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The story behind the face upon the shield

April 10, 2012

“Ma’am?  We’ve received a new delivery of goat cheese.  Would you like me to serve you some?” asked the servant.

“Cheese?  From?”

“That scary goat-faced gorgon in Crete, ma’am.   That one that Lady Gaia hid in a cave.”

“She has a name.  Use it.”

“Sorry Ma’am.  Amalthea.”

“Please do.  The babe I’m carrying seems to really enjoy her cheeses.  Not sure why I bother.  That husband of mine will only swallow it like the rest.”


“Nevermind.  You may go.”  Rhea said as she smoothed the fabric over her belly.  “A gorgon, living in a cave, is the sender of the goat cheese, my child.  She is also the one that sent the honey earlier in the season.  She is a daughter of Helios hidden by majority request, because her face does not reflect the loveliness of her form.  Everyone either avoided her or made fun of her until Gaia offered her a cave.  They call her a goat.  Poor child.  No one visits her abode but she gifts or trades the cheeses that she makes or the honey that she…No one visits her!  She is hidden from the eyes of all.  She has access to milk and honey.  My beloved child, I think I have a solution to the problem of your father.  He shall not get you as he got the rest of my children!”


“Take him and hide him.  Raise him as your own.  I cannot stay as my absence will be noticed soon.  My warrior-priests have set up a sanctuary nearby so that their presence will not cause suspicion.  They will start a school to train others in war, dance and learning.  There will always be noise so that any noise the child makes will be lost in their din.  I will also send you a dog to protect you from anyone that strays too close to the cave.  Kronos cannot find out what I’ve done.  You must keep him hidden until he understands.  He must learn from my priests when he is ready.  I must go.  Take him.  TAKE HIM!”

“But Lady Rhea, I…”

“NO!  This is the only way to save him.   Raise my child as your own.”  Rhea turned to leave, frantic in her fright not to be discovered anywhere near this cave.

“Lady!  His name?!” the gorgon shouted.

“Zeus…” came her voice in a quiet loving tone as she ran out of sight.


“But Nanny, I don’t need to see the Oracle.  I know what I need to do.  I’ve freed my siblings.  Now we take down the Titans! “

“Your mother sent her.  You will see her.  You will do as this elder says.  Rhea would not have sent her to us if it was not important.”

Zeus growled with impatience and irritation.  “Fine.  Bring her in.”

Amalthea led in an old blind woman.  She seated her gently by the hearth and then offered the messenger some goat milk to moisten her throat. “Well old…” Zeus cut himself off as he caught the gorgon’s glare. “Ma’am.  I am told my Lady Mother sent you to me with a message.”

“Yesssss,” ground out the decrepit old voice which sound liked gravel scratching marble.  “Give me a minute, as the hike was long and I am no longer young.”

“Take all the time you need, grandmother,” stated Amalthea as she quietly counseled patience to her long time charge.

The oracle took several deep breaths, looked unerringly at Zeus and began to recite in a voice stronger and fairer than her own:

To win the battle against kin
carry a shield of goat’s skin
surmounted with the honest face
of the one that raised you with grace
only this terrifying visage
can bring down the Titans in their rage
and secure the throne for a glorious age.

“NO!”, shouted Zeus as he drew his sword to slay the oracle for daring to ask for the death of the only one that had showed him love.  The one that raised him from an infant to the young man he was today.  Yet before his sword reached the old woman, Amalthea was there, shielding the oracle with her body.  The sword slid into the gorgon’s flesh as if it had found a new sheath.  “Nanny!” Zeus screamed in horror, dropping his sword to catch his beloved foster mother before she could hit the ground.

“Ahh, my child.  You need a nanny no longer.  Think your siblings would allow me to sit at the hearth in your palace?  Or did you think to run your kingdom from my cave?”  She placed her hands upon his unshaven cheeks.  “Still too lazy to shave.  Well you will no longer have me around to scold you about it.”

Zeus gathered the gorgon close with tears rolling down his face.  Yelling for someone, anyone to come help for she was the last person he ever wanted to injure.

“No, Zeus.  This is the last way I can aid you, my beloved boy.  There is no place for me in your future.  My life has been a much happier one with you in it.  But now you move in places that I cannot go. Take my body, fashion the oracle’s shield so that you can overcome the Titans and be the king that we need for a better future.  Carry me into battle so that I can protect you there just as I protected you here…” With those words, the gorgon’s hand fell from his face and the light slowly faded from her eyes.  The howl of anguish that issued from that cave could be heard across the country.

How the aegis was made, no one knows.  Zeus did carry it into war against the Titans.  The gorgon’s face terrified all that faced him.  Yet he never carried the shield after that.  It was hung in reverence in his hall until the day his daughter Athene asked to carry it for him into battle.  She had finally heard, only the night before, the story behind the face upon the shield from a little old blind woman who no one had seen before or since.

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