Helen’s “Judgment of Paris” and Greek Marriage Ritual in Sappho 16
Arethusa – Volume 43, Number 1, Winter 2010, pp. 1-20
The Johns Hopkins University Press
The evaluation and judgment of what is most beautiful (κάλλιστον) in Sappho 16 is what John Foley calls a “traditional reference” to the judgment of Paris. By making Helen rather than Paris the judge of what is κάλλιστον, the poem focalizes erotic agency from her perspective. Helen’s “judgment of Paris” and her erotic agency should be read in light of the poem’s references to archaic Greek marriage. While André Lardinois (2001, 2003) makes a case that Sappho 16 is a wedding song, my reading focuses on unexplored aspects of the poem’s relation to the marriage ritual.