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The Shield of Hercules, Brittany Maldonado


Historical/Author Background:
The Shield of Hercules is a Greek text thought to be written around 3rd century BC. It was

popular among the Greeks, particularly Athenians, in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, inspiring
vase art and depictions on drinking vessels. As the first lines of the poem are borrowed from
another work of Hesiod, Catalogue of Women, the author was originally thought to be
Hesiod. However, this may be incorrect and it may have just been written in the style of
Hesiod. The poem also borrows heavily from book 18 of the Iliad in which the shield of
Achilles is described.

The poem opens with a description of Hercules and his brothers birth, and Zeus

involvement in the matter. Then we see Hercules and his nephew, Iolaus, battle Ares and his
son, Cyncus, in Trachis. Before the fight, Hercules and Iolaus talk about their family, battle
and victory. Hercules then starts to put on his armor and a detailed description of his shield,
mimicking that of Achilles shield in the Iliad (with some identical lines), takes up a majority
of the poem.
Cyncus and Ares challenge Hercules and Iolaus. At the moment of encounter, theyre
near a sanctuary to Apollo. Cyncus had done some deeds against the god Apollo, namely
robbing his pilgrims. Apollo, not surprisingly, intervenes and stirs up Hercules rage in order
to start an altercation. When fighting, Hercules spears Cyncus in the throat, provoking Ares.
Ares attempts to kill Hercules but another god, Athena, intervenes. She both advises Hercules
on how not to get killed and how exactly to attack Ares. Athena deflects Ares spear aimed at
Hercules and tells him that he is not fated to kill the great hero. Hercules ends up wounding

Ares in the thigh. Ares is carried off by his other sons and Cyncus is buried. Apollo, however,
causes the river Anaurus to flood and washes away Cyncus and his memory.

ARES AND ATHENA (consistent relationship)
HERCULES AND ACHILLES (compare/contrast)
THE ROLE OF FATE (what does it mean to Achilles, to Hercules?)
DIVINE INTERVENTION (theres a lot, usually)
There are many parallels between this text and the Iliad. Though Hercules exists before

the Trojan War, the Iliad was written before The Shield of Hercules. Undoubtedly, it had a lot
of influence on the author and poem, as it takes direct lines from Book 18 of the Iliad. As
Hercules shield is so closely connected to Achilles in this text, one must wonder about the
authors choice of doing so. How are Hercules and Achilles similar? Heroes, warriors,
remembered after death/conditions of afterlife? How are they different? Both mention fate,
but Achilles had a prophecy. Did Hercules (I dont think so)? Hercules had a god out to get
Ares and Athena battle it out quite memorably in the Iliad. This text, depicting events
earlier than the Trojan War, also shows the tense relationship between the siblings. As
Hercules shield is so closely connected to Achilles, one must wonder about the significance
of that. Hercules and Achilles were both
Possible graphics: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K9.7.html