The Ancient Library

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Another mode of wearing this garment, also of peaceful expression, is seen in a statue of Athena at Dresden, of still higher antiquity than that last referred to, and in the very ancient image of the same goddess from the temple of Zeus at Aegina. In both of these the aegis covers the right as well as the left shoulder, the breast, and the back, fall­ing behind so as almost to reach the feet. Schom (in Bb'ttiger's Amaltliea, ii. 215) considers this as the original form of the aegis.

By a figure of speech, Homer uses the term aegis to denote not only the goat-skin, which it properly signified, but together with it the shield to which it belonged. By thus understanding the word, it is easy to comprehend both why Athena is said to throw her father's aegis around her shoulders (II. v. 738, xviii. 204), and why on one occasion Apollo is said to hold it in his hand and to shake it so as to terrify and confound the Greeks (II. xv. 229. 307—321), and on another occasion to cover with it the dead body of Hector in order to protect it from insult (xxiv. 20). In these passages we must suppose the aegis to mean the shield, together with the large expanded skin or belt by which it was suspended from the right shoulder.

As the Greeks prided themselves greatly on the rich and splendid ornaments of their shields, they supposed the aegis to be adorned in a style cor­responding to the might and majesty of the father of the gods. In the middle of it was fixed the appalling Gorgon's head (11. v. 741), and its border was surrounded with golden tassels ((vh5(TcH/oi), each of which was worth a hecatomb (ii. 446—449). In the figures above exhibited, the serpents of the Gorgon's head are transferred to the border of the skin.

By the later poets and artists, the original con­ception of the aegis appears to have been for­gotten or disregarded. They represent it as a breast-plate covered with metal in the form of scales, not used to support the shield, but extend­ing equally on both sides from shoulder to shoulder ; as in the annexed figure, taken from a statue at Florence.

With this appearance the descriptions of the aegis by the Latin poets generally correspond. (Virg. Aen. viii. 435—438 ; Val. Flacc. vi. 174 ; Sid. Apoll. Cann. 15 j Sil. ltd. ix. 442.)

It is remarkable that, although the aegis pro­perly belonged to Zeus, yet we seldom find it as an attribute of Zeus in works of art. There is, however, in the museum at Leyden, a marble statue of Zeus, found at Utica, in which the aegis hangs over his left shoulder. The annexed figure is taken from an ancient cameo. Zeus is here represented with the aegis wrapt round the fore part of his left arm. The shield is placed underneath it, at his feet.

The Roman emperors also assumed the aegis, intending thereby to exhibit themselves in the character of Jupiter. Of this the armed statue of Hadrian in the British Museum presents an ex­ ample. In these cases the more recent Roman conception of the aegis is of course followed, co­ inciding with the remark of Servius (Aen. viiU 435), that this breast-armour was called aegis when worn by a god ; lorica, when worn by a man. (Comp. Mart. vii. 1.) [J. Y.J

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