Homer’s Iliad - The Shield of Achilles Essay
Homer devotes the final passages of Book 18 of The Iliad to the description of the shield of Achilles. Only a quarter of the description concerns warfare, the essential grist of the epic. Instead, the bulk of the description presents a peaceful society and rural idylls, a curious choice for the most ferocious warrior of the Greeks, and an odd thing for both armies to fear. A narrative emerges from the scenes of the shield, and it is this that fits Achilles and repulses everyone else.
We expect Achilles’ shield to unsettle his adversaries—that is, after all, one of the objectives of a shield. Indeed, Achilles returns to battle "shining in all his armour, a man like the murderous war …show more content…
A more productive way to look at the shield, then, is to think about where the war scene occurs in the description, since the war scene itself is not the source of the shield’s emotional power. Hephaistos constructs the entire universe on the shield, but all we need to focus on are the scenes featuring humanity. There are two cities, the first peaceful, the second at war. Around these, Homer takes us on an extended tour of the countryside, peopled