Every version I have read has Perseus given a shield by Athena. He uses the shield to see Medusa's reflection to cut her head off. Some time later, he gave the shield and the head to Athena. Athena then put the head in the shield.

If the shield is Athena's, why is Zeus sometimes said to have it? Also, I think I remember a point in the Iliad that had Apollo wield the shield. Why would Apollo have it? Why would Athena lend anyone her aegis?

1 Answer 1


The nature of the aegis depends on what source you're looking at.

Euripides suggests that the aegis was the skin of the slain Gorgon, but the Gorgon is commonly held to be a later addition.

Diodorus Siculus claims it was the skin of a monster that Athena killed and flayed.

The twelfth century Byzantine poet John Tzetzes claims it was the skin of the giant Pallas, who Athena slew.

But I think Hyginus has it right, that the aegis was originally a goat skin. This is because the word "aegis" (αἰγίς) means "goatskin". (My most knowledgeable Greek professor even related it to the golden fleece.)

The Autenrieth entry is also worth looking at because it relates it to a storm cloud, which is domain of Zeus, and may carry the implication that it is an inherent part of his nature, and was with him as soon as he could exercise power over the sky and related natural forces.

See Also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegis#Etymology

  • But when did Zeus get it? :-)
    – user1618
    Mar 17, 2018 at 20:56
  • @TheEarth Not clear, atm. (I might have to dig out my old lecture notes on this one;) But the subject is muddied b/c even in my cursory answer, you have multiple sources claiming different origins. So Tzetzes says it's the skin of the giant Pallas. A professor I had suggested it is the golden fleece, per the goatskin etymology. But Euripides says it was the skin of the Gorgon. So there's no simple, definitive answer.
    – DukeZhou
    Mar 22, 2018 at 20:13

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