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The aegis, as stated in the Iliad, is the shield or buckler of Athena or of Zeus, which according to Homer was fashioned by Hephaestus. "...and among them went bright-eyed Athene, holding the precious aegis which is ageless and immortal: a hundred tassels of pure gold hang fluttering from it, tight-woven each of them, and each the worth of a hundred oxen."
Virgil imagines the Cyclopes in Hephaestus' forge, who "busily burnished the aegis Athene wears in her angry moods--a fearsome thing with a surface of gold like scaly snake-skin, and he linked serpents and the Gorgon herself upon the goddess’ breast—a severed head rolling its eYes." furnished with golden tassels and bearing the Gorgoneion (Medusa's head) in the central boss. Some of the Attic vase-painters retained an archaic tradition that the tassels had originally been serpents in their representations of the aegis. When the Olympian deities overtook the older deities of Greece and she was born of Metis (inside Zeus who had swallowed the goddess) and "re-born" through the head of Zeus fully clothed, Athena already wore her typical garments.
When the Olympian shakes the aegis, Mount Ida is wrapped in clouds, the thunder rolls and men are struck down with fear. "Aegis-bearing Zeus", as he is in the Iliad, sometimes lends the fearsome goatskin to Athena. In the Iliad when Zeus sends Apollo to revive the wounded Hector of Troy, Apollo, holding the aegis, charges the Achaeans, pushing them back to their ships drawn up on the shore. According to Edith Hamilton's Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, the Aegis is Zeus' breastplate, and was "awful to behold."
info on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegis
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