The Shield of Achilles
The shield of Achilles is a symbol of human life as a whole. Homer uses the shield to portray the actions of humankind during peace and war. Made out of bronze, tin, gold, and silver, the shield is an artistic beauty. However, the beauty not only comes from the precious metals, but also the carvings and emblems sketched into the shield's five folds.
Homer starts out by describing the earth, sea, and the sky, emphasizing the "tireless sun," the "moon waxing into her fullness," and "all the constellations that festoon the heavens." (Iliad 18. 484-485) Next, he describes "two cities of mortal men". (Iliad 18. 490-491) The first city is celebrating a wedding with a giant feast consisting of flaring torches, loud music, and young men dancing with flutes and lyres. Suddenly, a quarrel breaks out between two men disputing over the blood price for a man who had been killed.
Their dispute is settled when they call for a judge, who is offered two bars of solid gold for the elder who makes the fairest decision. Homer uses the first city to represent peacetime, especially during a wedding when joyfulness and merriment is at its highest. However, no place or society can remain in peace forever, and eventually a problem will arise. These are the moments that separate a successful society from an unsuccessful society; the ability to handle and resolve these problems in an orderly and efficient way. The quarrel is eventually settled by the process of law, which represents justice, and the crowd that decided which elder became the judge represents democracy. Homer is optimistic about the world, noting that no society will ever be without problems, just like there is no utopia, but the ability to rise above the problems...