|"Return with your shield or on it," was the heroic Spartan Mother's final words to her son as he marched off to war. The shields of the ancient hopylites were large and heavy. If a soldier ran away from battle the first thing he would cast aside was his shield. Thus, it was a sure sign of cowardice for a soldier to return without his shield. If he returned on his shield it meant that he died bravely in the ranks and his comrades used his shield to transport him home. This legendary mother is telling her son that she would rather see him dead than dishonored.
The Story of the Iliad recounts a war in which brave men fought for long years for their honor. The war begins when Paris a young prince of Troy steals away, Helen, the wife of Menelaus. Menelaus is the king of one of the Greek city states. He musters his fellow Greeks to invade Troy, and regain his lost love and honor.
The war drags on for nine long years with such heroes as Achilles, Ajax, Hector and Ullyses interacting with all manner of Greek gods and fighting with grim determination among themselves. Hector is a Trojan and must defend his city from the skillful Argives. This classic story includes the famous seige of Troy, the death of Patroclus and the sad spectacle of the great Hector dragged like a rag-doll behind the chariot of Achilles.
This story is a must read for anyone interested in Ancient Greek literature or history. The story and the characters have become a vital part of our own culture.