Episode 26A – Naked Beauty Pageant

Episode 26A Show Notes

Source: Greek Mythology

  • This week on MYTH, we’ll be starting one of the most famous epics of all time – the Trojan War.  This is one of those stories that most people are at least passingly familiar with, but there’s a lot more to the story that you probably haven’t heard.  You’ll see that teenagers should never be trusted with anything important, that making animals fight each other has always been a past time for assholes, and that sometimes Zeus decides to slaughter people for very little reason.   Then, in Gods and Monsters, you’ll find a new reason to stay out of the water.  This is the Myths Your Teacher Hated podcast, where I tell the stories of cultures from around the world in all of their original, bloody, uncensored glory.  Modern tellings of these stories have become dry and dusty, but I’ll be trying to breathe new life into them.  This is Episode 26A, “Naked Beauty Pageant”.  As always, this episode is not safe for work.
  • If you’re even passingly familiar with Greek mythology, even if it’s only from terrible Hollywood adaptations, you probably know that there was a Trojan War and that there was something about a horse, but there’s a whole lot more to the crazy-ass epic (which may actually be based on a real war from around 1200 BC). It’s one of those things that keeps showing up over and over again in pop culture, so I think it’s worth knowing what went down.  It’s not exactly a short story (that is, after all, what “epic” means), so this story is going to stretch across a few episodes.  It’s only fair, as this is probably one of the most important events to be narrated in Greek mythology.  Buckle up and hang on, cause here we go.
  • “There’s too damned many people.”  Zeus was sitting on top of Mt. Olympus, looking out over the creation he had inherited after killing his father for trying to eat him (see Episodes 1A and 1B if you’re confused).  He nodded his head and repeated “There’s too damned many people.  We haven’t had a good disaster to thin out the herd in far too long.  Besides, I’ve got way too many bastards running around, and Hera is more than a little pissed the fuck off at me for constantly cheating on her with literally hundreds of women, mortal and otherwise.  And besides, there’s that nasty prophesy that says I will be overthrown by one of my sons, the way I did with Cronus, and the way he did with his father Ouranos (I’m starting to see a pattern here, and I don’t like it).  And that other prophesy that says that smoking hottie Thetis the sea nymph will give birth to a son who will surpass his father.  If I don’t marry her off quick like, I’ll be the father of that kid, and he’ll end up overthrowing me.  I’m too smart for that, so I’ll get her married of to King Peleus of the island of Aegina instead.  That way, maybe I’ll be able to keep from seducing her long enough for her son to be someone else’s kid.  I mean, I still want to fuck her, and I don’t really care about marriage vows, I just want to avoid fate.  So yeah.  People need to die.  A plague or a flood is too random, and the demigods that sprang from my loins will be too smart to die that way.  What I need is something that will draw them all to one place where they can die without blaming me.”  He snapped his fingers and smiled as an idea formed.  “Of course.  I’ll throw a war.”
  • Zeus went to work introducing the two and organizing a grand marriage for them, without really caring if they were into the idea or not.  She was a lovely, capable nature demigod and he was a handsome, effective king, so they both could have done a lot worse, and they decided to go along with the temperamental god king (like they had a choice).  All of the gods and important supernatural figures were invited with the sole exception of Eris, the goddess of strife.  It’s an understandable exclusion, since a wedding is the last place you want someone whose sole job is causing fights, but if you’ve listened to the episode on Sleeping Beauty (Episode 11), you can probably guess how well she takes it.
  • She is feeling snubbed (and she’s totally right), so she decided to cause a little holy mayhem.  She tries to crash the wedding, first, but Hermes, messenger of the gods as well as the patron of thieves and transition (which is why he’s on door duty), turns her away.  “Sorry, Eris.  Nothing personal, but you’re not on the list.  It’s my ass if I break the rules here.”  She absolutely takes it personal, but she’s not mad at Hermes but at Zeus (who she correctly blames).  She had come prepared with a fantastically passive aggressive attack.  She pulls a golden apple from her robes, known as the Golden Apple of Discord or the Golden Apple of Strife, and she tosses that little grenade into the midst of the party.  It rolls to a stop near the dance floor, and the word ‘Kallisti’, which means ‘for the fairest’, is clearly visible inscribed on the golden fruit.  You know how at some weddings, there’s almost a fist fight when the bouquet is tossed?  Now imagine that, only with immortal, divine beings who constantly bicker with one another about who’s the best at any given thing.  Yeah, shit got ugly.
  • Most of the women quickly realized that they didn’t really have a chance and bowed out of the contest with varying amounts of grace.  In the end, three goddesses all asserted their claim to the apple: Hera, queen of the gods, Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.  Before things could go too far, they decided to go to an impartial judge and have him decide who was truly the most beautiful in existence.  Hera batted her eyelashes at her husband.  “Oh Zeus, honey?  Would you be a dear and judge this little beauty contest for us?  Surely no one is more fit to decide than the king of all creation, right?”
  • Zeus may thing with his dick most of the time, but even he could see the trap that Eris has laid for him.  Hera was his wife, Athena was his daughter, and Aphrodite basically controlled his dick.  If he pissed off any one of them, the other two could and would make his life a living hell for all of eternity.  This was bad.  Fortunately, Zeus was sneaky and good at thinking on his feet.  “Ladies!  I would be honored to judge your beauties, but alas, I cannot.  One of the entrants is my wife, and another is my daughter!  How could I be expected to make an impartial decision?”  In a flash of inspiration, Zeus saw an opportunity to get out of this and to also start that war he wanted.  “No, I can’t possibly be impartial, and neither can any of the divine beings assembled here today.  They all know you and love you, and could never judge on beauty alone.  What we need is a mortal.  As it so happens, there is a mortal man known for his eye for beauty and his honesty.  Paris, prince of Troy, would be the perfect judge for this contest!  Go and ask him.”  There was a murmur, and it seemed the three ladies might try to argue with him.  “It is decided!  Go to Paris!”
  • Paris of Troy, also known as Paris Alexander (we’ll get to that), was fated to be trouble.  He was the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, and before he was even born, he was a problem.  When she was pregnant with the boy, Hecuba had a dream that she was in labor.  She lay in the birthing bed, surrounded by faceless attendants, screaming, crying, and pushing for all she was worth.  There was a gasp and a burning in her abused vagina, and then one of the faceless attendants held up her child for her to see.  Only, it wasn’t a child, it was a burning torch, raging in the darkness.  She woke up in a cold sweat, terrified and unsure why.  She shook her husband awake and talked it over.  He mumbled something about a seer, and rolled back over to go to sleep.  
  • When morning came, she told Priam that she was still worried about what dread portent her dream might hold.  “I’d say you’re crazy, but this is ancient Greece where there’s a literal god for delivering messages by dream, so let’s go see a seer and see what it means.”  They went to the renowned seer Aesacus.  He listened, nodding occasionally, as she told him about the dream of the burning torch.  He thought for a minute.  “You’re right, o Queen.  It is indeed an omen of terrible things to come.  Your dream is a warning that your unborn child will be your doom, indeed, the doom of all of Troy.  He will bring ruin down on all of our heads, but I do have good news.  You can prevent this amorphous tragedy from coming to pass with one simple action: on the day your child is born, fucking kill that asshole.  I know it sounds a little harsh, but hear me out.  What is the life of one baby against that of an entire city?”
  • With that little nugget of sunshine (and an early version of the trolley problem), Hecuba and Priam went back to the palace to try and make a decision about what to do when the baby came.  The practical decision was to listen to the seer and kill the baby, but they found that, even though they were monarchs being given a warning by the gods, they couldn’t make themselves straight up murder an infant in cold blood.  Then the baby came, as babies do.  Again, Aesacus came to the royal couple and warned them that the baby born to royal parents before nightfall that day would bring about the ruin of Troy and should be executed for the good of the city.  Something had to be done, so they did what all rich, powerful people do when confronted with a difficult task: they hired someone else to do it.  
  • Priam summoned his huntsman to do the deed, and sent the man out with the newborn infant.  He went out into the wilderness, on the theory that killing an innocent child would be easier without having to explain to the town that the king had told him to, and drew his knife.  Much like in Snow White, this huntsman, named Agelaus, also found that he just couldn’t kill a baby (at least, not a baby human), so he decided to farm out the job also.  He went to the foot of Mount Ida and left the baby out in the open for Nature to kill.  You can probably see where this is going.  Because Fate is a cruel bitch, even Nature wouldn’t kill that little bastard.  A female bear wandered by and took pity on the squalling little pink thing by taking the tiny boy back to her cave, keeping him safe, and putting her bear nipples in his mouth to give him bear milk.  It’s definitely a weird image, but the story is very specific that the female bear nursed the child.
  • He stayed with the bear for nine days, until the huntsman returned, to bring proof of the baby’s death and possibly to try give the poor thing a proper burial.  Instead, he had a very much alive baby turned back over to him by a surprisingly docile bear.  “Well, shit.  Who am I to argue with the gods, especially in the form of a very large, scary bear.  Little baby, I guess you’re coming home with me since you sure as shit can’t go back to your murder happy parents.”  Agelaus put the little baby in his backpack and carried him home (which some versions of the story say was the origin of his name, Paris, since the word for backpack in Greek is ‘pera’).   He cut out a dog’s tongue (I hope it was a dog that died of natural causes, but I have my suspicions) and presented that to King Priam instead.  The king didn’t look at it too closely, because ew.  
  • As he grew, it quickly became obvious that he was of royal birth due to his exceptional handsomeness and intelligence (because everyone knows that if you’re beautiful, you’re also always intelligent, powerful, and rich because you’re just better than everyone else).  When he was still a kid, he tracked, fought, and beat the shit out of a gang of cattle-thieves, and restored the animals to the herd.  This was kind of a big fucking deal in the ancient Greek world because most of the land wasn’t exactly conducive to raising cattle, so they were a very expensive luxury, and incredibly difficult to replace.  This feat earned him the surname Alexander, which means “protector of men”, but I’m gonna keep calling him just Paris, since that’s what he’s almost always referred to as in the stories.
  • When he grew to a teenager, he met the nymph Oenone, who became his first lover.  As an immortal creature she was, shall we say, more experienced than he was in the art of fucking.  She was a water nymph from Mount Ida (which keeps popping up in this story), and her father was Cebren, a minor river god.  Aside from being inhumanly beautiful (as all nymphs are), she was also skilled in the arts of medicine and prophecy, having been taught by Rhea and Apollo respectively.  When the day came that he left her for another woman (we’re getting to that shortly), she didn’t hold it against him.  Instead, she told him that if he were ever wounded, he should come see her since she could heal almost any wound, no matter how serious, thanks to her training with Apollo, god of medicine (among other things).
  • Other than having mind-blowing sex with his literal nympho lover, Paris’ chief distraction as a teenager was to make Agelaus’ bulls fight each other.  It sounds like the kind of thing a bored asshole would do, even given that videogames didn’t yet exist to get out excess violence, but it was apparently a thing in this town.  One bull started winning every fight, so he decided to stop masturbating and start fucking, by which I mean he decided to have his adopted dad’s bull fight other people’s bulls instead of just other bulls his dad owned.  He began to battle other rival herdsmen (and I think there’s an anime in there somewhere) and beat all comers.  Eventually, he got cocky and offered a golden crown to any bull that could defeat his champion.  The gods don’t like humans to get too uppity, so Ares decided to go down and bust shit up a little.  He transformed into a human and challenged Paris, then changed into the bull to do the actual fighting.  Being the literal god of war, he easily beat a simple bull.  To his credit, Paris didn’t hesitate to hand over the golden crown to the disguised Ares.  
  • This honesty and willingness to judge himself the loser in a contest with a god was pretty much the whole reason they decided to trust him slash throw him to the wolves in judging a divine beauty contest amongst known vengeful goddesses.  Hermes escorted the three to a spring on Mount Ida to bathe (see, there’s that mountain again).  Paris wandered passed the pool, as Hermes knew he would, leading his cattle to grazing grounds.  “Good afternoon, mortal.  These three are having a…polite disagreement, and Zeus has suggested you as the best person to judge for us.”  They presented the apple so he could see “For the Fairest” emblazoned across it.  “Which of them deserves the apple, human?”
  • This stopped Paris in his tracks.  “Ooookay.  Alright, I guess.  What would the terms of the judgment be?”  Aphrodite laughed.  “Whatever you wish, mortal.  Zeus has given you permission to set whatever conditions you require to make your decision.”  “Mm hmm.  Mm hmm.  Let me take a look at you.”  He circled the three goddesses, who each posed for him and eyed him seductively.  “Okay, this isn’t working.  It’s too hard to judge your innate beauty with all of those clothes in the way.  I need to judge beauty, not style, so I think I’m gonna have to ask you all to strip.”  All three were bound and determined to win (and Aphrodite at least was a little bit of an exhibitionist), so all three happily, and sensuously, disrobed.  
  • He circled the three goddesses again, first as a group and then individually.  It was an incredibly difficult decision to make.  Each time he looked at one, he thought her the most fair, but as soon as he looked at the next, he was sure that she was in fact the most fair.  After spending quite a bit of time staring intently at the completely nekkid goddesses, which included getting a good view of absolutely everything, he retired to a little clearing to think.  As he brooded, he felt a rustling beside him.  He turned, worried he was about to be jumped by some dangerous wildlife or maybe an angry nymph girlfriend, but there was nothing there.  He put his back to the tree again, and nearly pissed himself when he heard a seductive whisper in his ear coming from absolutely nowhere.
  • “You know that I am the fairest of the three of us, gentle Paris,” whispered Hera.  “I am the goddess of women, and I am therefore the sum of all female beauty.  I’m every woman, which makes me beautiful.  Maybe you need a little something to sweeten the pot, eh?”  Paris was both intrigued and worried.  Hera was married to Zeus, who could smite him without breaking a sweat, but if a goddess offered to fuck him, there was no way he could say no.  It was supposed to be absolutely amazeballs (as the sex with the nymph Oenone proved, and she was just a pale imitation of the real thing).  Hera laughed.  “Not that, silly mortal.  My husband is the unfaithful asshat, not me.  If you pick me, I can give you dominion over all the world.  You will be king of everything from ocean to ocean.  And honestly, what’s sexier than power?”  With another rustle, she was gone.
  • Paris thought about this.  He hadn’t realized that bribes were a possibility.  Being king of the world seemed like a pretty sweet gig, but he wasn’t sure.  First, he wanted to see if the other two would offer a bribe as well, and you never take the first offer without at least hearing the others, right?  Second, she had said she would make him king, but not how long he would rule.  What was to stop some dickhole king from assassinating him for being placed above him all of the sudden?
  • He heard another rustle, and he smiled.  “I see you were expecting me, wise Paris,” whispered Athena.  “You are clever, more clever than the others give you credit for, I think.  That’s why you should choose me.  You know that I am the only virgin of us three, and you know that the unspoiled woman is the most lovely.  I am young, strong, wise, and powerful, and I can give you all of that.  As the goddess of wisdom, I can give you a deeper insight than any man who has ever lived.  As the goddess of warriors, I can give you the strength and skill in battle of the greatest warriors who ever lived, allowing you to achieve whatever you desire through strength at arms.  Choose me, and you won’t have to be given anything: you can make and take your own destiny.”  Then, she was gone.
  • Paris considered this new offer.  It was true that Athena was one of the few virgin goddesses, and lots of assholes loved the idea of deflowering a woman, but he kind of liked a woman with experience.  Oenone was certainly no blushing maiden.  The offer of wisdom and skill intrigued him, though.  This would solve the biggest drawback to Hera’s offer of power.  If he earned it through skill, he would also earn respect.  He would have a legitimate right to what he claimed, and would be far more likely to be able to stay in power.  Unfortunately, Athena’s bribe would mean that he would have to do some fighting.  Actually, a lot of fighting.  He wasn’t much of a fighter.  The stories tend to agree that he was kind of a coward.  I mean, sure, he could handle a bow well, but he’d never really hungered for the glory of battle.  No matter how good you were, it was always possible for some dipshit to get in a lucky shot with a bow and drop you where you stood.  He leaned back, and waited for the third offer he was now sure was definitely coming.
  • Sure enough, another rustle soon disturbed the silence.  “I thought I’d save the best for last, sweet Paris,” whispered Aphrodite, her voice practically a caress in and of itself.  “Is there really any question that I am the fairest of us all?  I’m literally the goddess of love, beauty, and sex.  All other beauty is a reflection of mine.  I know you have been offered trifles from Hera and Athena, but I offer you something you would never find on your own.  I offer you the love of the most beautiful woman on the planet.  Even if you could somehow sift through all of womankind to find the fairest, there is no guarantee that you could win her heart.  No mere power, no simple skill with a weapon could ensure love.  I can.  Choose me, and I promise that she will love you with all her heart, and will be utterly eager and willing to do whatever your depraved little heart desires.”  With a faint hint of flowers on the air, she was gone.
  • Well, shit.  That made things complicated.  He liked Oenone, but it was just a fling and they both knew it.  She was immortal and he wasn’t, so there was no doubt that one day (and maybe soon), she would grow bored with him and move on to some other young stud.  If Aphrodite gave him the love of the most beautiful, intoxicating woman in the world, though, that would be forever.  Power was nice, but wasn’t the real point of success to be able to impress the ladies?  As a simple herdsman, he could never hope to achieve that.  As a king of suspect legitimacy, he couldn’t guarantee that.  As a powerful warrior, he might kill the wrong person, and alienate her forever.  Paris stood, his decision made.
  • He walked back to deliver his decision to the three goddesses, with Hermes, herald of the gods, standing by to witness and deliver his decision to Olympus.  “Okay, ladies, sir, I have thought long and hard about this.  You are all exquisitely lovely, and it has been an honor and a privilege to spend all of this, shall we say, rather intimate time together.  This was an incredibly hard decision to make, but I was charged by Zeus to make it, and so I have.  In my expert opinion, the fairest of you, and the rightful owner of the golden apple, is none other than…drumroll please!”  The god and goddesses stared at him silently, no drumroll provided.  “Okay, never mind.  The fairest of you is…Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty!”  The chosen goddess smiled triumphantly, and the other two stormed off in a fury (if fake news had been a term then, it probably would have been bandied about).  They both knew she had cheated to win, but they couldn’t really complain because so had they.  She’d just been better at it.
  • Hermes nodded, and returned to the heavens to deliver the verdict.  That left Paris alone with the sultry goddess.  She swayed over to him, and he could practically hear the bongos with each twitch of her hips.  “You have chosen well, my dear Paris.  As promised, I give you the heart of the most beautiful woman alive, Helen of Sparta!  As soon as she lays eyes on you, she will fall deeply and madly in love with you.  You just have to go fetch her.”  “Sounds simple enough.  I assume she lives in Sparta then?  That’s in Greece, right?  Can you give me a more specific address?  Searching an entire city sounds annoying.”  She smiled.  “I can and I will.  She lives in the biggest home in the city.  You see, there is one little complication I may have neglected to mention – she’s married to Menelaus, king of Sparta, so you’ll need to engage in a little light kidnapping to get your prize.  Ta ta.”  Her laughter echoed through the trees as she vanished, and he wasn’t sure if it was delighted or mocking.  Probably both.
  • And with that, we’re going to leave Paris wondering if he maybe got a bum deal and if he is, in fact, going to risk an international incident for a little nookie, which means it’s time for Gods and Monsters.  This is a segment where I get into a little more detail about the personalities and history of one of the gods or monsters from this week’s pantheon that was not discussed in the main story.  This week’s god slash monster (heavy on the slash, if you’re into fanfic) is the ichthyocentaur.
  • Greek mythology is full of monsters made by sticking the head of this animal on the body of that animal, mostly by interspecies fucking, but the ichthyocentaur is a whole hodge-podge of nonsense.  You’ve probably heard of centaurs before, wild creatures with the bodies of horses and the torsos of men (proving that some creepy fetishes just never die), but you probably didn’t know that the centaurs also got frisky for a completely different species, specifically fish and lobsters.  Ichthyocentaurs are describe as having the upper bodies of humans, the lower front bodies of horses, fish tails, and lobster claws situated on their heads like horns.  It’s a weird image, even by made up monster standards.
  • Not much has survived from these fish-horse-human monstrosities, but we do know that two brothers names Aphros (Sea-Foam) and Bythos (Sea-Depths), who were half brothers of the one good, wise centaur Chiron (who will pop up in future stories), were once a thing.  They were the sons of the Titan Cronus (from way back in Episode 1A) and the nymph Philyra, who was not his wife, so now we know that Zeus got his philandering ways by watching dear old daddy.  Other stories make their parents out to be the sea god Poseidon and and the minor sea goddess Amphirite.  
  • Given their relation to the only centaur who wasn’t a horse’s ass (pun very much intended), it’s likely that they were also considered to be wise teachers.  The few surviving depictions of them indicate that they worked with Poseidon somehow, which is hardly surprising given that they were minor sea gods themselves.  A story from the 2nd Century AD, written down by the Roman writer Pseudo-Hyginus, says that the two brothers aided Aphrodite when she was first born of the sea-foam slash god cum that leaked out of the severed penis of Cronus (and if that sentence doesn’t make perfect sense, you really need to go back to the first episode), and also helped raise her as a tiny godling.  As a reward for helping Aphrodite become the powerful sexpot she turned out to be (or maybe because Zeus was just happy to have some eye candy he was only sort of related to), Zeus turns them into the constellation Pisces and places them in the sky for all eternity.
  • The two also appear in a pair of matching sculptures, belonging to the Louvre and the Vatican, showing them carrying Silenus, friend and teacher of the wine god Dionysus, who was driven into the sea by King Lycurgus of Thrace, who hated the wine god for the things wine made him do when drunk (such as trying to rape his own mother, according to one story).
  • So the next time you’re out lying under the stars with your sweetheart, look up at the sky, find Pisces, and explain how those sky fish are actually human-fish-horse hybrids made by gods fucking monsters.  It’ll totally get you laid, I promise.
  • That’s it for this episode of Myth Your Teacher Hated.  Keep up with new episodes on our Facebook page, on iTunes, on Stitcher or on TuneIn and now, on Spotify, or you can follow us on Twitter as @HardcoreMyth and on Instagram as Myths Your Teacher Hated Pod.  You can also find news and episodes on our website at myths your teacher hated dot com.  If you like what you’ve heard, I’d appreciate a review on iTunes.  These reviews really help increase the show’s standing and let more people know it exists.  If you have any questions, any gods or monsters you’d want to learn about, or any ideas for future stories that you’d like to hear, feel free to drop me a line.  I’m trying to pull as much material from as many different cultures as possible, but there are all sorts of stories I’ve never heard, so suggestions are appreciated.  The theme music is by Tiny Cheese Puff, whom you can find on fiverr.com.
  • Next time, we’ll be continuing with our epic series on the Trojan war.  Since Helen was, through no fault of her own, the mythic cause for this whole war, we’re going to spend some time getting to know her.  She’s got an absolutely bonkers personal story, even before Paris let his wandering dick get everyone in trouble.  You’ll learn that you should never trust a goose’s intentions, where babies really come from, and that even mythic heroes can be real creepers.  Then, in Gods and Monsters, it’s a surprisingly sweet love story from the ancients, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  That’s all for now.  Thanks for listening.