Category Archives: the shield of achilles

The Shield of Achilles: Bucephalus

alexander remembered his father’s words
spoken to him still being a child
my son, find yourself a kingdom equal to and worthy of yourself
for macedonia is too small for you
ever only since
could he remember the loss of home
for home was macedonia
how can a shelter offer comfort
when it cannot hold oneself
being not appropriate to one’s needs
he took a last glance at his home
then saddled his horse
how can the soil of his land
ever satisfy a god
that is to rule a people
that is to govern the present
when home is a higher future
how can man carry glory
without knowing courage by heart
alexander rode to where the sun rises in the morning
for this is the path to heaven

Vittoria o Muerte

Time stands still for who are constantly occupied. Time has no end for who found happiness. But bitterly lonely, I finally know time tonight. For the first time in New York I am alone. I discern no purpose, I know not one who is concerned for me. My house is empty, on the shelf lies a ticket for a transatlantic crossing in August, a mattress and an empty bottle of Corona in the corner. I am waiting, no one awaits me. I have lost my place so often, that I no longer feel the loss of home. I am a gypsy, a wanderer, a day laborer of the mind. The disquiet that has find a place in me is more familiar to me than a friend’s face. And if one wonders if there is sadness in a man’s heart, I will answer yes, there is, but as long as he is alive, there is comfort.

These transient stages between departure and arrival are not my favorite ones. Often, people ask me with a smile beneath their broad or long noses, and a shallow admiration in their dull eyes, do you like to travel? As if there is mystery in the exotic distances, as if going away leads to something. But all these dissettled rumors in my body, this uproar of common complacency, this despise of ubiquitous civic life, it cannot hold me in place. I will never be satisfied. I will be happy in time perhaps, happy to undergo this again. Once one looses the sense of home, the disquiet becomes one self. Of course there is fear, followed by jerks of courage, there is angst, followed by peace of mind, there will not be content unless death.

I do not seek to build anything, but to create. I wish not to find happiness, but to always wonder. I wonder if this struggle to seek a place has an end. Novalis wrote that the mysterious way leads inside, this can be, and I will find the blue lotus of my dreams when it’s there. I wonder what a brief impression can do, like a butterfly clapping its wings on the other side of the world. So I am always curious, like the child.

I find strength, thinking of Alexander crossing the Bosphorus, of Achilles, when I hear Zarathustra speak to me, in me. I will reach Paris and live like the bohemien! Cold in the winter, hot in summer. I will loose my mind, but I will find strength again. At the end there are the stars. I will find courage and charge, running into the battle blindly, but listening only to the sound of bronze grieves, a sword swinging against the leather, and the smell of dust. There must be strength in me, strength to love, love to seek my strength, to endure the night.

The Rape of History

“These men in their zealous strive to achieve immortality, they appropriate those objects that bring them closest to a sense of historicity. It is in fact their impotency to achieve fame by their own means, which drives them to claim those artifacts that radiate immortality the brightest, that is those artifacts that survived the sifting of the nameless dead from the heroes of the past that create the living past. This robbery is what is their greatest crime, not the looting of a clay vase buried deep in the Italian dirt, but their annexation of a fame that is not their own. This rape of historic verity is what truly upsets me and remains unpunished in any court of law. And we can debate endlessly about what measure would truly punish a man who disowns the dirt of forgetfulness of its greatest treasures to ensure rising above his anonymity. Is it a jail sentence of a few years, is it a monetary fine of a certain percentage of his wealth that detectives were able to trace back to illegal sources, is this the appropriate punishment to escape the verdict of history and seek a name in immortality or is it perhaps…”

Here N. paused for a second as if he suddenly realized the gravity of his words, and realizing the possible consequences of letting someone he barely knew peek into his cards, he hesitated. But the fervor of his argument had proven its case to the orator himself already, and having won the righteousness of his argument he regained his attitude of the self-sured solicitor.

“Or is it … death itself? Is it to allow history to pass the judgment they attempted to escape?”

N. paused again, but this time without hesitation, but rather to let the effect of his words sink in with the his audience. I must admit, I shrank back from his words, afraid of the consequence of his reason. In principle, I wanted to confirm enthusiastically the right of history to punish these gravediggers for fame, and not let these thiefs of the night get away with the light of day in which they are elevated to the firmament of eternity, of the annals of immortality. But death? Death? The word death, repeated itself, as if not originating from within my own thoughts, but from an evil external entity, an entity, the entity of a murderer. Was I a murderer? Was N. a murderer? Could we be brought to take another man’s life? There seemed nothing wrong with N.’s argument, but to kill, seemed doubtlessly wrong.

“Of course, there’s only one objection to this,” N. tittered, “it is not permissable.”

Here I wanted to object, feeling that the villain was getting away, slipping out of the hands of justice, but I only muttered with relief: “Of course.”

The shield of Achilles in the Illiad (1980)

Oliver Taplin, The shield of Achilles in the Illiad, Greece & Rome > 2nd Ser., Vol. 27, No. 1 (Apr, 1980), pp. 1-21

In Book XVIII of Homer’s Iliad Vulcan, the god of fire and smith of arms, hammers and embellishes the shield, breast plate, helmet and greaves of Achilles. The description of the shield and the location of the shield form a dramatic and decisive turning point in the epic. Achilles returns to battle knowing he will die but win eternal glory in return. The description of the shield foreshadows the will of the gods that guide the future events to unravel.

Although an extensive work like Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey is not a cohesive work, a realization of a single man’s epiphaneia, individual parts of it have a single intention. Over time, anynomous bards contributed their purposes and styles leaving us with the epic collection we know now under the epithet Homer. This work consists of many paradoxes and contradictions, but I will focus only on that part of Homer that deals with the shield of Achilles.

The shield is described as having five circles. Continue reading