Strangford Shield

B.M. No. 302. — Fragment of shield supposed to be a rough copy from the shield of the statue of Athene Parthenos. Pliny {H. N. xxxvi. 18) and Pausanias (i. 17, 2) state that the outside of the shield was ornamented with the representation of a battle between Greeks and Amazons. Plutarch adds {Pericles, 31) that one of the figures represented Pheidias himself as an old bald-headed man raising a stone with both hands, while in another figure, who was represented fighting against an Amazon, with the hand holding out a spear in such a way as to conceal the face, the sculptor introduced the likeness of Pericles. This story is probably of late origin, and invented to account for two characteristic figures on the shield.

A head of Medusa, or Gorgoneion, encircled by two serpents, forms the centre of the composition on the fragment. Below the Gorgoneion is a Greek warrior, bald-headed, who raises both hands above his head to strike an Amazon with a battle-axe. This figure has been thought to correspond with that of Pheidias in the original design. Next to him on the right is a Greek who plants his left foot on the body of a fallen Amazon and is in the act of dealing a blow with his right hand ; his right arm is raised across his face and conceals the greater part of it.

The action of this figure again presents a partial correspondence with that of Pericles as described by Plutarch. To the right of the supposed Pericles are two Greeks : the one advances to the right ; the other seizes by the hair an Amazon falling on the right. Above this group is an Amazon running to the right and a Greek striding to the left. His shield has the device of a hare. Above him are three armed Greeks, and the remains of another figure.

On the left of the figure described as Pheidias is a Greek who has fallen on his knees. Further to the left is a fallen Amazon who lies with her head towards the lower edge of the shield. Near her is a wounded Amazon supported by a companion, of whom but little remains. The lower part of a third figure, probably that of a Greek, is also seen. All the Amazons wear high boots and a short chiton, leaving the right breast exposed ; their weapon is a double-headed axe.

Red colour remains on the two serpents which encircle the Gorgon's head, on the shield of one of the Greeks and in several places on the draperies.

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