The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis
In Greek myth, Peleus' life is marked by war and tragedy. When he murders his half-brother, his father exiles him to Pithia where he is purified for the murder and marries the daughter of a king. Peleus eventually becomes King of Pithia.
Later, during a boar hunt, he accidentally kills someone of importance and is banished again. In this new land, he rejects the advances of a married woman, Asytrdameia; she sends a letter to his wife in Pithia and tells her that Peleus is in love with another woman. Heartbroken, Peleus' wife hangs herself.
Zeus intervenes in the life of Peleus and arranges the wedding of Peleus to Thetis, the lovely sea-goddess. Zeus loves this goddess himself, but fears the prophecy that a son born from a marriage to Thetis would be more powerful than he is (the secret of Thetis which Prometheus knows). The marriage of Thetis to a mortal man assures that the son would be mortal, and therefore of no threat to Zeus' sovereignty.
The son of Peleus and Thetis is Achilles.
Zeus doesn't want anything to go wrong during the marriage ceremony; therefore, he refuses to invite Eris--the personification of strife and dissonance--to the wedding. She of course shows up anyway, according to her nature, and rolls an apple, "the apple of discord," into the wedding party. Three goddesses--Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite--see the words "for the fairest" inscribed on the apple skin. These divine women each desire this prize; Zeus throws the apple out of Olympus and Paris, wandering on the plains of Troy, picks it up. When he reads the words "for the fairest," the three goddesses appear. Paris must choose one of the three and his judgment leads to the Trojan War--Aphrodite wins the contest and in exchange Paris gets the love of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, wife to Greek King Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon. When Paris takes Helen to the citadel of his father Priam, the Sons of Atreus--Agamemnon and Menelaus--rally the Greeks to war and launch a thousand ships on the Aegean Sea to get Helen back.
Some say that Peleus and Thetis loved each other. Yet because Thetis is immortal and Peleus mortal, the marriage ends in separation, symbolizing the ongoing dissonance between divine and mortal. Thetis is an interesting creature defined in part by her archetypal characteristics. She is a shape-shifter, a chameleon, a goddess of the waves. In Ovid's epic poem Metamorphoses, Peleus catches Thetis asleep in a sea-cave and binds her with every kind of noose and snare. Held fast, she changes into a hundred different forms and tells a hundred different stories. She represents the opacity of dreams. She eventually gives way. Peleus takes her and she conceives their son, the great Achilles. We see a similar story in Book IV of Homer's Odyssey where Menelaus is helped by the goddess Eidothea; she tells him that the ancient of the sea, her father Proteus--another shape shifter--knows "all the deeps" and can answer any of Menelaus' questions. The language gives the power and influence of dreams on the hero's sense of the future. Menelaus and his men hold the sea-god captive, for only then will he give "course and distance for . . . sailing." Ancient changelings are undoubtedly the inspiration for the mysterious and unfaithful shape-shifter that facilitates Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy's escape from the penal colony on a remote planet/island in Star Trek VI, "The Undiscovered Country."
The Judgment of Paris and the Trojan War
Paris faces the divine prototype: "Let's Make a Deal." He must choose goddess number one, goddess number two, or goddess number three. Behind each door there is a different prize and a different consequence. (Jungian Woman Psychologist has something interesting to say about that.)
". . . for one of these reasons strife threw an apple as a prize of beauty to be contended for by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite; and Zeus commanded Hermes to lead them to Alexander [Paris} on Ida in order to be judged by him. And they promised to give Alexander gifts. Hera said that if she were preferred to all women, she would give him the kingdom over all men; and Athena promised victory in war, and Aphrodite the hand of Helen. And he decided in favor of Aphrodite . . . " (Apollodorus, Epitome 3.2).
The Events at Aulis
Aulis is a town in central Greece, celebrated as the place from where the Greeks launched their campaign against Troy and where Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to Artemis to ally the contrary winds. The seer Calchas declared that Artemis required the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Agamemnon sent for her under the pretext that she was to be married to Achilles. Versions differ here but she was killed in the Oresteia while others say she was carried off by Artemis. In the Iliad Homer tells us that the events at Aulis have left Agamemnon bitter in his heart towards Calchas. Agamemnon, his eyes like searing fire, blazing his anger at Calchas: "Seer of misery! Never a word that works to my advantage!"
The House of Atreus
Atreus and Thyestes were sons of Pelops. Pelops was cursed by the dying Myrtilus and therefore each generation of his family came to disaster; Pelops continues to live a good life, yet the curse eventually falls upon his two sons. Thyestes seduces his brother's wife, Aerope, aiming at the kingship of Mycenae. Atreus finds out about the seduction and banishes him, but later pretends to be reconciled and invites him to a banquet at which Atreus serves Thyestes the flesh of his own children. When Thyestes realizes what he has eaten, he flees in horror. Thyestes later marries his own daughter Pelopia and fathers Aegisthus; this heir will be the further agent of the curse on the house. On the day of his triumph return from the Trojan War, Aegisthus murders his cousin the King Agamemnon, the son of Atreus. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But it continues; fails to go away. Piracy, women as boothy. The truth is that Clyteamnestra really is in charge. Aegisthus is merely a thug riding around in Agamemnon's chairiot.