Paris was a child of Priam and Hecuba. Just before his birth, his mother dreamed that she gave birth to a flaming torch. This dream was interpreted by the seer Aesacus as a foretelling of the downfall of Troy, and he declared that the child would be the ruin of his homeland. On the day of Paris's birth it was further announced by Aesacus that the child born of a royal Trojan that day would have to be killed to spare the kingdom, being the child that would bring about the prophecy. Though Paris was indeed born before nightfall, he was spared by Priam; Hecuba, too, was unable to kill the child, despite the urging of the priestess of Apollo, one Herophile. Instead, Paris's father prevailed upon his chief herdsman, Agelaus, to remove the child and kill him. The herdsman, unable to use a weapon against the infant, left him exposed on Mount Ida, hoping he would perish there (cf. Oedipus); he was, however, suckled by a she-bear. Returning after nine days, Agelaus was astonished to find the child still alive, and brought him home in a backpack to rear as his own. He returned to Priam bearing a dog's tongue as evidence of the deed's completion.
Paris's noble birth was betrayed by his outstanding beauty and intelligence; while still a child he routed a gang of cattle-thieves and restored the animals they had stolen to the herd, thereby earning the surname Alexander. It was at this time that Oenone became Paris's first lover. She was a nymph from Mount Ida in Phrygia. Her father was Cebren, a river-god (other sources declare her to be the daughter of Oeneus). She was skilled in the arts of prophecy and medicine, which she had been taught by Rhea and Apollo respectively. When Paris later left her for Helen she told him that if he ever was wounded, he should come to her for she could heal any injury, even the most serious wounds.
Paris's chief distraction at this time was to pit Agelaus's bulls against one another. One bull began to win these bouts consistently, and Paris began to set it against rival herdsmen's own prize bulls; it defeated them all. Finally Paris offered a golden crown to any bull that could defeat his champion. Ares responded to this challenge by transforming himself into a bull and easily winning the contest. Paris gave the crown to Ares without hesitation; it was this apparent honesty in judgment that prompted the gods of Olympus to have Paris arbitrate the divine contest between Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena.
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