The Death of Achilles and Disappearance of his Shield

Enheartening her, the Great GameLegs said, “Have courage, my Lady! Please trust me!
Good gear I can make, but to hide him from death? Now, that is another matter…
I only wish I could help him with that, as I can with the making of arms,
For I am an expert – no eyes have beheld such gear as I shall provide him!”

[From Homer’s Iliad, Book 18, Lines 463 – 466, Vail’s translation]

“Homer Displays a New Kind of Hero in Achilles”

His divine armor, as Hephaistos warns, will not save Achilles from his impending death. Nevertheless, Achilles chooses bravery over safety and heroically enters the fray, seeking only the death of Hektor, murderer of Patroklos and thief of Achilles’ old armor.

Professor Arieti points out that by avoiding the stereotypical construction of a warrior’s shield, “The difference between the shield we might expect and the one which Hephaestus actually makes forces us to reflect on peace and war and on the value of each.”

Attic Black-Figure Amphora ca. 510 BCE, depicting Aias carrying the mortally wounded Achilles out of the battlefield.

Attic Black-Figure Amphora ca. 510 BCE, depicting Aias carrying the mortally wounded Achilles out of the battlefield.
Source: Wikimedia commons

“Homer displays a new kind of hero in Achilles,” adds Arieti, “a hero who, in discovering guilt, influences the moral consciousness of the West in such a way as to define the civilization.”

Arieti continues, “When Patroclus fell to the might of Hector, Hector stripped the body and donned the armor himself.” Imagine the psychological impact of Hektor’s dazzling appearance on Achilles. His mortal enemy is now standing before him, dressed in Achilles’ old armor. He looks like a mirror-image of Achilles. This is a profoundly fascinating perspective.

“When, in the final combat with Achilles, Hector engaged Achilles it must have seemed to Achilles that he was fighting against himself, in slaying Hector, slaying himself.”

“Given Thetis’ prophecy, that Achilles’ own death would follow upon the heels of Hector’s,” explains Arieti, “the appearance of suicide was the virtual reality. For Achilles, it was a way to expiate his guilt in causing the deaths of Patroclus and so many of his comrades.”

Click on the pages below to follow the epic events as Achilles dons his divine new armor and re-enters the war, intent on avenging Patroklos’ death…

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