The Shield of Achilles in Homer's Iliad Essay

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Throughout the Iliad the warriors' dream of peace is projected over and over again in elaborate similes developed against a background of violence and death. Homer is able to balance the celebration of war's tragic, heroic values with scenes of battle and those creative values of civilized life that war destroys. The shield of Achilles symbolically represents the two poles of human condition, war and peace, with their corresponding aspects of human nature, the destructive and creative, which are implicit in every situation and statement of the poem and are put before us in something approaching abstract form; its emblem is an image of human life as a whole.


Forged by Hephaestus, this shield includes all manner of
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In this first city, the wedding celebration and merriment that come along with it represent the harmony and happiness of the city and the people's lives. Furthermore, the quarrel between the two men was settled by the process of law, which represents justice and order, and the crowd which decided which elder got the prize, and which judgment would be passed, represents democracy. This equals construction. In this world of ordinary people, they form the backdrop to the grim, implacable rage of Achilles, and suggests optimism for their world; a world removed from that of the hero.


The second city, on the other hand, is full of destruction, with the people at war, being besieged by a hostile army and fighting for its existence. This presents disorder, but struggle for life and glory. However as Homer is describing the city preparing to fight, and the men marching out to war, he uses good imagery, such as "Ares and Pallas led them,/both burnished gold, gold the attire they donned, and great,/magnificent in their armor - gods for all the world,/looming up in their brilliance..." Through this heroic imagery, the good part of this city still is able to shine through the darkness, even if it's just a little bit. The description of this city ends with "So they clashed and fought like living, breathing men/grappling each other's corpses, dragging off the dead."


After the description of these

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