Myth-a-Fortnight: the Apples of the Hesperides

Tags: Myth, Hesperides, Troy, renaissance, reception

It's Odyssey season at the classics centre this term, and every fortnight in the run-up to our double-bill of Odyssey Days at the end of June the centre will be themed on a different classical myth connected to the story of the Odyssey. 

The first myth featured has been the golden apples of the Hesperides' garden. Said to have been located at the farthest western corner of the world, the garden of the Hesperides (nymphs of the evening or sunset) had a tree which grew golden apples. These apples were said to grant immortality if eaten and were guarded by a dragon called Ladon. 

When goddess of strife, Eris, was not invited to the fabulous wedding of Peleus and Thetis, she grew angry and turned up with one of the Hesperides' golden apples. The apple was inscribed with the words “καλλίστῃ”, which means “for the fairest”, as a prize for the most beautiful goddess at the wedding.

The goddesses Hera, Athene and Aphrodite all claimed the prize should be theirs, so Zeus decided to ask a Trojan prince, called Paris, to judge the competition. The goddesses each offered him a prize to encourage him to choose her. Hera offered Paris command over all of Asia and Europe! Athene offered him wisdom and skill in war. Finally, Aphrodite said that she would give him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta, wife of the mighty and powerful king Menelaus.

Paris chose Helen, and took her back to the city of Troy, thus instigating the Trojan War!

The centre has been decorated with blackboard drawings, posters and a golden apple tree! Students of classics have been learning about the story, and exploring the theme of apples as a forbidden fruit in myths and fairy tales, as well as the many traditions and expressions which include apples. They have created giant apples out of green card and written or drawn their own apple stories inside them!