Essay about Shield of Achilles and the Shield of Aeneas

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A Comparative Study of the Shield of Achilles and the Shield of Aeneas

In Homer’s great work, the Iliad, Achilles is given a set of armor, including a glorious shield which allows him to return to battle and carry out his revenge against Hector. Likewise, in Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas is sent a shield for the purpose of aiding him in defending Rome from invasion. However, these shields are made special not by their military value, but by the engravings that decorate their surfaces.

Achilles’ shield holds engravings of common life during his time: farmers plowing the land, young men and women dancing in the vineyards, scenes of the countryside, slaves working for their kings, and armies fighting each other. On the other hand, Aeneas’
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Now, since I am not going back to the beloved land of my fathers, since I was no light of safety to Patroklos, nor to my other companions, who in their numbers went down before glorious Hektor, but sit here beside my ship, a useless weight on the good land, I, who am such as no other of the bronze-armoured Archaians in battle, though there are others also better in council - (…)’ (Homer, Il., 18.98-106).

The new armor and shield from Hephaistos, which hold the purpose of Achilles going into battle and facing Hector, actually embody this acceptance. Achilles made a promise to defeat Patrocles’ murderer, and by taking up the shield he did the equivalent to signing a contract that he cannot take back. This relationship between armor and acceptance of fate is observed by Edwards, who states, “But this divine armor was the gift of the gods to Achilles’ human father, Peleus, at his marriage to the goddess Thetis, and by its very existence suggests the great gulf between mortals and immortals, (…); and Hephaestus’ making the new armor in Book 18 is juxtaposed to Achilles’ decision to seek vengeance even at the cost of his own death” (115).

The shield is also, ironically, a symbol of all that Achilles is giving up by choosing to wield it. The engravings on the shield’s surface represent, in essence, the more tranquil side of Greek life. By pursuing his hate for Hector,