This month, let’s take a look at a head of Paris, the prince of Troy! Made during the time of Roman control over Greece, he is shown here wearing a shepherd’s hat. Why? Let’s find out together!
Before Paris was born, his mother Hecuba, the queen of Troy, had a dream she gave birth to a flaming torch. The prophet of Troy told her the meaning of this dream: her son would cause the downfall and collapse of the city of Troy.
Hecuba and her husband, Priam, were told to kill their baby when it was born, so that the city would be spared. Priam could not bring himself to do it, so he told one of his shepherds, Agelaus to do it for him. Agelaus left Paris alone on Mount Ida expecting him to die of exposure, but Paris survived by drinking the milk of a she-bear.
Agelaus returned to Mount Ida and was amazed to see that Paris was still alive, so he took him home and raised him like his own son! It was only when Paris had grown up that he was recognised as the true prince of Troy. And this is why, in this particular statue, Paris is dressed like a shepherd!
This head of Paris can be seen in the Gods, Myths and Mortals exhibition at the Hellenic Museum, on loan from the Benaki Museum, Athens.