1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

Aegis

By

Douris Cup. Athena and Jason, 5th Century B.C., at the Vatican Museum.

Douris Cup. Athena and Jason, 5th Century B.C., at the Vatican Museum.

Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Definition:

The aegis is a bib-like protective garment made of hide that was associated with Zeus and then Athena. Descriptions vary. For Athena, it is said to have been made of the skin of a monster Athena slew. The aegis is also said to be made of the skin of the goat Amalthea (of cornucopia fame) who suckled Zeus. In the Iliad, a Gorgoneion (Medusa's head) is on the aegis. The aegis may have snakes coming from it. Later, the Gorgoneion was placed on Athena's shield.

Statues of Athena wear the aegis in different ways, although G.S. Kirk [Watkins] summarizes the ways of wearing the aegis as being like a skin thrown over a shoulder as if it were a shawl. The aegis may be worn on the diagonal, covering one breast, it can cover both breast and an arm, and it can be a band.

Watkins says the origin of the aegis is a (Hittite) hunting bag.

References:

  • Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood "aegis" The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth. 2005.
  • "The Athena Lemnia Reconsidered"
    Kim J. Hartswick
    American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Jul., 1983), pp. 335-346
  • "A Distant Anatolian Echo in Pindar: The Origin of the Aegis Again"
    Calvert Watkins
    Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 100, (2000), pp. 1-14

Featured Thursday's Term to Learn.

Examples:
Apollodorus on the aegis:
The story told about the Palladium is as follows: They say that when Athena was born she was brought up by Triton, who had a daughter Pallas and that both girls practised the arts of war, but that once on a time they fell out and when Pallas was about to strike a blow, Zeus in fear interposed the aegis, and Pallas, being startled, looked up, and so fell wounded by Athena.

And being exceedingly grieved for her, Athena made a wooden image in her likeness, and wrapped the aegis, which she had feared, about the breast of it, and set it up beside Zeus and honoured it.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.