Judgment of Paris
Once upon a time, around 1250 BC, toward the end of the Bronze Age in Greece, three goddesses were having an argument (said the Greeks). The goddesses Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera were arguing about which one of them was the most beautiful. They agreed to choose a human man and let him decide. More or less at random, the goddesses picked Paris, the youngest son of King Priam of Troy, to be their judge.
Each of the goddesses offered Paris a bribe to get him to vote for her. Athena offered him wisdom. Hera offered him power. But Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, and Paris voted for her.
So Aphrodite had to come through on her promise. She sent Paris to go visit the Greek king of Sparta, Menelaus (men-uh-LAY-us). Menelaus was married to Helen, who was the most beautiful woman in the world. Menelaus and Helen welcomed Paris kindly, and gave him dinner and let him stay the night in their house. But during the night Paris convinced Helen to run away with him (because Aphrodite made her agree). He took her back to Troy with him and married her, even though she was already married to Menelaus.
To find out more about Paris and the Trojan War, check out these books from Amazon.com or at your local library:
The Iliad of Homer (Oxford Myths and Legends), by Barbara Leonie Picard. A retelling of the story, for kids.
The Trojan War, by Olivia E. Coolidge (2001). Clear and interesting, a retelling for kids. Includes the episodes that aren't in the Iliad (like Paris, and the Trojan Horse).
Troy, by Adele Geras (2001). A young adult novelization of the story, from the point of view of the Trojans.
Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, by Kostas Myrsiades (1987).
The Iliad (Penguin Classics) by Homer. Translated by Robert Fagles. A great translation!