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Aegis

αἰγίς). The storm-cloud and thundercloud of Zeus, imagined in Homer as a shield forged by Hephaestus, blazing brightly and fringed with tassels of gold, and displaying in its centre the awe-inspiring Gorgon 's head. When Zeus shakes the aegis, it thunders and lightens, and horror and perdition fall upon those against whom it is lifted. It is borne not only by Zeus “the aegis-bearer,” but by his daughter Athené, and occasionally by Apollo. As the same word means a goat-skin, it was explained in later times as the skin of the goat Amalthea (q.v.), which had suckled Zeus in his infancy. At the bidding of the oracle, he drew it over his thunder-shield in the contest with the Giants, and fastened on it the Gorgon 's head. When the aegis became a standing attribute of Athené, it was represented as a skin either shaggy or scaly, with a fringe of snakes and the Gorgon 's head in the middle, and either serving the goddess as a breastplate, or hanging behind to screen the back and shoulders, or fastened like a shield on the left arm.

Though the aegis properly belongs to Zeus, it is seldom found in works of art as his attribute. A cameo engraved by Nisus, however, of which a cut

Zeus with the Aegis. (From a Cameo.)

is here given, shows him with the aegis on his left arm.

The Roman emperors also assumed the aegis, intending thereby to exhibit themselves in the character of Iupiter.

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