Vase painting of Eris

Tondo of an Attic black-figure kylix showing Eris (ca. 575–525 BCE)

Antikensammlung, BerlinPublic Domain


Eris was the vicious personification of strife, a goddess who delighted in conflict, rivalry, and bloodshed. She was commonly regarded as a daughter of Nyx, “Night” personified, and was a devoted crony (or even sister) of the war god Ares. Though she had no consort, she gave birth on her own to numerous malicious forces, including Ponos (“Toil”), Lethe (“Forgetfulness”), and Ate (“Delusion”).

Eris did not have many myths of her own, but she was largely responsible for inciting the Trojan War. Angry that she had not been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Eris caused Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to quarrel over a golden apple inscribed with the words “to the fairest.” This quarrel led directly to the Judgment of Paris, which in turn led to the abduction of Helen and the bloody war to get her back.


The name “Eris” (Greek Ἔρις, translit. Éris) is identical to the ancient Greek word for “strife” or “discord.” However, the etymology of this word is unknown. It may be related to the Greek words ὀρίνω (orínō), “to stir up, excite”; ἐρέθω (erethō), “to anger, provoke”; or even Ἐρινύς (Erinýs), “Fury, spirit of vengeance.” But the name may also have more remote, pre-Greek origins.[1]

The Roman counterpart of the Greek Eris was Discordia (from which the English word “discord” is derived).


  • English
    ErisἜρις (Éris)
  • Phonetic
    [ER-is]/ˈɛr ɪs/


Functions and Characteristics

The goddess Eris represented strife in all its forms. Hesiod described her as a cruel, “hard-hearted”[2] figure who inspired and reveled in every kind of conflict. It is hardly surprising, then, that Eris was closely associated with destructive war gods such as Ares and Enyo; indeed, she was never far away when a battle was being fought. Homer portrayed Eris as a goddess

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.[3]

Later, though, Hesiod distinguished between two Erises: one was a purely negative force, the personification of destructive strife, while the other was a more positive force who fostered productive competition.[4]

Eris was typically imagined as having a hideous and horrifying appearance. Virgil pictured her as a creature of the Underworld, with snakes for hair and a bloody headband.[5] Statius portrayed her standing guard at the home of Mars (the Roman Ares).[6]


Eris seems to have been present in ancient art from a very early period. The first Greek epics often referred to visual representations of Eris, usually on decorative armor worn by heroes.[7] She is known to have appeared as an ugly, savage figure on the Cypselus Chest, an important Greek artifact known today only from ancient descriptions.[8]

While Eris was typically shown as ugly, some artists gave her an ordinary or even attractive appearance. She often sported wings and/or winged sandals. Eris was a popular figure in vase paintings, especially those depicting the Judgment of Paris.[9]


According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Eris was one of the children born from Nyx, the primordial goddess of night; she had no father. Her siblings included other menacing forces like Thanatos (“Death”), Hypnos (“Sleep”), Nemesis (“Retribution”), and the Moirae (“Fates”).[10]

The Roman mythographer Hyginus, however, made Nemesis the daughter of Nyx and her consort Erebus, the deity who embodied the darkness of the Underworld.[11] In yet another genealogy, Homer called Eris the sister of Ares, hinting at a tradition in which she was a child of Zeus and Hera (like Ares).[12]

Eris gave birth (without a partner) to further personified forces—beings no less terrible than she. Among these children were Ponos (“Toil”), Lethe (“Forgetfulness”), Limos (“Hunger”), Algae (“Pains”), Hysminae (“Combats”), Machae (“Battles”), Phonoi (“Murders”), Androctasiae (“Manslaughters”), Neikea (“Quarrels”), Pseudologoi (“Lies”), Amphillogiae (“Altercations”), Dysnomia (“Lawlessness”), Horkos (“Oath”), and Ate (“Delusion”).[13]

Eris also had two nephews: Phobos (“Fear”) and Deimos (“Panic”).[14]


The Golden Apple: Eris and the Trojan War

Though Eris had a limited mythology, she did play a central role in one popular myth: that of the golden apple and the Judgment of Paris. In this tradition, it was Eris who set in motion the events that led to the Trojan War.

It all began when the mortal hero Peleus married the goddess Thetis. The wedding was a lavish affair, attended by all the gods. But Eris, as the dreaded goddess of strife, was not invited. 

Furious at being insulted in this way, Eris showed up at the wedding anyway and threw a golden apple into the midst of the divine guests, inscribed with the words “to the fairest” (in some accounts, this was one of the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides). The three most powerful goddesses—Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite—immediately started arguing over which of them deserved to be crowned the “fairest.”

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis by Jacob Jordaens after Peter Paul Rubens

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis by Jacob Jordaens after Peter Paul Rubens (between 1633 and 1638)

Museo del Prado, MadridPublic Domain

Eventually, the handsome Trojan prince Paris was tasked with deciding the matter. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all presented themselves to the prince. But not wanting to rely on their looks alone, each goddess tried to bribe Paris.

Hera promised him wealth and power; Athena promised him military glory; and Aphrodite promised him the love of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris (rather short-sightedly) preferred Aphrodite’s bribe and thus gave her the apple.

Aphrodite made good on her promise, with far-reaching consequences. She helped Paris seduce and steal Helen away from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Menelaus promptly amassed a large army to sail to Troy and get Helen back. This marked the beginning of the Trojan War.[15]

Not content with simply provoking the Trojan War, Eris continually embroiled herself in the decade-long conflict. In Homer’s Iliad, Eris is shown rousing the Greeks and Trojans to battle on multiple occasions. In one scene, she sweeps into the Greek camp carrying “a portent of war” and unleashes a great shout to inspire violence in the warriors.[16]

Polytechnus and Aedon: Eris and Marital Strife 

In another myth, Eris demonstrated her ability to cause discord in a more domestic context. This story told of a happy couple, the carpenter Polytechnus and his wife Aedon, who thoughtlessly boasted that they loved each other even more than Zeus and Hera. This frivolous comment angered Hera, who sent Eris to punish them.[17]

Eagerly following Hera’s orders, Eris breathed the spirit of competition into Polytechnus and Aedon. Polytechnus was building a standing board for a chariot, while Aedon was weaving a tapestry, and the couple decided to make a bet as to who would complete their task first; the loser, they decided, would bring the winner a female servant.

Aedon ended up finishing her tapestry first and thus won the competition. Polytechnus was filled with resentment and resolved that he would have the last laugh.

He went to the home of Aedon’s father Pandareus and asked to bring Aedon’s sister Chelidon home for a visit. He then raped her, cut her hair short, and presented her to Aedon as the “servant” she had won, threatening to kill Chelidon if she revealed the truth to her sister.

Aedon, not recognizing her sister, treated her new servant very cruelly. But one day Aedon overheard Chelidon lamenting her situation and thus discovered the truth. Together, Aedon and Chelidon plotted a gruesome revenge against Polytechnus: they killed Itys (Polytechnus and Aedon’s only son), cooked him, and fed him to Polytechnus.

When Polytechnus discovered what had happened, he pursued Aedon and Chelidon to the home of their father Pandareus. But Pandareus caught Polytechnus, tied him up, smeared him with honey, and threw him into his sheepfold as insect fodder.

At this point, Aedon took pity on her husband and tried to help him. This infuriated her father and brother, who attacked her and were on the verge of killing her. Zeus, to prevent things from getting even worse, finally turned them all into birds: Pandareus became a sea eagle, Aedon’s mother a kingfisher, Polytechnus a woodpecker, Aedon’s brother a hoopoe, Chelidon a swallow, and Aedon a nightingale.[18]



  1. See Robert S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 1:459.

  2. Hesiod, Theogony 225, trans. H. G. Evelyn-White.

  3. Homer, Iliad 4.440–43, trans. A. T. Murray.

  4. Hesiod, Works and Days 11–26.

  5. Virgil, Aeneid 6.280–81.

  6. Statius, Thebaid 7.49–50.

  7. E.g., Homer, Iliad 5.740, 18.535; Hesiod, Shield of Heracles 148, 156. See also Virgil, Aeneid 8.702–3.

  8. Pausanias, Description of Greece 5.19.2.

  9. On Eris in ancient art, see Hubert Giroux, “Eris,” in Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (Zurich: Artemis, 1986), 3.1:846–50.

  10. Hesiod, Theogony 224–25.

  11. Hyginus, Fabulae pref.1.

  12. Homer, Iliad 4.441.

  13. Hesiod, Theogony 226–32; see also Hesiod, Works and Days 804 (where Horkos is again mentioned as the son of Eris).

  14. Quintus of Smyrna, Posthomerica 10.53–73.

  15. For this myth, see esp. the Cypria arg.1 West; see also Apollodorus, Epitome 3.2; Lucian, Dialogues of the Sea Gods 7.1; Colluthus, Rape of Helen 37–63. There is a reference to the Judgment of Paris as early as Homer, Iliad 24.27–30, though Eris is not named.

  16. Homer, Iliad 11.3–14; see also 4.439ff.

  17. This was a lesser-known variation of the myth of Procne, Philomela, and Tereus.

  18. Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 11 (citing Boeus).

Primary Sources


Eris is present as the personification of strife in the earliest works of Greek literature. In Homer’s Iliad (eighth century BCE), she stirs up conflict during several battles, while Hesiod’s Theogony (eighth/seventh century BCE) gives Eris’ genealogy (224–32). 

In the Shield of Heracles (sixth century BCE)—a poem traditionally but incorrectly attributed to Hesiod—Eris appears as a decorative motif on Heracles’ shield (just as Homer placed Eris on Achilles’ shield in the Iliad).

Eris makes further scattered appearances throughout Greek literature. In the Cypria, a lost epic from the sixth century BCE, she is responsible for causing the Trojan War by instigating the Judgment of Paris. The tragedian Sophocles (ca. 496–406/5 BCE) wrote a play (probably a satyr play) entitled Eris, but this work has been lost, and its plot remains unknown. 

Later, the mythographer Apollodorus or “Pseudo-Apollodorus” (first century BCE or later) related some of the myths of Eris in his Library.

Eris continued to stir up conflict in later mythological poems, especially poems on the Trojan War such as those by Quintus of Smyrna (late second/third century CE) and Triphiodorus (third century CE). Antoninus Liberalis (second/third century CE), citing the ornithologist Boeus, recounted the story of Eris, Polytechnus, and Aedon in his Metamorphoses

In the Dionysiaca, a lengthy epic by Nonnus (fifth century CE), Eris constantly foments chaos: she helps Typhoeus in his battle with Zeus (2.357–58), stands by Ares (32.176–77), leads fleets into war (39.384–85), appears in a dream to Dionysus (20.35–43), and nurses the Giant Damasen (25.485–89).


Eris appears in Roman literature under the name Discordia, the Latin word for “strife.” Like the Greeks, the Romans often associated Eris with war and bloodshed, as in the works of Virgil (70–19 BCE), Ovid (43 BCE–17/18 CE), Statius (ca. 45/50–ca. 96 CE), and Valerius Flaccus (first century CE). 

Hyginus or “Pseudo-Hyginus” (first century CE) also outlined her genealogy in his Fabulae, making her a daughter of Erebus and Nyx.


Eris continued to appear in texts throughout the Byzantine period, the Middle Ages, and beyond, down to the Discordian scriptures of today. For further references, see the notes.

Secondary Sources

  • Aust, Emil. “Discordia.” In Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, edited by Georg Wissowa and August Friedrich Pauly, vol. 5.1, 1183. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1902.

  • Brown, A. L. “Eris.” In The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4th ed., edited by Simon Hornblower, Antony Spawforth, and Esther Eidinow, 536. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

  • Deecke, W., and L. von Sybel. “Eris.” In Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie, edited by W. H. Roscher, vol. 1, 1337–39. Leipzig: Teubner, 1884–90.

    Deecke, W., and W. H. Roscher. “Discordia.” In Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie, edited by W. H. Roscher, vol. 1, 1179. Leipzig: Teubner, 1884–90.

  • Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

  • Giroux, Hubert. “Eris.” In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, vol. 3.1, 846–50. Zurich: Artemis, 1986.

  • Hard, Robin. “The Family of Night.” In The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, 8th ed., 57–61. New York: Routledge, 2020.

  • Nünlist, René. “Eris.” In Brill’s New Pauly, edited by Hubert Cancik, Helmuth Schneider, Christine F. Salazar, Manfred Landfester, and Francis G. Gentry. Published online 2006.

  • Shapiro, Harvey A. “Eris.” In Personifications in Greek Art: The Representation of Abstract Concepts, 600–400 BC, 51–61. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.

  • Smith, William. “Eris.” In A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Spottiswoode and Company, 1873. Perseus Digital Library. Accessed June 29, 2022.

  • Theoi Project. “Eris.” Published online 2000–2017.

  • Waser, Otto. “Eris.” In Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, edited by Georg Wissowa and August Friedrich Pauly, vol. 6.1, 463–66. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1907.


Kapach, Avi. “Eris.” Mythopedia, September 07, 2023.

Kapach, Avi. “Eris.” Mythopedia, 7 Sep. 2023. Accessed on 13 Dec. 2023.

Kapach, A. (2023, September 7). Eris. Mythopedia.


  • Avi Kapach

    Avi Kapach is a writer, scholar, and educator who received his PhD in Classics from Brown University

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