Eris, Goddess of Discord, is best known for starting a beauty contest that began the Trojan War. You’d think this incident would serve as the credentials needed to get Eris called a war goddess? Some details from her Wikipedia entry answered this question for me. She’s useful in small doses but needs to be kept in check. These are my thoughts on the matter:
Maybe the Ancient Greeks could only imagine “shrews” in a civil society like Olympus. Only barbarians had fierce warrior women. The closest they have to a war goddess is Athena. She knows how to wield weapons and construct battle strategies. Yet she also weaves like any good daughter should.
Eris may not be “mighty” like Aphrodite, yet she doesn’t allow herself to be dissed. When she wasn’t invited to a feast, she crashed it. She offered a golden apple to the most beautiful of goddesses. This left the Olympians with the problem of figuring out who deserved that honor. They in turn delegated the decision to the mortal Paris. Each goddess, even Aphrodite, offered a Paris a bribe. This means that not even Aphrodite can be said to be a clear-cut winner of the contest Eris instigated. Offending Eris caused even more discord than leaving her out. Eris often gets dismissed as a minor goddess, but can be dangerous if you try to ignore her. The Olympians aren’t in the mood to give her more honor than they feel she deserves.
Perhaps, placing Eris in a war goddess role would make her too powerful? The Iliad equates her to a bloodthirsty goddess Enyo that starts small and grows in size into Godzilla proportions during wars.
Eris is treated like a quarrelsome woman and she-demon most times. Though there is reference to a goddess of strife credited with giving people ambition. She inspires people to change and improve the status quo. This could mean an out-and-out war or create talented statesmen, entrepreneurs and inventors.
The Enyo and the Strife goddesses are treated as similar but separate to Eris. Yet what if these goddesses were incorporated as aspects of her personality?
My theory is Eris has her place in the Order of Things but has to be kept in check. Which is why she won’t be promoted to a war goddess position. Eris is a minor goddess. Yet her nuances shows the richness of classical mythology.
Eris becomes a surprising benefactor in my release A Heart for Hubris. The “Eris’s Discord” flash fiction goes live here tomorrow.