It all starts with a lady. Not Helen of Troy, we'll get to her. This starts with Atalanta, which is sort of like the beta version of Artemis, except not a goddess. She was born to a king who was so pissed she didn't have a penis that he abandoned her in the woods as a newborn because if there's a lesson you should take from Greek myths it's that old-timey royals were assholes.
|A continuing issue|
|Even less effective than this|
She doesn't want to get married, but instead of that being that, she has to come up with some scheme to keep from getting hitched. So she says she'll only marry someone who is faster than her and also anyone who loses a race to her has to die. She figures that no one is going to take that bet cos you know, WHY but she's hot and apparently that's all it takes for a bunch of guys to try (and fail) to beat her.
Then this one guy shows up and he figures out a way to win. He knows he can't run faster than her, but he apparently also knows she cannot resist shiny things. He somehow was able to procure a bunch of golden apples so while they're running the race he throws them first near her and then further away and she CANNOT help but stop and pick them up. Because in addition to a she-bear, she also had a packrat as a best friend and Disney, how have you not made this a movie yet?
Anyway, this guy wins the race and gets to marry the girl who I guess is fine being married but mostly likes those golden apples. They forget to properly honor Zeus (see royals being dicks) and he "punishes" them by turning them into lions. Zeus must have got drunk and mixed up his punishment and his reward bags that day. Lions have no need for golden apples and somehow they ended up in the hands of the gods. One goddess in particular, Eris goddess of discord.
Awhile later one of the Argonauts, Peleus (Achilles's dad), wins a wife from Zeus (ladies get NO SAY in these matters...) and for the wedding he invites all the gods. Except somehow Eris's invite got lost in the mail, probably because who wants the goddess of discord hanging out at their wedding? Though I suppose if they invited Hades and other less-fun gods it's just rude to leave this lady out.
Eris shows up Maleficent-style but instead of cursing someone to the ultimate nap, she throws one of the golden apples into the crowd of (vain) goddesses and tells them that it belongs to the most beautiful one. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each run for it because of course they're the most beautiful. Then they totally ruin the wedding by getting in a giant fight over who deserves the apple and say what you will about Eris but she is good at what she does.
Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite continue fighting back up on Olympus but none of the other gods are touching this battle. Really, do you want to be the one to judge this beauty pageant? Zeus is staring out the window, trying to ignore the fight going on behind him, when he has an idea. The only way this is going to stop is if someone names one of the goddesses the most beautiful, but none of the gods are willing to deal with the two loser goddesses so the answer is to get someone else to judge. Maybe one of those mortals cos really, fuck those guys.
Zeus decides this super hot guy Paris can be the judge and Paris seems pretty OK with this because HEY get to judge a goddess beauty pageant, and also he has not thought ahead to the fact that whoever loses is probably not going to take it well because, again, the gods are pretty terrible.
The three goddesses decide to bribe the judge because of course they do. Hera, queen of the gods and of marriage (...), promises Paris power and that he'll get to rule all of Asia. Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare, promises to make Paris the smartest man in the world. Aphrodite, goddess of love, promises him sex. Not with her but with the most beautiful woman on earth. GUESS WHO PARIS PICKS!
Aphrodite surprisingly stays true to her word and promises Paris that he can have Helen (told you we'd get back to her), the most beautiful woman in the world. There is one tiny snag; Helen is already married to King Menelaus. No matter. Aphrodite has her son Eros shoot one of his arrows into her heart and she is totally ready to elope with Paris and start a ten-year war. Then you know the rest.