Associated with: Greek & Roman mythology
Also known as: Discordia, Enyo
Earliest recorded mention: c. 700 BCE
Major texts: Works and Days, Theogony, the Iliad
The name "Eris" is also the Greek word for strife, and Eris is the goddess of chaos. She's a troublemaker who never gets invited anywhere; she is either a daughter of Nyx, goddess of the night, or a true daughter of Zeus and Hera, and thus one of the highest-ranking immortals.
Hesiod distinguishes between two different goddesses named Eris, one of whom is destructive and one of whom's just restless. Even the restless one, however, is "unwholesome for men." The Greek ideal was placid and peaceful; nothing good could come of discontent.
If I were a serious historian or sociologist, I might study this question: why is the Greek ideal (and many of the Eastern ideals) peace and tranquility, when it is obvious that human progress comes only from discontent and conflict? People who are happy and have all their needs met might create beautiful works of art just for the joy of it, but they don't invent technology. Technology comes from need and want, and it's the simple truth that many of mankind's greatest technological and medical advances emerged from war.
Anyway, Eris is another object lesson in the dangers of leaving people off your guest list. According to Homer, the gods of Olympus gathered to celebrate the marriage of the human Peleus to the sea-nymph Thetis (over Thetis' initial objections, but that's another story). No one invited Eris, because she was a known troublemaker — but she showed up anyway, throwing an apple with a tag reading "For the fairest" into a group that included Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. They asked Paris, prince of Troy, to be the judge, and bribed him with the best they could offer: power (Hera), military might (Athena), or the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, already married to Menelaus of Sparta (Aphrodite). Paris, poor fool, chose Helen, and the Trojan War began.
The children of Eris were as dangerous as she was, including (among others) the previously-mentioned Ponos, god of labor; Lethe, forgetfulness; Limos, famine; Algos, pain; Hysminai, combat; Makhai, battles; Pseudologoi, lies; Ate, folly; and Horkos, god of false promises.
In the present day, Eris is hailed as the patroness of Discordianism, "a sort of self-subverting Dada-Zen for
Westerners" which its adherents say "should on no account be
taken seriously but is far more serious than most jokes." For more information, check out Robert Shea and
Robert Anton Wilson's novel Illuminatus!