apple of discord

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Las bodas de Tetis y Peleo (The Wedding of Tethys and Peleus, 1633) by Jacob Jordaens, from the collection of the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain

A reference to the μῆλον τῆς Ἔριδος (mêlon tês Éridos, apple of Eris) in Greek mythology, a golden apple inscribed ‘for the fairest female’ which Eris (known as Discordia to the Romans), the goddess of discord and strife, tossed in the midst of the feast of the gods at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus. This provoked a dispute among Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera as to who was the most beautiful, and eventually led to the Trojan War.



apple of discord (plural apples of discord)

  1. An object or topic which sows anger and dissension; something which causes argument, rivalry, or strife.
    • 1804 May 19, “Summary of Politics”, in William Cobbett, editor, Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, volume V, number 20, London: Printed by Cox and Baylis, Great Queen Street; published by Richard Bagshaw, Bow Street, Covent Garden; [...], OCLC 8489388, column 768:
      He has determined to enter the cabinet surrounded with creatures only, and, as to the Parliament, to trust to his dexterity and strength in throwing the apple of discord, occasions for doing which will, he imagines, soon and frequently occur.
    • 1875, Mary H[elen Agnes] Allies, “The Apple of Discord”, in The Life of Pope Pius the Seventh, London: Burns and Oates, Portman Street and Paternoster Row, OCLC 3426499, page 91:
      He [Pope Pius VII] had hardly regained Rome when a domestic incident in the Bonaparte family became the immediate cause of that struggle between Pope and Emperor which only ended with the downfall of Napoleon's power. This apple of discord was the outraged honour of a Protestant girl, which the Holy Father maintained in the face of her angered Imperial brother-in-law.
    • 1992, Monteagle Stearns, “The 70 Percent Solution to Our Military Aid Dilemma”, in Entangled Allies: U.S. Policy toward Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, New York, N.Y.: Council on Foreign Relations Press, →ISBN, page 40:
      The apportionment of U.S. military assistance to Turkey and Greece has become an apple of discord almost as bitterly disputed by the recipients as the one Aphrodite received from Paris, which touched off the Trojan Wars.
    • 2008, Anthonie Th. Polet, “Between Expectations and Reality in the DRC: Opportunities for Cimic”, in Sebastiaan J. H. Rietjens and Myriame T. I. B. Bollen, editors, Managing Civil-Military Cooperation: A 24/7 Joint Effort for Stability (Military Strategy and Operational Art), Aldershot, Hampshire; Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, →ISBN, page 123:
      As in the old days when the tribes were fighting each other over hunting grounds, territories and agricultural land, today DRC [the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is prone to many internal conflicts. Especially in the eastern part of the country today's apples of discord appear to be the much-coveted minerals such as gold, diamonds, coltan, and uranium.


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