her association with chaos and strife, Discordia was not always viewed in a negative light. In some interpretations, she served as a catalyst for change and transformation, challenging established norms and fostering innovation. While her disruptive influence could be destructive, it also paved the way for renewal and growth, highlighting the complex nature of her character within Roman mythology.

In Discordianism edit

The modern Discordian religion,[14] according to its holy book Principia Discordia, "began with a revelation [...] from the Greek goddess Eris in the form of a chimpanzee."[15] Eris was adopted as the founding and patron deity of Discordian in the early 1960s[16] by Gregory Hill and Kerry Wendell Thornley under the pen names of "Malaclypse the Younger" and "Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst".[15]

The Discordian view of Eris is considerably lighter in comparison to the rather malevolent Graeco-Roman view. In Discordianism she is depicted as a positive (albeit mischievous) force of chaotic creation. Principia Discordia states:

One day Mal-2 consulted his Pineal Gland and asked Eris if She really created all of those terrible things. She told him that She had always liked the Old Greeks, but that they cannot be trusted with historic matters. "They were," She added, "victims of indigestion, you know."

Suffice it to say that Eris is not hateful or malicious. But she is mischievous, and does get a little bitchy at times.[17]

The story of Eris being snubbed and indirectly starting the Trojan War is recorded in the Principia, and is referred to as the Original Snub.[18] The Principia Discordia states that her parents may be as described in Greek legend, or that she may be the daughter of Void. She is the Goddess of Disorder and Being, whereas her sister Aneris (called the equivalent of Harmonia by the Mythics of Harmonia) is the goddess of Order and Non-Being. Their brother is Spirituality.[19][20]

In Discordianism, Eris is looked upon as a foil to the preoccupation of Western philosophy in attempting find order in the chaos of reality, in prescribing order to be synonymous with truth. In Principia Discordia, this is called the Aneristic Illusion.[21] David G. Robertson discusses Discordian theology in the 2012 book Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production, writing that despite Discordian claims that its 'catmas' are soft, optional beliefs,

Nevertheless, the Principia Discordia contains a complex and subtle religious system, although this is often obscured by its chaotic structure. The theology of the Principia is perhaps best summarized in the symbol [...] The Sacred Chao [...] Taken as a whole, however, the Sacred Chao symbolizes the Discordian idea that both order and chaos are man-made concepts, and that to believe that either is more 'true' than the other is illusion. The Sacred Chao represents 'pure chaos', the metaphysical grounding of all that is, and a level beyond any distinction-making.[18]

In this telling, Eris becomes something of a patron of chaotic creation:

I am chaos. I am the substance from which your artists and scientists build rhythms. I am the spirit with which your children and clowns laugh in happy anarchy. I am chaos. I am alive, and I tell you that you are free.[17]

Robertson writes in the 2016 book Fiction, Invention and Hyper-reality that:

[...] Discordians have also constructed a complex and unique cosmology and theology, and Discordianism has over time come to be considered as having genuine religious significance for many of its adherents. Thus Discordianism can no longer be considered a purely parodic religion.[14]

Cultural influences edit

The classic fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" references what appears to be Eris's role in the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Like Eris, a malevolent fairy curses a princess after not being invited to the princess's christening.[22][23]

The concept of Eris as developed by the Principia Discordia is used and expanded upon in the 1975 science fiction work The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (in which characters from Principia Discordia appear). In this work, Eris is a major character.[24][25]

The dwarf planet Eris was named after this Greek goddess in 2006.[26]

In 2019, the New Zealand moth species Ichneutica eris was named in honour of Eris.[27]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Hesiod (1914), pp. 225.
  2. ^ a b Homer (1924), pp. 4.400–446.
  3. ^ Ruoff, Henry Woldmar (1919). The Standard Dictionary of Facts: History, Language, Literature, Biography, Geography, Travel, Art, Government, Politics, Industry, Invention, Commerce, Science, Education, Natural History, Statistics and Miscellany. Frontier Press Bookstore.
  4. ^ R. S. P. Beekes (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Greek. Brill. p. 459.
  5. ^ Caldwell (1987), p. 42, lines 226-232, with the meanings of the names (in parentheses), as given on p. 40, lines 212–232.
  6. ^ Parada (1993), s.v. Eris.
  7. ^ Nonnus (1940), pp. 72, 73, 2.358–9.
  8. ^ Liberalis, Antoninus (1992). "Aedon or Nightingale". The Metamorphoses. Translated by Celoria, Francis (1 ed.). London: Routledge. p. 62. doi:10.4324/9781315812755. ISBN 9781315812755. S2CID 202527062. Retrieved 9 June 2023.
  9. ^ a b Neil W. Bernstein in Silius Italicus (2022), p. 181: "[...] the catalog of deities commences with Discordia, the personification of civil war. By giving her pride of place, Silius draws a strong thematic association between Cannae and Roman civil conflict."
  10. ^ Smith, William, ed. (1880). Earinus-Nyx. J. Murray. p. 30.
  11. ^ Jolly, S. (1866). A Vocabulary of Egyptian, Grecian, and other Mythologies. Simpkin, Marshall, and Company. p. 1.
  12. ^ Bechtel, J. H. (1905). A Dictionary of Mythology. Penn Publishing Company. pp. [ 73–4.
  13. ^ Gildenhard, I. (2012). Virgil, Aeneid, 4.1-299: Latin Text, Study Questions, Commentary and Interpretative Essays. Open Book Publishers. p. 173, n. 208.
  14. ^ a b Robertson (2016), p. 201.
  15. ^ a b Mäkelä & Petsche (2017).
  16. ^ Wilson (1992), p. 65.
  17. ^ a b Principia Discordia (1980), p. [page needed].
  18. ^ a b Robertson (2012), p. 424.
  19. ^ Principia Discordia (1980), p. 57.
  20. ^ Cusack (2016), p. 32.
  21. ^ Principia Discordia (1980), p. 49.
  22. ^ H. J. Rose (2006). A Handbook of Greek Mythology, Including Its Extension to Rome. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4286-4307-9.
  23. ^ Maria Tatar, ed. (2002). The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-05163-6. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
  24. ^ Elliot, Jeffrey. "Robert Anton Wilson: Searching For Cosmic Intelligence". Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved 21 February 2006. Interview discussing novel.
  25. ^ Cusack (2016).
  26. ^ Blue, Jennifer (September 14, 2006). "2003 UB 313 named Eris". USGS Astrogeology Research Program. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
  27. ^ Robert J. B. Hoare (9 December 2019). "Noctuinae (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) part 2: Nivetica, Ichneutica" (PDF). Fauna of New Zealand. 80. Illustrator: Birgit E. Rhode: 1–455. doi:10.7931/J2/FNZ.80. ISSN 0111-5383. Wikidata Q94481265. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2021.

Works cited edit

Further reading edit

  • Fantham, E. (2011). Roman Readings: Roman Response to Greek Literature from Plautus to Statius and Quintilian. De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-022933-2. Discordia in Ovid and Virgil.
  • Hardie, Philip Russell (2021). "Unity and Disunity in Paulinus of Nola Poem". In Michalopoulos, Andreas N.; et al. (eds.). The Rhetoric of Unity and Division in Ancient Literature. De Gruyter. pp. 414–424. ISBN 978-3-11-061116-8.
  • Hardie, Philip Russell (2023). Selected Papers on Ancient Literature and Its Reception. De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-079895-1. Discusses Discordia in Virgil.
  • Jakubowicz, Karina; Dickins, Robert, eds. (2021). Heresy and Borders in the Twentieth Century. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-000-35916-9.
  • Nelis, Damien P.; Farrell, Joseph, eds. (2013). Augustan Poetry and the Roman Republic. OUP Oxford. pp. 67, 84–5. ISBN 978-0-19-958722-3.
  • Rathbone, S. (2017). "Anarchist literature and the development of anarchist counter-archaeologies". World Archaeology. 49 (3): 291–305. doi:10.1080/00438243.2017.1333921.

External links edit

  Media related to Eris (mythology) at Wikimedia Commons