Category: tattoo

Mythology Mondays: καλλίστη

This myth is one I tell a lot. You see, it’s the story behind one of my two tattoos.

This is the story of the Golden Apple.

When Queen Hecuba of Troy is pregnant with Paris, she dreams she gives birth to a pile of burning sticks. This is generally considered to be a bad omen. The Seer is called and he agrees. The Queen’s baby will be the downfall of Troy. When Paris is born, Hecuba and her husband, King Priam, are supposed to kill him. But they have a change of heart, and instead send him to be exposed. The herdsman, having been well educated in the role of herdsmen in Greek myths, does not kill the baby but instead raises Paris as his own son.

Years later, two gods are getting married on Olympus. They make the mistake of not inviting Eris, the goddess of Discord. She shows up anyway, and plays a little trick. She takes out a golden apple engraved with the word καλλίστη - “for the fairest.” She tosses the Apple into the middle of a throng of goddesses. Immediately, each goddess thinks it should be for her, since she is the most beautiful. Hera, Athena and Aphrodite all lay claim to the apple. They demand that Zeus choose between them. Now, Zeus isn’t an idiot, he’s not going to get himself embroiled in this. So he dictates that a mortal must chose.

Meanwhile, Paris has grown up to be a beautiful shepherd boy. He’s lying in the shade of a tree, when suddenly the sky opens up and he receives a decree from Zeus. He is to judge which of the three goddesses is the fairest.

Each of the goddesses come down to bribe Paris, in turn. Hera offers him the kingship of all of Greece and Asia, to be the most powerful man in the world. Athena offers to make him invincible in battle, the greatest warrior of all time. Aphrodite offers him the love of the most beautiful woman in Greece.


Paris, not a particularly smart or courageous man, chooses Aphrodite. Aphrodite promises him the hand of Helen of Sparta, who is married to Menelaus. Paris decides that first, of course, he must go regain his royal title. He marches directly to Troy, announces who he is, and is welcomed with open arms as one of King Priam’s fifty sons.

Soon enough, Paris builds a beautiful boat and sails off to Sparta, under the guise of an ambassador. He stays with Menelaus and Helen for many days, speaking to the husband of peace and Mediterranean trade agreements in the day, and making eyes at Helen at night. It is often debated whether Helen was in love with Paris as well, but in Greek literature the matter is largely irrelevant, since Paris would have taken her whether he has to abduct her or not.

Menelaus is called away from Sparta, and the very next day Paris leaves with Helen and her dowry. They escape to Troy. At first, the Trojans are weary of Helen, knowing the trouble her abduction will cause. But it is said that eventually, they all became enchanted by her beauty and even the women wished her to stay.

Menelaus was understandably furious. He was not a particularly handsome, wise or brave man, but he had bought Helen from her father fair and square. Normally, what you would have had after the abduction of a wife was a small two city battle, which Menelaus would have undoubtedly lost to the unbreakable walls of Troy. But this wasn’t a normal case.

Helen was the most beautiful woman in Greece. When she was twelve, the hero Theseus had abducted her from her father’s house, thinking to take her for his own. (In Greece, and later in Rome, there were two ways of getting married- the official way and the marriage by rape way, in which a man abducted a virgin, raped her and then started calling her his wife.) But he had second thoughts, and eventually she was returned to her family. But now her father, Tyndareus, knew there was going to be a problem when it came time to marry her off.

Indeed, by the age of fifteen, Helen had dozens of suitors - among them the most wealthy and heroic men in Greece: Odysseus, Diomedes, Menelaus, Patroclus, Antilochus, both the lesser and greater Ajax. Tyndareus recognizes the problem. He has to choose just one husband, but he risks pissing off a dozen or so of the most powerful men in Greece by doing so. It’s Odysseus who comes up with a plan. Odysseus realizes that as the King of the small island of Ithaca, he doesn’t have much to offer and little hope of winning. So he tell Tyndareus he will help him if Tyndareus promises him Helen’s cousin, Penelope.

The result is the Oath of the Horse. Tyndareus sacrifices a horse to Zeus, and divides it into thirteen pieces. In order to be considered for Helen’s hand, each suitor must swear on a piece of the horse that he will uphold Tyndareus’ choice and defend whichever man is chosen as Helen’s husband, should someone try to steal her from him. The suitors agree, and Menelaus is chosen as Helen’s husband.

So by stealing Helen from Menelaus, he has not only pissed off the brother of Agamemnon, the most powerful of the Greek kings, but also all of Helen’s suitors who are sworn to defend Menelaus.

Oh, and Hera and Athena are so on the side of the Greeks because they still hate Paris for not chosing them. Aphrodite remains devoted to Troy, because of Paris and also because her lover, Anchises, and her son, Aeneas, are cousins of the royal family. But who would you rater have on your side in a war, the goddess of love or the goddess of battle?

And thus the kings of Greece launch a thousand ships for Troy. And spend ten long years trying to break through the walls of the fortress of Ilium.

My awesome tattoo, for the fairest.

having a ball (har har)

I’m sitting on a giant red ball.

I’ve decided I’m getting my next tattoo in September, and I want to get it on the back of my neck. But to do that I need better posture, or else it will look horrible. So… this is the plan.

This is how exciting my life is.

Who am I? Somebody just tell me that much…

I just was reading my journal from this summer. Because I have two essays and a huge journalism article due this week. So, obviously, I’m procrastinating. I got to cross two things off of my list of 100 things to do before I die. #68: Feel infinite. #60: Get a tattoo.

So I found the entries I had written about Ireland. And I really liked them, looking back. So I decided I would start posting them here. Enjoy.

Dublin was a city you couldn’t help but get lost in. It seemed that even when we were going in the right direction, we ended up in the wrong place.
Dublin was a city of too many people - very few of whom were actually Irish. There were almost no crosswalks and the ones there were were never obeyed by cars or pedestrians.
The did, however, have very useful signs painted on the roads saying LOOK RIGHT or LOOK LEFT, to give all the tourists an idea of where the cars might be coming from.
Once you’ve figured out where most things are in Dublin, it becomes liveable. It was expensive as all hell, but it was good craic.
Staying in a hostel on a street called Aungier (actually pronounced ayn-ger, not, I was told repeatedly, on-gier) we met people from all over the world. Most were just passing though, struggling under the weight of backpacks almost as big as themselves.
Two girls we met, Sarah and Candle, shared our room for a couple of nights. I marvelled that the skinny little things could even lift their bags, let alone carry them around Ireland, to Lithuania and all through Europe. They were American. We met some Canadian backpackers, too. Sharon, Graham and Jeremy. It was one of those weird situations where we only knew them for one night, but by the end of we were hanging out like old friends.
Javier slept on the bunk underneath Jez for almost the entire time. He had a habit of walking in just as I was daring to take off my shirt. Inconvenient. But, he reassured me, “I am not a pervert or anything…!” And he wasn’t. He was a sweet guy who’d recently fallen in love with an Australian girl who chose a drunk over him. He was from a beautiful coastal town in Spain. He showed us pictures on my laptop. At the time - early May - in Dublin, it had been pouring rain and cold for days. And, looking at the pictures of people on beautiful sandy beaches, I had to wonder why he’d left. He even spoke of the town with love. But I guess we all need a change. And none of us realize what we have until we leave.
Dublin has bars that are older than my entire country. Dublin has beer with lunch. Dublin has the Temple Bar district. We drank our fair share of pints in Temple Bar. The joy of Heineken. There were more tourists than anything. One night, all five of us girls in the bathroom were from Canada. But there were some Dubliners around. Mostly, I’m sure, to pick up tourists. But damned if I could understand more than a third of what they were saying, with the thick accent and loud music.
Dublin is a place where you find lots of other people. But not, I could tell, where you’d ever be able to find yourself. In the crowded streets and pubs, I knew I’d always be perpetually lost.
I’d two favourite places in Dublin. One I saw the first day I was there. The other I never saw until I went back with Kristen.
The first thing I loved about St. Patrick’s Cathedral was how it reminded me of being in France. It was another gorgeous, magnificent church. But as son as you step inside the gates, you see that it’s flavour is purely Irish. Along the fence there are plaques dedicated to Ireland’s most famous writers and their work. A church for the Bards. Joyce, Yeats.
There’s a liberty bell that mostly looks like a huge hunk of metal. A little sign saying “Here is the sight of the well St. Patrick used to baptise the Irish.” Just a sign. Small, white, wood.
There’s a fountain, too. A small Irish boy was leaning in so far, I thought for sure he’d tumble in. No one else seemed concerned. I moved closer, just in case. Turns out the boy was filling his bucket with water from the fountain. And he seemed to have found a perfectly safe system - as precarious as it had seemed to me. He was leaning against the drain grate with one hand. His feet were in the air, but he didn’t slip at all. His family, nearby, didn’t seem the least bit concerned. Apparently, this is normal. Either that or their rugby game was more interesting.
The thing about European churches is that when I walk in, as a non-religious person, I suddenly understand how a person can feel a connection with God. Because it’s beautiful. Cathedrals are certainly the most striking art. These buildings were designed to inspire - not simply to function. This is where, for me, architectures transcends into art. The ceilings, the stained glass, the gold candlesticks and wooden pews… There’s so much beauty that it’s like looking at a sunset. You know there must be something bigger because beauty can’t be merely human. The fact that these cathedrals are man made makes a great argument for organized religion. Religious or not, you can’t help but feel spiritual in a place like St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

c’est tout, pour maintenant.