Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Word of the day: aegis

The word-of-the-day from Anu Garg’s A.Word.A.Day is aegis (EE-jis):

noun: Protection, support, guidance, or sponsorship of a particular person or organization.

From Latin aegis, from Greek aigis (goatskin), from aix (goat). Aigis was the name of the shield or breastplate of Zeus or Athena in Greek mythology. It was made of goatskin. Earliest documented use: 1704.
The aegis makes a dazzling appearance in Odyssey 22, where it drives those suitors yet unkilled into a terrified frenzy. It appears again in a quieter way at the poem’s end, when Odysseus and the dead suitors’ male relatives come to terms:
ὅρκια δ᾽ αὖ κατόπισθε μετ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔθηκεν

Παλλὰς Ἀθηναίη, κούρη Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο,

Μέντορι εἰδομένη ἠμὲν δέμας ἠδὲ καὶ αὐδήν.
Do you see the aegis at the end of line three? “Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο” — that’s aegis-holding [αἰγίοχος] Zeus. Pallas Athena [Παλλὰς Ἀθηναίη] has borrowed the keys to the aegis from Dad. In Robert FItzgerald’s 1961 translation:
Both parties later swore to terms of peace
set by their arbiter, Athena, daughter
of Zeus who bears the stormcloud as a shield —
though still she kept the form and voice of Mentor.

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