Home » Goddesses » Eris, the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Discord – Mythology, history, symbol and meaning

Eris, the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Discord – Mythology, history, symbol and meaning

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by DanFF

In this post, you will learn about Eris, the Goddess of Chaos, Discord and Conflict. You will get to know her history, how she fits into Greek Mythology, her symbol, her meaning and you will also know a little about the modern religion in which she is the main deity. Not to mention the riot she created among other Greek Goddesses.

You watch the video below and / or continue reading.

The History of Goddess Eris

To understand where and how the Goddess Eris fits into Greek Mythology, we must clarify that there are 2 “versions” of Éris and this creates some confusion.

One is a daughter of Zeus and Hera. This “version” of Eris is quite identified with Enyo, a Goddess of War also associated with Ares. Enyo is the Goddess who likes to cause death, destruction, and she is crazy for blood. She has an indomitable fury. It is said that she arrives quietly and get gigantic proportions, finishing everything on her way. Much like a storm.

It is in this version that we know “Eris” as an ugly and evil Goddess, rejected by her parents.

However, the other “version” of Eris, which is associated with discord and chaos, is the eldest daughter of Goddess Nyx, the Primordial Goddess of Night. This is the Eris that we will focus on. The Roman version of this Goddess is called Discordia. The word Eris means “conflict”.

Nyx’s daughter Eris has several siblings who also represent complex and often negative aspects of life. They are:

  • Moros, luck;
  • The Keres, violent death;
  • Thanatos, death;
  • Hypnos, sleep;
  • The Oneiroi (Morpheus, Icelos and Phantasos), dreams;
  • Momus, scorn;
  • Geras, old age;
  • Oizys, misery;
  • Nemesis, divine judgement;
  • Philotes, friendship;
  • Apate, deception;
  • The Moirai, Goddesses of Fate;
  • Hesperides, Goddesses of Spring and Sunset;

Due to the nature of Eris and her siblings we can already see that she doesn’t like fooling around.

Sons and Daughters of Eris

Eris had many sons and daughters and all represent negative and chaotic aspects. They are:

  • Ponos, hardship;
  • Lethe, forgetfulness;
  • Limos, starvation;
  • Algea, pains;
  • Hysminai, battles;
  • Makhai, wars;
  • Phonoi, murders;
  • Androktasiai, manslaughter;
  • Neikea, quarrels;
  • Pseudea, lies;
  • Logoi, stories;
  • Amphillogiai, disputes;
  • Dysnomia, anarchy;
  • Ate, ruin;
  • Horkos, oath.

When Eris gave birth to Horkos, which represents oaths, the Erinyes were the ones who helped her. The Erinyes, called Furies in Roman Mythology, are Goddesses who torture souls in the underworld. In the Orphic version, the three Erinyes are daughters of Persephone and Hades.

Ruin, conflict and discord

The most famous episode involving Eris is one in which she throws the golden apple of discord among Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Soon you will read about it in detail.

However, there is a conflicting piece of information here! According to Patricia Monaghan, who threw the golden apple of discord was not Eris, but his daughter Ate, instructed by Eris. By convention, Eris was known for this achievement.

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Eris’s Myth – Chaos and Discord

Despite being a well-known Goddess, Eris does not have many stories told in Greek mythology. But one thing is certain: when it appears, there is a lot of conflict, chaos, discord and hatred involved.

One of these stories involves the couple Aedon and Polytekhnos.

The two were a happy couple who made a mistake in saying that they loved each other more than Zeus and Hera. So, it seems, Hera asked Eris to go to the couple and sow the seed of discord.

Obeying the Queen of the Gods she went. Arriving there she saw that the couple was working. Aedon was weaving and Polytekhnos was making a board for his carriage.

The Goddess of Discord then said that whoever finished the task last would have to hand over a female slave (yes, a woman to be enslaved) to the other.

Aedon finished first. It seems Hera helped her so she would be able to win this task imposed by Eris.

Polytekhnos was enraged when he lost the challenge. Therefore he had to deliver a female slave to his wife as a punishment. Do you know what he did? Controlled by hate, he kidnapped Aedon’s sister, raped her, disguised her as a slave and handed her over to his wife.

However, Aedon realized that the slave was actually her sister in disguise and she got really mad at her husband. To take revenge she took her husband’s son, killed him and served him as food to Polytekhnos.

Zeus and Hera were so shocked with everything that happened that they decided to turn the whole family into birds.

Nothing happened to Eris, of course.

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The Golden Apple of Discord

The most striking episode involving Eris is when she throws the Golden Apple of Discord among three Goddesses. This episode marks the beginning of a series of events leading up to the Trojan War. Once again, Eris is the one who sows the seed of discord and, as usual, nothing happens to her in the end.

It all starts when everyone is invited to the wedding of Tethys and Peleus. Everyone but Eris because they wanted to avoid turmoil and confusion.

However, Eris knows about the wedding and decides to go anyway. As no one invited her, she decides to wreak havoc on purpose. Then she goes to the place without being noticed and starts observing everything.

When Athena, Hera and Aphrodite are close to each other, Eris throws a golden apple with the inscription “For most beautiful” or “For the fairest”, there are variations (including, as mentioned above, who threw the apple may have been Ate, daughter of Eris).

Eris stole this golden apple from the Hesperides garden and the garden belonged to Hera.

The apple falls among the three Goddesses and the question arises: Who should get the apple?

The Golden Apple of Discord by Jacob Jordaens 1633

The three Goddesses begin to fight for the golden apple and Zeus is afraid to make a decision and give the apple to one of them. Whichever he chose would make him face the fury of the other two.

Clever, Zeus decides to delegate the decision to a mortal named Paris. The three Goddesses then, controlled by hate and discord, go and try to bribe Paris so they can get the golden apple.

  • Hera offers political power;
  • Athena offers knowledge, mainly military;
  • Aphrodite offers the love of the most beautiful woman in the world.

Paris decides that Aphrodite is the most beautiful (or fairest) and hands her the golden apple. In return he “wins” the love of Helen of Sparta. However Helen was married to the king of Sparta, Menelaus.

This gives rise to the whole war, because Helen is taken from her husband, king of Sparta, and she is given to Paris in Troy.

The Golden Apple of Discord written "To the most beautiful" on it.
The Golden Apple of Discord written “To the most beautiful” on it.

The symbol of Discord

The Golden Apple ended up becoming the symbol of Eris and therefore the symbol of discord itself.

When we look at references to apples in literature, mythology and even religion, we always find controversial issues. One reason is that the apple is a bright and beautiful fruit, but it is not always sweet. And this generates a duality that explores the subconscious in general: it is attractive, but dangerous.

  • In the Snow White story, the apple gets the attention of the young woman who eats it and is bewitched;
  • With Goddess Lilith and her escape from paradise, it is an apple that attracts Eve and causes her and Adam to be expelled for committing the original sin;

Goddess Eris and Discordianism

Eris is equivalent to the Roman goddess Discordia and they have a modern cult called Discordianism.

Discordianism is a modern religion in which followers do not follow rules. Even though there are no rules to be followed, there are some rules that may or may not be followed.

In Discordianism, freedom is important, especially freedom of creation. For Discordians, or Erinians, order and disorder are the same. It all depends on how the “I” interprets one or the other.

And both are part of Chaos, where everything is created.

Discordians also claim to be able to receive direct messages from Eris through the Pineal gland. These messages provide insights and other important information.

If you start a conversation with a Discordian, be prepared to hear many things that are meaningless, but which can make sense, if you want them to.

You can learn more (or not understand anything) about Discordianism and Principia Discordia on this website.

Eris in pop culture

  • In the TV series “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journey”, Discord was a fixed antagonist, being the captain of Ares, the God of War.
  • In “Sinbad – The Legend of the Seven Seas” from Dreamworks, Eris is the main villain. She controls several monsters and aims to take possession of the book of harmony, to plunge the world into chaos.
  • In the TV series “The Librarians” a golden apple is shown in episode 5 of the first season. It is called the apple of discord and transforms those who hold it in the worst version of themselves.
  • In 2005 a planet was discovered in the confines of the solar system, the tenth dwarf planet is called Eris and its moon is called Dysnomia (Formerly the planet was nicknamed Xena, and the moon Gabrielle). This name was given because of the discord that its discovery caused among the scientists since many considered it being an asteroid.
  • “Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac” had its first feature film released in 1987. In it, the Goddess Eris embodied in a young woman who kidnaps Saori Kido, Athena’s incarnation, to steal her vitality through a golden apple.
  • We can also find Eris in the popular short story Sleeping Beauty, in which a “bad” fairy is not invited to the celebration, and then appears, bringing disgrace on the whole kingdom.
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