The snake and the eagle

In my last post I talked about the Ashmolean cast gallery and the reconstructions of how sculptures looked when painted. Here’s one with a shield with a picture that seems to illustrate this passage from the Iliad -except the snake is not red!

ὄρνις γάρ σφιν ἐπῆλθε περησέμεναι μεμαῶσιν
αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης ἐπ᾽ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων
φοινήεντα δράκοντα φέρων ὀνύχεσσι πέλωρον
ζωὸν ἔτ᾽ ἀσπαίροντα, καὶ οὔ πω λήθετο χάρμης,
κόψε γὰρ αὐτὸν ἔχοντα κατὰ στῆθος παρὰ δειρὴν
ἰδνωθεὶς ὀπίσω: ὃ δ᾽ ἀπὸ ἕθεν ἧκε χαμᾶζε
ἀλγήσας ὀδύνῃσι, μέσῳ δ᾽ ἐνὶ κάββαλ᾽ ὁμίλῳ,
αὐτὸς δὲ κλάγξας πέτετο πνοιῇς ἀνέμοιο.

A bird passed over them as they were set to cross the ditch, a high flying eagle keeping the army on the left carrying in its talons a huge blood-red snake alive and still breathing, and this had not yet forgotten its spirit of war for it slashed at the one carrying it on the breast by the neck, arching backwards. And the eagle let it go to the ground and dropped it in the middle of the crowd, and with a shriek flew off on the breaths of the wind.

Iliad 12.199


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