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READING THE SHIELD OF ACHILLES:

TERROR,ANGER,DELIGHT
STEPHEN SCULLY

HEN he agrees to make Achilles' armor,Hephaistostells


Thetis that any mortal "will wonder when he sees it"
(18.466-467). But,as it happens,nobodyin thepoemsinglesoutany
one sceneon theshieldforcomment,
andonlyrarelyis theshieldeven
notedby a characterin the Iliad. Ratherthaninspiringa specific
in thepoem,thedetaileddescription
of the
responsefromcharacters
sceneson theshield,likean extendedsimile,invitestheaudienceofthe
poemto considerHephaistos'creationagainstthelargerstoryofwhich
it is a part.'While vocabularyand themein thosevignettes
resonate
withkey scenesin thepoem proper,as criticshave observed,2
it has
to definetheparticular
relevance,if any,of the
provenmoredifficult
for
god's workof artfortheheroesof theIliad and mostparticularly
theherowhois tobearthatshield.
In one scholar'swords,theekphrasis"represents
thegood life,"its
the
purposeto "makeus ... see [war]in relationto peace,"reminding
audienceofall thatwillbe lostwiththefallofTroy.3
of
The description
JohnAtchity,
Homer'sIliad: The ShieldofMemory(Carbondale,Illi1 Cf. Kenneth
nois 1978) 238-244 and 247-251. As Atchitynotes,thefourexplicitreferences
on the
shieldto singers"heightens
theimpression
thatHomeris makinga statement
hereabout
his own creativity"
see: Walter
(p. 249). For otherson the same crucialobservation,
OrbisAntiquusNo.
Marg,Homeriiberdie Dichtung2nd ed. (Munster1971),originally
Die Ilias und ihrDichter(GiSttingen
11 (Miinster1957) 29-33; Karl Reinhardt,
1961)
VonHomersWeltundWerk:Aufsditze
undAuslegungen
409-411; Wolfgang
Schadewaldt,
zur Homerischen
Frage 4thed. (Stuttgart
1965) 357-371; KeithStanley,The Shield of
Homer: NarrativeStructurein the Iliad (Princeton1993) 3-26; AndrewBecker,The
ShieldofAchillesand thePoeticsofEkphrasis(Lanham,Maryland,1995)4 and57.
2 In additionto the contributions
of Marg,Schadewaldt,and Stanleyon thispoint
(note 1), see the seminalworkby 0. Andersen,"Some Thoughtson the Shield of
Achilles,"SO 51 (1976) 5-18.
3 OliverTaplin,"The Shieldof AchilleswithintheIliad,"G&R 27 (1980) 12 and 15,
"an easy hedonisticexistencespentin
respectively.For Taplin,the shieldrepresents

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30

StephenScully

Hephaistos'work of art,fallingbetweenthe fightover Patroklos'


tothesurintobattle,offers
starkcontrast
corpseandAchilles're-entry
of
a
on
the
shield
of
The
war.4
citycelerounding
brutality
depictions
at
as
of
heart"
a
who
is
(18.557) themen,
brating
marriage, king
"joyful
or of
a
harvest
festival,
women,and childrenof his community
prepare
or
maidensand youngmen"thinking
carefreethoughts"
(18.567), of a
crowdof people "filledwithdelight"(18.604) as theywatch"a lovely
chorus" (18.603), seem incongruouswith the increasinglysavage
doom.
scenesin themainnarrative,
like a calm beforean impending
to controlthrough
reasoned
Eventheefforts
ofmenin the&yop&trying
debatepassionsarousedbymurder
expressa desireto containviolence.
Not to be sweptaway by thisvision,we need to remember
thatviolencealso findsitswayontotheshield:a murderous
ambushfallsupon
herdersof cattlein a cityat warand thebattlewhichensuesincludes
thefiguresof Hate,Confusion,
and Death;in a latersceneHephaistos
two
lions
out
the
sculpts
tearing
gutsof a bull as menand dogs tryin
vain to save the beast. But mostreaders,nevertheless,
would agree
withtheview thatthe shield"createsan ambiencewhichas a whole
on thebrutalwarportrayed
comments
in theIliad."s5
As themostrecent
bookon theshieldsays,theekphrasis
is "thereforus, notforthecharactersin theepic."6
In such a readingof Hephaistos'workof art,the relationof the
feastingwiththepastimesof conversation,
songand dance,makinglove-in facta life
suchas thegodslead. Thisis thelifethathumansaspireto,eveniftheycan onlyachieve
it in briefsnatches,"
4. WhileI shallargueagainstTaplin'sreadingoftheshield,I agree
fullywithhis broaderpointthatglimpsesof a former
peace providean essentialdynamic
withintheIliad.
4 Cf. Marg(note1) 32 and 36-37; Reinhardt
(note1) 401-411; Schadewaldt(note1)
Homerand theHeroicTradition
368; CedricWhitman,
(New York1958) 205-207; Seth
to Homer'sIliad (Berkeley1984) 142; E. T.
Schein,TheMortalHero: An Introduction
Owen,TheStoryoftheIliad (Toronto1946;repr.AnnArbor1966) 186-189.
5 R. S. Shannon,The Armsof Achillesand HomericCompositionalTechnique=
Mnemosyne,
Suppl.36 (Leiden 1975) 29. Cf.RobertRabel,Plot and Pointof Viewin the
Iliad (AnnArbor1997) 178.
6 Becker(note1) 150; cf.Reinhardt
recentstudiesofthe
(note1) 405. Forimportant,
see JohnHollander,The
shield narrativeas the firstwithinthe ekphrastictradition,
Museumof Words(Chicago
Gazer's Spirit(Chicago 1995) 7-9, and JamesHeffernan,
deviceandfora consideraas a rhetorical
1993) 10-22. For a generalstudyof ekphrasis
tionof itsrelationsto themainnarrative,
see MurrayKrieger,
Ekphrasis:TheIllusionof
theNaturalSign (Baltimore1992); forekphrasiswithinVergilianpoetics,see Michael
Putnam,Virgil'sEpic Designs:Ekphrasisin theAeneid(New Haven1998).

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Reading theShield ofAchilles

31

shieldto itsbeareris ironical:thegod's viewoftheworldis discordant


witha death-embracing
Achilles. It is forthisreason,manyfeel,that
thepoetdescribesthesceneson theshieldnotwhenAchillesreceives
thearmsbutas Hephaistosmakesthem,as WalterMargarguedin his
important
essay of 1957.7In thisvein,it has recentlybeen proposed
butAkhilleus
that"theaudiencecan appreciate[Hephaistos'artifact],
withPriam,when
couldnotproperly
do so untilafterhisreconciliation
humanterms."8
he is morereadyto appreciate
lifeon ordinary
is
an ironyin therelation
it
worth
sees
Hephaistoshimself,
noting,
betweentheshieldandAchilles,butitis notthetypeofironythatMarg
mosthad in mind.Speakingwithregretto Thetis,thegod notesthat
hisworkis ofdivinecraftmanship
itwillnotshelteritsmortal
although
bearerfroma warrior's
death(cf. 18.464-467).9Thisironysuggestively
parallelsthe paradoxof Troy,itselfdoomedthoughits walls are of
divineconstruction,
Poseidonhavingbuiltthem,he says,"in orderthat
thecitybe invulnerable"
themortalAchillesin
(21.447). In thisregard,
both
on destroying;
bent
armor
is
not
the
he
is
unlike
Hephaistos'
city
AchillesandTroyare"clothed"in thedivineanddoomed.10
The contrastbetweenthemanylife-renewing
sceneson the shield
in
and the intensifying
the
of
its
context
poem may evoke
mayhem
dissonance
for
But
Iliad
readers.
the
suggestsin a numreverberating
ber of ways thatthe ekphrasisis not meantforthepoem's audience
in
alone;unlikesimiles,theshieldis observed,evenifrarely,
byfigures
thestoryandbythenarrator
in Books 19-22. If we taketheirreadings
as ourguide,we ourselvesshallbe compelledto interpret
Hephaistos'
7 Cf. Marg(note1) 24-25 and36-37, a pointfrequently
citedinsubsequent
essays.
vol.5 (Cambridge1991) 208.
8 MarkEdwards,TheIliad: A Commentary
9 In thebattlescenes,however,
thenarrator
seemsless awareof thatironywhenin a
rareintrusion
intothestoryhe chidesAchillesforfearingthathis shieldmightnotwiththata manmaynot
standthethrust
of an enemy'sspear:"Foolishman,notperceiving
easilyovercomethegiftsofthegods"(20.265-266).
10For the ironicalcounterpoint
when clothedin divine
of Achilles' vulnerability
armor,see most recentlyEdwards(note 8) 139-140 and ad 20.264-267. See also
NewJerMichaelLynn-George,
Narrativeand theIliad (AtlanticHighlands,
Epos, Word,
of a
intobattlewiththedestruction
sey 1988) 193. FortheassociationofAchilles'rentry
city,see 18.206-214, 18.219-220, 18.265, 21.520-536, 22.25-31; cf. StephenScully,
Homerand theSacredCity(Ithaca1990) 32, 116-122and 174 n. 16. LauraSlatkincomto herpartin thetradimentson thehelplessstatusof Thetisin theIliad wherecontrary
tionof divineprotrectress
she is unableto protectherson fromdeathevenas she plays
thatrole whengivingAchilles'the giftof Hephaistos'immortal
armor;The Powerof
Thetis:Allusionand Interpretation
intheIliad (Berkeley1991) 45-52.

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32

StephenScully

in imagesofpeace,
comfort
giftin a different
light.Ratherthanfinding
theMyrmidons
andTrojansfeelterror.
II
Narrativedescription
of the shieldalso suggeststerror.Far from
describesit as
Achilles'
shield
as joyful,the narrator
characterizing
"terrible
andawfulto behold"(6Otv6o...
o.tep6awXoq, 20.259-260).
TH e(x,I(xailv &-tv&
ptiov Eyxo;,,
ao(lact 71
jXocv
;`o o
gEya
68'
&gpi
&ico)"r.
u6Kc;R80'6op0;
GCop&paXo"
So speaking,(Aeneas) drovethe strongspear onto the terrible
shield,awfulto behold;and thegreatshieldgroanedbeneaththe
spear-point.I1
Aetv6oand
termsforshieldsin the
are farfromformulaic
oagp6aXo;
and
one
other
in
the
Iliad
is
poem. Only
similarlyterrifying
object
awfulto behold: the severedhead of the Gorgonas it appearson
Athene'saegis (5.742). The figuresof Terror,Strife,Strength,
and
head
on
the
surround
Onslaught(Phobos,Eris,Alke,loke)
Gorgon's
the goddesses' protectivegoatskin(5.738-742). Elsewherein the
poem,theaegis itselfis simplyagFep6La.rl(21.400-401).12Hephaistos' shield is of similarnature,a grimobject strikingfear in the
beholder.13
in archaicvase painting
thesole figuredepicted
Frequently
are my own. Text cited is D. B. Munroand T. W. Allen (ed.),
11All translations
HomeriOperavols.I andII, 3rded. (Oxford1920).
12For readingaiy(8a, not daria8a, with oagp&x8a at 21.400-401, see N. J.
lv
TheIliad: A Commentary
vol. 6 (Cambridge1993) ad 21.440-441,a misRichardson,
to Achilles'shieldat
printforwhatshouldbe 21.400-401. In additionto itsapplication
20.260, cgEp6aXio; twice describes Hektor's bronze (armor) (12.463-464 and
breaks
13.191-192),at a crucialpointin thebattlewhenas a terrifying
figureHektorfirst
theGreekwall. Ajax's shieldis 6etv6g(7.245).
through
13Comparethe grimaspectof Achilles' shieldto Agamemnon'sshieldwhichdoes
indeeddisplayan imageoftheGorgon(p3ocropinrtg;
and8&tvbv8epicog&v1,
"grim-lookflankedby Fear and Terror(Deimos and Phobos)(11.36-37.
ing ... glancingterribly"),
For Agamemnon's
see
shield,see Becker(note 1) 67-77, esp. 73-75; on itssymbolism,
Hermann
Fraenkel,EarlyGreekPoetryand Philosophy(tr.M. Hadas andJ.Willis)(New
York1975) 38-39. For a comparison
betweenit and Achilles'shield,see Stanley(note
elementson Agamemnon's
shield,see 129
1) 3, 5, 24; forhis analysisofitsanachronistic

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theShieldofAchilles
Reading

33

on Achilles'shieldis theGorgon'shead;in one instanceitis simplyan


imageofAthene'saegis(without
Gorgonhead).14
the"gloriWhenThetistravelsfromOlympusto earthtransporting
ous armsofHephaistos,
has
carried
man
ever
as
no
such
verybeautiful,
on his shoulders"(19.10-11), human reactionto them is mixed
(19.12-23):
& 6'
Sai68otah
2cdvtca.
itp6a0ev'AxthXXfio;g
8&v'pcpE
8'
'LE
ol)FS
navra;
Cpog;,
ipa
ngX\
MvpRt186vag
6taX' ~txpeoav.
aorocp'AXtheXS;
(vXrTv~iotS6Etv,
6
cIV tv '&LXov8
d e1t8',
v &8 oitaoe
06xxo;"
o
ei
Ea;,
8Etvbv3r6n
GE
o
oktcpa
Pepd0pov,
vOEv"
8' Fv
r~pIErto
XeipEontvaXO)vOeoi dlXya&
6Wopa.
aXI)Tp1LEtippEoiv a t erdxpnero
6pcXISaXXa Xeioov,
aot'icca Rtrlzpai1v irXartetp6vFta
tpo(rla8a- K;(
F R1ot 2r0t1t
MT-rep
'
jr,9Cv 0vXbxa08e6n6pRv,
,
Epy'
v68pa'tre~aoat.
rLVR1&
po-byv
e!tV o0av6woa~v
viv 8' ijrotp~v ~y 00op4itogat
So speakingthegoddessplaceddownthearmsbefore
Achilles.The elaborately
armsclashedloudly.
wrought
Thenfearseizedall theMyrmidons;
notone ofthemdared
But
to look at thearmsstraight
but
on,
theyshrankback in terror.
Achilles,
themorehe looked,themoretheangermadeitswayintohim.
Andhiseyes,likesunglare,
underhislids.
glittered
terribly
He was delighted,
in
his
the
hands
holding
shininggiftsofthegod.
and 305 n. 15, and bibliography
therein.For comparisonwithGreekarchaicarmor,see
The Iliad: A Commentary
vol. III, Books 9-12 (Cambridge1993)
BryanHainsworth,
215-223.
14The image of the aegis on the shieldis on an Atticblack-figure
neck amphora
(c. 570 BCE)by theCamtarPainter(Boston,Museumof Fine Arts21.21); see LIMC 1.2
Achilleus191. StevenLowenstamis surelyrightin arguingthatthisvase scene,as with
mostothervase depictionsof Achilles'arms,represents
Achillesreceivinghis newarms
in Iliad 19; "The Armingof Achilleuson EarlyGreekVases,"CA 12 (1993) 199-218.
For theGorgonhead on theshield,see LIMC IV.2,pp. 285-286 and 299-301; cf.Hilda
Homerand theMonuments
Lorimer,
(London 1950) 190 n. 3. In Euripides'Electra,the
Gorgon'sheadis addedtoAchilles'shield;see notes18 and36, below.

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34

StephenScully

Then whenhe was delightedin his midriff,


lookingat theelaborately
he addressedhis motherwithwinged
wroughtwork,straightway
words.
theimmortals.
No
"Mother,a god gave thesearms,workbefitting
mortal
mancoulddo this.ButnowI shallarmmyself..."
attenThoughthispassagereferstothearmsin theplural,thenarrator's
tionhas focusedalmostexclusivelyupon the scenesfromthe shield,
andit is reasonableto imaginethatAchilles,as he gazes,sees whatwe
havejust seen.15Even whilethehexameters
from19.14-17are unusuin
their
series
of
verses
ally expressive
enjambed
closelylinkingMyrmidonterror
withAchilles'swellingangerandpleasure,it is leftto us
to interpret
theseintenseandhighlydivergent
as thenarrator
reactions,
offersscantexplanation.The activity
of lookingjoins theconstellation
of emotions:the Myrmidonsunable to look, and Achilles looking
intently.The Myrmidons'fearstemsfromthearmsand notfromthe
presenceof the goddess, even thoughthe arms pose no personal
threat.16
As withreactionsto epic poetryitself,a sourceof pleasure
(tipxt;) formostaudiencesbut of tearsand griefforOdysseusand
Penelope,17so perhapshere we may detecta similardivergence
betweenresponsesto theshieldbyreadersofthepoemandbywarriors
withinthepoem.
Some suspectthattheMyrmidons
are filledwithfearbecausethey
are "overawedby theglareofthearmouralone,"18
in
although
nothing

15In thenarrator's
reference
to Hephaistos'armscollectively
as "all skilledartwork"
(6ai6aXa rtdvra)at 19.13, we may perhapsthinkof thephrase,in a kindof reverse
as reference
to the shield,itself"craftedall over"(nivrooa &atmetonymy,
primarily
8diXhov,18.479). The same worddescribingall the armsalso refersto the multiple
scenes on the shield:8ai8asa norX&, 18.482. ElsewhereAchilles' shield(odKCog)
is
iKaXv 8at&xikov (22.314). It seemsreasonableto assumethatwhenAchillesis said to
examineHephaistos'work(8ai8acXa lXmiaov, 19.19),he is examiningfirstand foremosttheshielditself,themostconspicuousofthegod's gifts.
16At II. 19.13-17,Edwards(note8) suggestsOd. 24.47-57 as a parallelbutthereference is of limitedhelp. The Greekfearof Thetisand theNereidsin theOdysseywhen
theycomeup fromthedeepto mournAchilles'deathstemsfromthegoddesses'wailing.
17Cf.GeorgeWalsh,TheVarieties
ofEnchantment
(ChapelHill 1984) 3-21.
18Edwards(note8) ad 19.13-17;followedby Beckerpresumably
(note1) 149. Stanto thefactthatEuripidesat Electra455-469
ley (note 1) 303 n. 1, drawsour attention
adds Perseusand Medusa to Achilles' (original)shieldto makeit seemmoreominous

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Reading the Shield ofAchilles

35

noiseas it strikes
19.13-23is said ofthearmor'sglare,onlytheterrible
howis itthat
theground.If theglareis so painfulfortheMyrmidons,
Achillescan gaze upon these giftsin such prolongedexamination?
AboutAchilles'pleasure,commentators
areequallyat an impass. It is
a commonplacenow to hearthatit derivesfroma delightin Hephaistos' divineworkmanship,19
fromthenara viewperhapsto be inferred
work"
rator'saccountof Achilles'"lookingat theelaborately
wrought
"this
Thetis:
to
is
and
from
Achilles'
own
words
a
(6(Sai6
ei8ooov)
the workof thegods. No mortalman could makethesearms." But
whatis thefearwhichprevents
fromenjoyinga similar
theMyrmidons
And
is thinking
should
believe
that
Achilles
we
pleasure?
only
why
aboutHephaistos'cunningattheforgeatthispointin thenarrative?
Abouttheshield'sglare. Earlierin thepoem,o-a x;was associated
withHektor,
to setfiretotheAkhaianships,but
especiallyin hisefforts
afterAthenecaused a aoax; to blaze fromAchilles'head as he stood
upon theAkhaianditch(18.214), thatnounis exclusivelyassociated
withAchillesand his armor,thearmor'sexternalglareverballylinked
withan innerfire(also oaea;) emanating
fromAchilles'eyes. When
Achillespreparesto puton his newarmsat theendofBook 19, a radiance (otka) likethatfromthemoonshinesfromhis shieldand a fire
(aolX), like a fireon a mountainpeak seen by sailorslost at sea,
shinesfromthe shield witha glare thatreachesto the aether(cf.
19.374-380). The image of brillianceis furtherassociated with
Hephaistos' helmetwhich shines like a star (cf. 19.381-382; cf.
22.134-135). SimilarlanguagedescribesAchilles:as he putson his
hiseyes"weregleaminglikea radianceof fire"(cagn~Lro6lv
t;0
armor,
examei'rl
sE up6; oEa;, 19.366),as theygleamwithfirewhenhe first
ines Hephaistos'gifts(Ev8 oi oos / 8setv t6npl3xeqibpcov,
0;g ri
his
under
/
like
a
"his
shone
fire,
terribly,
eyes
oag;, ipCiavOev,
That
of
inner
fire
and
outer
brows,"19.16-17).20
gleam sugaffinity
thanits description
in theIliad, althoughhe does notofferthis,or anyotherreason,as
explanationfor the Myrmidonflight.In Euripides'play (lines 442-451), Achilles
receivesHephaistos'armsin Phthiabeforehe sails forTroy.For a fulldiscussionof the
Achilles'twosetsof armor,
see Judith
DivineEscorts:NereidsinArchaicand
Barringer,
Classical GreekArt (Ann Arbor 1995) 17-48. Also see Lowenstam(note 14) and
Edwards(note30).
19Becker(note1) 149-150. Also see Rabel (note5) 178.
20See OliverTaplin,Homeric
Soundings:The Shapingof the Iliad (Oxford1992)
226-227. Morebroadlyfortheassociationof Achilleswithfirein Books 18 through
22,

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36

StephenScully

betweenAchillesand the shield.


gestslikenessratherthandifference
Achilles'pleasurein thearms,we maysurmise,stemsnotonlyfrom
his aestheticappreciation
but also fromkinship
of theircraftmanship
withitspower.
What of Achilles' growinganger when looking at Hephaistos'
work? Most understand,
I think,thatit derivesfromAchilles'
rightly
desireforrevenge.Butone critichas suggested
thattheangerbe linked
withAchilles'readingof theshield-in particular
withthesceneof a
a
overa harin
his
and
heart,presiding
kingholding scepter feelingjoy
vestand distributing
fashionto all membersof his
honorsin a fitting
Achillesis filled
(18.556-560). RemindedofAgamemnon,
community
withrage.21In thisreadingangeris derivedexplicitly
froma sceneon
theshield.Butthislineofthought
putsgreatemphasison Achilles'retin a
vision
are turning
at
the
rospective
just
pointwhenhis attentions
new direction.Only a fewlines laterin theassemblyof theGreeks,
Achillesdeclaresthathe is makingan endofhis anger(6Xoo;) against
theking(cf. 19.67); withan eye to thefutureand withsomeurgency
("butcomequickly"),he bidsthekingmobilizetheAkhaians"in order
thatI maymaketrialoftheTrojansfacetoface"(19.68 and70).
Withthe news of Patroklos'death,the object of Achilles' anger
shiftsfromthe Greeks to the Trojans,and more narrowlyfrom
Agamemnonto Hektor(cf. 18.79-126). All of Book 19 preparesfor
thatshiftand thenecessarymobilizationforwar-receivinghis new
of thetroops,
withAgamemnon,
themarshalling
armor,reconciliation
and finallydressingin thatnew armor-beforeAchilles,"insatiateof
war"(20.2), can engagetheTrojansat thebeginning
of Book 20.22If,
on one level,theimageson the shieldare timeless,on anotherlevel
theyare locatedin time,morefocusedon futurewar thanglancing
backwardtopastgrievances
ormight-have-beens.
In light of Achilles' reconciliationwith Agamemnonand the
see Richardson
(note12) 108 andad 22.317-321,andWhitman
(note4) 136-146,whose
comments
areinfluenced
(note1) 352-374.
bySchadewaldt
21Stanley(note1) 25; cf.3. Also see Becker(note1) 149 n. 272. Foranother
reading,
see Rabel (note5) 175-176.
22For thenarrative
brillianceof Book 18, see Reinhardt
(note 1) 349-411; Whitman
(note4) 199-206; Stanley(note1) 186-192; forthatofBook 19, see Lynn-George
(note
to Books
10) 170-174; Stanley(note1) 192-199. ForBook 19 as a "sorryintroduction"
20-22, see DenysPage,Historyand theHomericIliad (Berkeley1972) 314-315. For a
reviewof Alexandrianbook divisionbetweenBooks 18 and 19, see Taplin(note 20)
201-202.

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theShieldofAchilles
Reading

37

beensuggestedthatAchilles'newarmorplaysa
Greeks,ithas recently
Made naked(pyutv6g,
crucialrolein thehero's"socialreintegration."23
thehero
old armor,
of
Achilles'
after
Hektor
Patroklos
17.711)
stripped
human
into
rebirth
what
this
critic
describes
as
"a
society"
undergoes
herson withhis newwargear. The poem
(p. 22) whenThetispresents
thatAchillesis notbeingrebornintohumansociety
however,
suggests,
butintoa paradoxicalformofmortalgodhood.
Even when his
First,the argumentagainstsocial reintegration.
mothersuggeststo Achillesthathe call an assemblyand renouncehis
buta desirefor
gilvtgagainsttheAkhaians,herreasonsare notsocial
In
the
Achillesto puton his warstrength
(19.36).
agora,Achilleslislines-without
tensto Agamemnon's
(in
interruption
longspeech-66
thespeech,Agamemnon
blamesAte forthepastquarrelandgoes on at
lengthaboutthegiftshe willgiveAchilles,19.78-144),24butAchilles'
replyis brief. He speaks withdisdainregardingthe gifts-give the
gifts,or keepthem,as youwish-and he failsevento mentionBriseis
by name(19.146-153). Objectsthatonce caused a riftin theAkhaian
nowhavelittle
campand werea hallmarkof Achilles'social standing,
on
social
is
not
him.
His
like
for
Thetis',
mind,
reintegration
meaning
butslaughter:
thespiritof battle/ straight"Butnow,let us remember
19.148-149);25
/ aFya
way" (vvv "
CXptrla
tgvlldt0a (cf.
19.36) is doubly.,i',
emphaticby enjamb"straightway" ot
R,')intensifier
Thereis no need, Achilles
mentand the(alW
adverbial
li,6'.
or to delay
to
waste
our
time
continues,
chatting
(ickoontElytv)

Hubbard,"Natureand Artin the Shieldof Achilles,"Arion3rd series2


reasons,LeonardMuellnerin TheAngerofAchilles:Menis in
(1992) 21. For different
GreekEpic (Ithaca 1996) 141-142,also sees Achilles'eventualacceptanceof thegifts
his "bonds
whentheyareplaced"in themiddleof theassembly"(19.249) as reinforcing
to thegroup."
24Foran analysisofAgamemnon's
der
speech,see DieterLohmann,Die Komposition
Dimensionsof
Redenin der lias (Berlin1970) 75-80; O. M. Davidson,"Indo-European
Heraklesin Iliad 19.95-133,"Arethusa13 (1980) 197-202. See also RobertRabel,
Aristeia,"GRBS 32 (1991) 103-117; WilliamWyatt,"Homeric'ATH,"
"Agamemnon's
AJP 103 (1982) 247-276. For thespeechesof Thetis,Achilles,and Agamemnonat the
ofBook 19,see Taplin(note20) 203-212.
beginning
25Forviv &6 ("butnow")as characteristic
see
of Achilles'emphacticspeechpatterns,
Paul Friedrichand JamesRedfield,"Speech as a PersonalitySymbol:The Case of
"Wordsand Speakersin Homer,"
Achilles,"Language54 (1978) 283. Cf.JasperGriffin,
battle"in thisspeech,
JHS 106 (1986) 50-57. FortheprocessofAchilles'"remembering
in the Iliad
see RichardMartin,The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance
(Ithaca1989) 79-80 and200.
23 Thomas

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38

StephenScully

(19.149-150).26In certaincontextswar itselfmay be considereda


"social" act motivated
by ai6t0gand a sense of humancommunity,27
butthatis farfromthecase forAchillesin Books 19-22.
In Thetis'imperative
thatAchilles"enterinto,orputon,(86Geo) his
warstrength,"
Thetisemploysthesameverbwhichearlierin thenarrativedescribedtheangerentering
into('8u
Achillesas he looks
x6,o;)
at Hephaistos'gifts(19.16). WhenAchilles
armshimselfat theendof
Book 19,thetwomeaningsoftheverb-putting
on andentering
into-will be used again: "His eyes / glowedas if theywere the radiance
/into(86v') hisheart.Raggriefentered
(oaag) offire.Unendurable
at
the
/
he
entered
into
ing
Trojans
(S1iaero)(i.e., puton) thegiftsof
the god which Hephaistos had made for him with much toil"
(19.365-368). More specificallythanin Achilles' speech to Thetis
afterhaving viewed his new gifts(19.21-27), this passage links
Achilles' humangriefforPatrokloswithhis divinearmor;it further
joins thatgriefwithhis rage at the Trojans,servingto amplifyour
of theless specificanger(6Xoo;, 19.16) whichgrewin
understanding
Achillesas he first
tookstockofHephaistos'gifts;theflame(cXa ) in
his eyes further
linksbothpassagesat thebeginning
and end of Book
19.
WhentheGreekleadersdelaybattleto allowthearmyto fighton a
fullstomach,
Achillesrefusesto sharein themeal(19.199-214),a clear
indication
of howfarhe is nowfrombeingassimilated
intothehuman
order.28Anxious,however,lest "wretchedhungercome upon his
knees" (19.354; cf. 19.348), Zeus bids Athenedistill nectarand
26 The

is notfullyunderstood
meaningof choionerlEtv
andmaybe colloquial,butthe
or chatting
seemsfairlycertainfrom
generalsenseof spinningouttimeunderpretenses
context;cf. M. Schmidt,"KLOTOPEUO," in ThesaurusLinguaeGraecae: Lexicondes
friihgriechischen
Epos,ed. BrunoSnell(Gottingen,
1989).
27On aiSd&g,see JamesRedfield,Natureand Culturein the Iliad (Chicago 1975)
113-119; D. Claus, "Aidosin theLanguageof Achilles,"TAPA115 (1975) 13-28. For
different
sensesofai8ctSforTrojansandGreeksin thecontext
ofwar,see thecontrasting
speechesofAjax andHektorat 15.405-746;cf.Scully(note10) 107-110.
28Cf. MarilynArthur
who speaksof thisrefusalas "a negativewhichlocateshimoutsidethecompassofthesocialorder,"
in "The Dreamofa WorldWithout
Women:Poetics
andtheCirclesof Orderin theTheogony
Arethusa16 (1983) 103; cf.LynnProoemium,"
of of a sharedmeal,see OswaldMurray,
George(note10) 172-174. Forthesymbolism
"The symposion
as social organization,"
in TheGreekRenaissanceoftheEighthCentury
B.C. (ed. R. Haigg)(Stockholm1983) 195-199; JohnFoley,Immanent
Art:FromStructureto Meaningin TraditionalOral Epic (Bloomington1991) 174-189; StevenNimis,
NarrativeSemioticsintheEpic Tradition:
TheSimile(Bloomington
1987) 23-42.

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ReadingtheShieldofAchilles

39

ambrosia into Achilles' chest, a complex gesture which tacitly


acknowledgesAchilles' mortality
by recognizinghis need forsustenancebutone whichalso assimilatesthemortalheronotintothecompanyof themenbutof thegods.29Such divineintervention
supports
CedricWhitman'seloquentclaim thatAchilles' old armor,givento
Achilles'fatheron theday he marriedThetis(17.194-197), "symbolizes boththemortaland immortal
aspectsof Achilles. The new arms
areto be whollyimmortal,
a miraclesuitedto a manwhosemortalpart
no longerconcernshim."30
Another
Achillesin
studywhichdiminishes
to
arms
calls
the
hero
"small, limited,or
comparison Hephaistos'
human
in
the
context
the
new
but
of'
arms,31 thepoemsuggests
merely
different.
As
Achilles
arms
himselfforbattle,his new
something
quite
a
"The
armsbecame like wings
clothingacquires strangebuoyancy:
and raisedup the shepherdof the host" (i^ 6'
'E'E" itteppX yiYVEv',
conceit,unparalertpFe
86
&t ot~gPvacaOv, 19.386).Thisis a remarkable
leled elsewherein theIliad,32and further
suggestsa formof transcendence. The move towarddeification
is particularly
hardformodern
to
Simone
for
Weil,
sensibility recognize.
example,can speak with
the
force
Achilles
becomeson his way
powerregarding dehumanizing
to killingHektor,a savageryshe describesas makinga thingof
Achillesevenwhilehe lives,butshe neveracknowledges
thatin sav29 No whereelse in

Homeris a livinghumanbeingfednectarand ambrosia,although


at 19.38-39 distillsnectarand ambrosiathrough
Thetis,prompted
by Achilles'anxiety,
thenostrilsof Patroklos'corpseto keep it fresh;forthedelicacyof Achilles'speechto
Thetis,see Martin(note 25) 33. As a sign of Odysseus'refusalof Kalypso'sgiftof
he eats mortalfood while she consumesthe food of the gods (cf. Od.
immortality,
5.194-199). In Hesiod's Catalogueof Women(fr.23a MW 22-23) and perhapsin the
HomericHymnto Demeter(237) ambrosiaappearsto make a mortalimmortal;cf.
Edwards(note8) ad 19.352-354. ForTaplin(note20) 210 n. 12,theZeus-inspired
feeding of Achillesmarksthehero'suniquenessand perhapshis nearnessto death. Stanley
likensitto the"embalming"
ofPatroklos,
(note1) 195-196.
30Whitman(note4) 203; see notes32 and 35, below. MarkEdwardsin "Neoanalysis
and Beyond,"CA 9 (1990) 311-325, arguesthatin all othertraditions,
Thetisgave Hephaistos'armsto Achillesin Phthiabeforehe setsail forTroy.See note18.
31Schein
(note4) 142.
32Edwards(note 8) ad 19.384-386
comparesto 17.210-214 when Hektorputson
Achilles'old armor:"In boththedivinelymadearmour
has a powerfully
effect."
uplifting
But if a likeness,it is distant:"thearmorwas fitted
to Hektor'sskin. The terrible
Ares,
WarGod,entered
him. His limbswerefilledwithinof strength
andmight"(17.210-212).
associatesthe image with"the swiftnessand upward
Whitman,somewhatnarrowly,
courseofflames,"
(note4) 139.

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40

StephenScully

towardsall mortality
agery,fury,and indifference
includinghis own,
Achillesis paradoxically
also movingtowardsgodhood.33
How,if at all, do thesethemesrelateto Achilles'obviouspleasure
whenlookingat Hephaistos'creation?For manyreadersof thepoem,
thedisjuncture
betweenthe god's and Achilles' visionof life means
thatthehero'spleasurecan onlyderivefromthehow,notthewhat,of
Hephaistos'workofart.
Butreaderstendto focuson thehumansceneson theshield,paying
scantattention
to theopeningand closingdescriptions.
Achilles'pleasurein theshield,I suggest,has less to do withits variousindividual
humanstoriesthana viewingoftheshieldas a whole. As ifHephaistos
werecreatingtheuniversefromitsbeginnings,
he firstfashionson the
shieldan imageofEarth,Heavenand Sea, followedbytheSun,Moon,
andstars(18.483--489).Onlythendoes thegodturnhis attention
tothe
humanworld,whileat theendhe fashionsaroundtherimof theshield
and around the realm of humankindan image of River Ocean
ofthehumanwithinthebroadersettings
(18.607-608).34Such framing
of Earth,Heaven,Sun,Moon,stars,andRiverOcean,is Olympian,
and
a distancing
visionof themortalthatonlyAchillesin his transcendent
furycan long sustain.35
Apollo,in the midstof gods warringagainst
AmongtheAncient
of Christianity
33Weil,"The Iliad, Poem of Might"in Intimations
Greeks,tr.anded. E. Geissbuhler,
(London1957) 24-55,esp. 24-29.
34See Hubbard(note23) 28. Edwards(note8) arguesthatthedepictionof theheavenlybodiesand thetwocitiesshouldbe consideredone scenebecausetheheavenlybodies are "theeternalcompanionsof humanlife"and "arewatchedclosely"by humankind
(p. 211). In arguingthispoint,EdwardsignoresthatAv
gFv(483) intoducesthesectionon
theheavenlybodieswhileiv &E (490) introduces
thesectionon thetwocities,and seven
othersectionsoftheshield(541, 550, 561, 573, 587, 590,607). It is also noteworthy
that
different
verbsdescribeHephaistos'workon theheavenlybodies (i rev', 483) and on
thetwo cities(noiroce,490). In an overlysubtleargument,
Rabel (note5) writesthat
to diminish
in thecenterof
thehumanfigure
Hephaistosintended
byplacingtheuniverse
the shieldthattheMuse-narrator
thatintentby placinga happyking"in the
subverted
centeroftheverbalconstruction"
(p. 175).
I fullyagreewithHollander(note6) and Heffernan
this
(note6) who characterize
351
workof artwhichdefiesbeingrendered
ekphrasisas "notional,"an imaginary
visually.
Forthisreading,itdoes notmatter
whether
theportrait
oftheheavenly
bodiesarelocated
at thecenterof theshield,as its place in thenarrative
sequenceof sceneson theshield
of drawingthe
mightsuggest,or on the outeredge of the shield. For the difficulties
shieldand a criticism
of placingtheheavenlybodiesat thecenter,see K. Fittschen,
Der
Schilddes Achilleus= ArchHomN (Gbttingen
theviewthat
1973) esp. 3-5; challenging
thescenesare arranged
in theorderthattheyare presented
in thepoem,see H. A. Gartner,"Beobachtungenzum Schild des Achilleus,"in Studienzum AntikenEpos, ed.
H. Girgemanns
andE. A. Schmidt,
am Glan 1976)46-65.
(Meisenheim

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theShieldofAchilles
Reading

41

each otherovermortals,indicatesthatOlympianperspective
in Book
21 whenhe calls mortals"insignificant"
and
likens
themto
(6Seto()
leaveson a treewhich"growandthenfadeaway"(21.463-466).
The shield'sframing
of thehumanwithan astralperspective
is paralleledin onlyone otherinstancein thepoemwhenZeus, acknowledg"Of all
inghis love forTroy,is aboutto forecastitsdoom(4.44--47):36
thecitiesof menwho live uponearth/ whichdwellunderthesun and
starryheaven/ none has ever been morehonoredin my heartthan
sacredIlios / and Priam,and the people of Priamof the good ash
of humanexistenceon theshieldand Zeus' fatal
spear." The portrait
of
are
statements
aboutthenatureof man,notcommentary
image Troy
aboutthegood lifeor war; theyare also, I propose,a way of underthefirein Achilles'eyesandtheuncommon
standing
pleasurehe finds
in beholdinga divinevisionof thecosmos. In Achilles'quasi-divine
one especially
state,he movestowarda divinesynopticperspective,
sharedbyZeus amongtheOlympiansandembodiedon his shield.For
AchillesHephaistos'creationgives pleasurebecause the image as a
collectivewhole transcends
humanpartition.The immortalgods by
definition
feelno fearat thatstarkvision;onlyAchillesamongmortals
can findpleasurein itbecausehe has no fearofhis imminent
death.It
has seemedsignificant
to somethatAchillesandothersin thepoemfail
to mentionindividualscenes on the shield. But such specificity
is
the
case
with
artifacts
or
in
of
Homer.
rarely
descriptions landscapes
UnlikeAeneas responding
to sculpture
on Juno'stempleat Carthage,
friezeby frieze,characters
in theIliad and Odysseytendto reactto
notpiecemeal.37
It is justthissynoptic
objectssynoptically,
takinginthelife-affirming
and thedeath-dealing
humanenterprises
cast in the
frameof Olympiandistance-thatmovestheMyrmidons
and Achilles
at thebeginning
of Book 19. It is a vision-forall itspartialimagesof
and
renewal,
joy,
festival--ofGorgon-liketerror,as the narrator
36Cf. Scully(note 10) 124-127. In
Euripides'depictionof Achilles'shield,he comwiththe conventionally
horrific
plementsHomericcomponents
image of the Gorgon's
head,butit is accordingto Euripidestheimagesof sun and constellations
whichcause
Hektorto panic(cf.Electra468-469).
37 Fordescriptions
of artin Iliad, see Becker(note1) 51-77, andbibliography
therein;
on Od. 19.226-231,see Lynn-George
to the
(note 10) 188-189. Odysseus'reference
city'stwinsharbors,its &yopd,and its citywalls in his wonderat seeingScheriafrom
afar(Od. 7.43--45)is exceptionalin thisregard,buteven thisis a synopticvision;see
Scully(note10) 2-3 and45-47.

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42

StephenScully

Nor is this a
the "thingness"of slaughter.38
implies:death-dealing,
visionforAchillesto savourwhenhis spiritcalms. In Book 19 in a
speech over the corpse of Patroklosand beforethe elders,Achilles
withserenity
an awarenessof his ownimpending
death,
acknowledges
in
Peleus are now severed,
addition
that
his
tiesto his father
claiming
andhis hopeof havinga protective
linkto his son Neoptolemosis now
lostwiththedeathof Patroklos(19.319-333). Onlynow in his indifferenceto pastandfuture
with
is Achillesin a positionto be nourished
ambrosiaand findpleasurein an imageofthehumanworldso circumstanced.39
If in Homer'smindtheshieldis roundandHephaistos'composition
consistsof concentric
circleswhicheverexpandoutwardto thelimitof
RiverOcean,therotary
bandsimplies,on theone
of expanding
pattern
an
scenes.
Even withinthe
ordered
of
discrete
boundedness
hand,
discover
the
man
to
renders
of
an
limit,as
shield, god
seeking
image
bothpartiesin a litigationscene turnto an arbitrator
to get a "limit"
to be thepay(nripap, 18.501). One partywishesthelimitof murder
mentof ransom,whiletheotherwantsthelimitto be blood-revenge.40
The litigating
partiessearchforclosurewithinthesacredcircleof the
d(yopd(18.504) wheretheelderssitand listen,a groupwhichis itself
the verdict.
surrounded
by a circleof townspeopleeagerto influence
Yet thenarrative
in thisscene,as in all theothersceneson theshield,
38Whitman
"Whenhe first
receives[theshield],Achillessees
(note4) 206 comments:
butbeforetheIliad is over,he livesup to thefullnessof
onlytheflashof itsbrightness,
itsclassicimplications-passion,
oftheworldas it
order,andthechangelessinevitability
is." Thereis verylittlein thetextto suggestthatAchillesdoes not"live up to" these
fromthe timehe firstexaminesthe shieldso carefully.CompareLynnimplications
loudwiththemusic
oftheshieldas "a monument
George'selegantperception
insistently
ofmortality"
(note10) 187. Lynn-George
arguesthattheartoftheshield,"liketheIliad,
does notso muchpreservethelivingfromdestruction
as, rather,
indefinitely
suspendand
sustaintheepic struggle
conin thecertainty
Thisstateofindeterminism
ofdestruction."
firms
a senseofinevitable
whilethemediumofepic producesa senseof "the
destruction
ofsurvivalin art"(pp. 188-189;cf. 180-183,210 and220-227).
impossiblepossibility
39 Like Achilles,Aeneasin Vergil'sAeneidtakespleasurein Vulcan'sarms(8.730; cf.
8.617 and 619), and like Achilles he examinesall the pieces withgreatcare (cf.
of the "textof the shield
8.618-619), but unlikeAchilleshe has littlecomprehension
whichis beyondtelling"(clipeinonenarrabiletextum,
8.625; cf. 8.729-730). All charactersin theIliad,unlikethosein Vergil,comprehend
fullyHephaistos'text,I believe.
40Forthedifficulty
"TheTrialScene
of interpretation
of thisscene,see R. Westbrook,
in theIliad,"HSCP 94 (1992) 53-76, whoseanalysisI followforthemostpart. Forthe
relationofthissceneto Ajax's speechinBook 9, see Andersen(note2).

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ReadingtheShieldofAchilles

43

remainsunresolved.41
As a critichas poignantly
"the
notedrecently,
of
this
of
the
into
the
over
logic
story
story-within-a-story
spills
logic
of Achilles,"whichreachesitslimitin Book 24; and Homer'sstory,
in
"That
the
over
the
to
those
who
hear
is,
expandingcircles,spills
poem:
Iliad neednotendwherethelinearnarrative
ends,to theextentthatthe
pictureson theShieldof Achilleshave an openingontoa virtualpreoftheIliad open-ended."42
sent,thusmakingtheintent
The aspectof theshieldmostterrifying
is less
formortals,
however,
thisinconclusiveness
of actionthanthesightof theseparatebandsas
breaks
partof a unifiedwhole. Thatsynopticand inhumanperspective
the sense of the special statusof thehumanby placingit withinthe
contextof a largercosmosand Zeus' will. In theearlystagesof the
Iliad mortalslook fora peacefulconclusionto thewar,first
in theform
of theAkhaianarmyrushing
then
to theirshipsto return
home,
byformal truceand singlecombatbetweenParisandMenelaos,thevictorto
takeHelenand spareTroy.It is thewillofthegods,however,
andparof
Zeus
his
that
the
war
on
its
to
bitter
end.
ticularly
Baiting wife,
press
he asks if "it is dearand sweetto all thegods" thatfriendship
prevail,
or evil war and grimwarfare(4.15-17). The sweetnesswhih Zeus
findsultimately
in the destruction
of Troy,even as he loves the city
stems
less
from
a
desire
to
dearly,
punishthecityforitsfailings-and
are
from
an
ofthegods' freeaffirmation,
they many-than
bycontrast,
domfromchange,destruction,
anddeath.43
Absentfrommuchof the battledescription
in Books 20 and 21,
Achilles'new armorand shieldcome back intothestoryas theGreek
herocloses in on Hektor.The defender
firmand
ofTroy,afterstanding
his
holdhis
resolve
to
inner
is
emboldened
debate,
re-affirming
through
and
"see
to
which
the
one
the
ground
glory"
Olympiangrants
(22.130).44Yet at thesightof Achillesshakinghis father'sash spear,

41Cf.
(note10) 180-190;Heffernan
(note6) 16-21.
Lynn-George
42"The Shield of Achilles:Ends of the Iliad and
Beginningsof the Polis," in New
Lighton a Dark Age,ed. S. Langdon,(Columbia,Missouri1997) 203 and 195,respectively.
43Cf. Sheila Murnaghan,
"Equal Honorand FutureGlory:the Plan of Zeus in the
Iliad," in Classical Closure: Reading the End in Greek and Latin Literature,ed.
D. Robertset al., (Princeton1997) 24. For complexities
in thepoux
and contradictions
ofZeus in thepoem,see J.V. Morrison,
theDictatesofFate,andtheWillof
"Kerostasia,
Zeus in theIliad,"Arethusa30 (1997) 273-296,esp. 291-294.
4422.99-130. In imaginingthe secretwhispersbetweena youngman and maiden,
Hektoruses a wordnotfoundelsewherein thepoemexceptforthementionof maidens
on Achilles' shield; thereis no room at war-ravaged
for rtapOFvot
Troy,apparently,

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44

StephenScully

his bronzearmorgleaminglike theraysof a blazingfireor therising


sun (22.131-135), Hektor'sresolve evaporatesand he takes flight
(22.134-137):

iiiou o &vt6ovto;.
CT
GeV
"Eicropa8', 60;FvdqoEv,O x pPo,
oRi;8' i'p' C'
7kT
&
8irnaC
aOt Ovctv,6TccGo&
;ince,
fi (pooo;S"
1iniup ai;o
o

vo,
V

The bronzethatclosedabouthimwas blazinglike


theraysofburning
fireorofthesunrising.
FearseizedHektor,
whenhe perceived.No longerdidhe dare
standhisgroundtherebutleftthegatesbehindandfled,frightened.

Hektor'sflight
aretheonlytwopassagesin the
andMyrmidon
fright
WhileboththeMyrmiIliad wherethesightof armsinstillsterror.45
dons and Hektorare seized by fear("-'
4rp6gog;, thisphraseonlyat
dared
19.14 and 22.136),in thefirst
no
passage one of theMyrmidons
in
the
while
but
trembled
look
on
the
arms
to
straight
(o?{6 rt; X"Irl)
secondHektor,likeAchilles,looksuponthebronze(shield)(d;g v6riIf glareis
8p' -9r' ~XTrl)andtakesflight.46
oev) butloses courage(oi6'
to
contributes
it certainly
notmentioned
in thecase of theMyrmidons,
canbut
alone
in
Book
theterrifying
of
Achilles'
armor
22,
glare
aspect
of a worldlongpast(compare22.127-128 and 18.567
exceptin Hektor'sreminiscences
and593).
45Partsofphrasesorparallelphraseslikethosein 22.136-137arefoundelsewherebut
nowherein thiscombination.
iFeXp6gooqappearstwicebeforethebucolicdiaresis(10.25
and 18.247;cf. 6.137); eXlv is used once withtp6iog;(5.862). oi)8 rt;
itgF-rl afterthe
bucolicdiaresisis common;
iap' irt'F'rb is usedonceagain,also withHektorin the
oit' effect
face of Achilles,but to different
(20.421). On the phrasingof theselines,see
Richardson(note 12) ad 22.136-138; on Hektor'sflightand braveryhere,see Schadewaldt(note1) 303-306.
as "trembleand runaway,"thentheparallelis
46 If iErpeaavat 19.15 weretranslated
to
evenstronger.Shannon(note5) arguesthatthe"bronze"of 22.134 refersexclusively
Achilles'spearheadand it is thatwhichcauses Hektorto flee(p. 81). Two passagesin
particularpointagainstthis view,I believe: first,the parallelbetween19.14-15 and
ix
22.134-137;secondtheparallelbetween
(22.134) andxaXCb'j AagE
6sroEro
~XaXl
at 22.32 wherebronzeclearlyrefersto the
armor.Perhapsitis nota coincidencethatthis
bronzeshineslike the risingsun and ThetisbroughtAchilleshis armsat dawn (cf.
in his armorlikethebeam19.1-2). Also, "Fullyarmed,Achilleswentforth,
allshining
CarrolMoulton,Similesin theHomeric
ing sun Hyperion"(19.397-398). See further
Poems= Hypomnemata
49 (G6ttingen
1977) 108.

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theShieldofAchilles
Reading

45

not explainHektor'sfearand flight.The outerglare of armor,like


Achilles' eyes mentionedrepeatedlyin Book 19, evokes the hero's
divinebrilliance.Threebooks,andover1500linesofhexameter,
separatethesetwopassages. Some mightsuggestthatformulaic
parallels
butI
cast oversucha wide canvasshouldbe ignoredas coincidence,47
these
for
believethatitis withinthecapacityofHomericartistry
paralin thestoryofAchilles'
likean extendedringcomposition
lel formulae,
returnto battle,to encompassa broad narrativespan, linkingthe
downfromOlympusand
momentwhenHephaistos'armsare brought
terror
theculminating
duelof thepoem. The Myrmidons'
providesthe
a patternof
first
instance
the
Hektor'sflight,
clue forunderstanding
case is the
neither
actionrepeatedin a majorkey in the second. In
than
see the
Rather
ofthisflight.
gleamof armorsufficient
explanation
left
have
and
shieldas depictinga "worldwhich[theGreeks
Trojans]
I
sees
one
critic
as
behindand to whichtheyhope to return,"48
it, sugeventhemostresogestthattheshielddepictsa visionwhichunnerves
luteofhumanheroes.
RobertRabel also believesthatHektorreadstheshield,butin a difof sceneson
ferent
sense. Notingverbalparallelsbetweendescriptions
Hektor's
that
Rabel
theshieldandphrasesin Hektor'ssoliloquy,
argues
it
is
In
meditations
are triggered
by thosescenes. particular, proposed,
Hektorthinksofdividingup thecityspoils(22.120-121) becauseHephaistossculptedsucha discussionof truce(18.511-512),andlaterin a
reverie,Hektorimaginesthelove-talkbetweena
poignantlast-minute
of young
youngmanand a maidenbecause of a war-likecrane-dance
the
shield
on
men and maidensin a public choral space depicted
it
does
not
as theidea is,
(18.593-606).49Intriguing
respondfullyto
that
I
Hektor'ssuddenloss of nerveafterthesoliloquy. suspect,rather,
a
sense
in
Hektor
evokes
thearmor,
exemplified
especiallyin theshield,
thesceneson theshield
of godheadmadepresent.In theircollectivity
in itseffect
offera "literary"
of
version thispresence,Gorgon-like
upon
humankind.
the
In thefinalmomentsbeforeHektor'sdeaththe shieldreenters
narrative
withlineswhichechoAchilles'armingscene(22.312-316):
47Forrecentswordsof cautionregarding
formulaic
parallels,see Charles
overreading
Beye,AncientEpic Poetry:Homer,Apollonius,Virgil(Ithaca1993) 19.
48Taplin(note20) 205.
49See Rabel(note5) 191-194.

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46

StephenScully

68'

6;,

68'

0Igbv

6pOtrI0 'Axtx
v-Eo; attC(Too
dypiou,rp6o(e6v8 odlTKog
oTrpvoto K(XdlAFev
(pOletvi
KaXov8xatdlaov, K pvut8' rCnveI)E
-Kaxai &,
erpactpdXlo
neptooeiovto 6C
Etpat

Xp~aeat, &"Hy(atorTo;
i'etl 6qpov&At(pi
Oagletd;.

Achillesrushed;in hisspirithe was fullofa savage


theshield,beautiful
and elaborately
worked,coveredhis
strength;
chest
in front;
helmet
he noddedwiththeglittering
withitsfourhorns;and beautiful
aboutit wavedthegoldenhorsehair
plumesthatHephaistoshadsetthickaboutthecrest.
Again,thecollocationof savagerywithindivinedress. Fromreference
to the crest of Hephaistos' helmet,the narrativeturnsto simile
(22.317-321):
;
oto; 6' dorip etot
Ytet' ourpiot
vUrt(t&IooXy
;
;v
aitoepog, KAAXXtorog
opXavo ioarxt 9otrip,
&c0,
nhXEv ettepii (ppov&ovKaKObv'B"Eiropt
KaX6v,rOl
eicop6covXp6da
n ei~ete lcdatoa.

As a starmovesamongthestarsin thenight'sdarkening,
theeveningstar,themostbeautiful
starwhichstandsin theheavens,
suchwas thegleamfromthesharppointofAchilles'spear
whichhe wieldedinhisrighthandas he devisedevilforgodlike
fleshwhereitmightespeciallyyield.
Hektor,
eyeingthebeautiful
The beautyof thefleshseemsto be in theeye of thebeholderas he
a long-heldrage,but
thethrust
of his spearconsummating
anticipates
in thelikenessof that
thesuddenexpansiveness
and feelingof serenity
a distant
spearpointto themostbeautiful
eveningstarmovingthrough
an
lifts
our
ill-will
to
from
Achilles'
unexpected
sky
eye
pressing
remove.50
SinceAchilles'reentry
intobattle,we havecometo associate
50 Cf. CarrolMoulton,"Similesin theIliad,"Hermes102 (1974) 392-394 and (note
46) 76-86; cf.Richardson
(note12) ad 22.317-321.

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ReadingtheShieldofAchilles

47

of beautyand violence,of serenityand brutality,


just thissynergism
and
His combinationof ruthlessness
withthe hero's temperament.
sense
of
his
and
his
own
calm whenfacing
death,
fellowship
chilling
withLykaonwhom he is about to kill supportthe point (cf. esp.
21.97-113). The image of the eveningstarbringingon nightbefits
tellsus moreabout
Hektor'smovement
towardsdeath,butitultimately
Books
in
withthestars
18-22,andtheconAchilles,hismanyaffinities
on
cordancebetweenhimand Hephaistos'sculptures theshield. Like
removedfromthe
theshield,thebeautiful
eveningstarseemsstrangely
been
has
violenthumandramatowardswhichthepoem
moving.-'But
turnunfabeautiful
the
and
in bothshieldandeveningstar,thefamiliar
of
instruments
both
in a trembling
familiar
miliar,orrather
perspective,
that
cosmos
deathin an imageof an impersonal
onlyAchilles,among
can gaze uponwithpleasure.52
mortals,
BOSTON UNIVERSITY

51Cf.Whitman
(note4) 143-144.
Swarthmore
521 wish to thankthe audiencesat BrownUniversity,
College,and the
as
versionsof thispaperwerepresented,
AmericanAcademyin Rome wheredifferent
CharlesSegal,Laura Slatkin,IreneTaywell as AndrewBecker,MichaelLynn-George,
andsugofthisjournalfortheirmanyhelpfulcomments
lor,David Weiss,andthereferee
thispaper.
gestionsregarding

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