Review of ‘Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles’ by Kathleen Vail *****

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Thetis is the daughter of the Titan Nereus and Doris. She is forced to marry the mortal Peleus Aiakides, and they have a son, Achilles. Nereus invites all the gods and goddesses to his daughter’s wedding, except the goddess of strife, Eris. Angry at not being welcome, Eris sneaks in and tosses among the crowd the legendary golden apple inscribed, ‘To the Most Fair’, which provokes a rivalry between Zeus’ wife Hera and his daughters, Athena and Aphrodite, and thus sows the black seed of the Trojan War. As a young man, Prince Paris attends the weeding of Thetis and Peleus. When asked to select the ‘most fair’ inscribed on the apple, he must choose between the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Aphrodite promises him the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen, who is married to Menelaus, King of Sparta. Paris gives Aphrodite the apple, sails off to claim Helen, and takes her to Troy. Agamemnon assembles an army, and with a thousand ships proceeds to Troy to rescue Helen. Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles sweeps the reader into the eventual confrontation between Hektor and Achilles, which resulted in the death of both heroes and ends the ten-year war with Troy. The tale is not over, though.

Everyone has read and seen films about the Trojan War. However, the roots of that conflict are convoluted and complex. Most people have heard of Homer’s epic tales, the Iliad that deals with the war, and the Odyssey that tells the stirring tale of Odysseus’ adventures during his long voyage back to Greece, even if they have not actually read the books. Kathleen Vail summarizes these heroic works in Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles with straightforward narrative and a combination of evocative artwork and supporting notes that takes the reader deep into Greek history and mythology. Having read this book, I am tempted to go back to Iliad and immerse myself among the gods of Olympus and the deeds of legendary heroes. Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles is a great introductory scholarly work into Homer’s epic poems and the wonder of Greek myths.

This book can be purchased on

Shield of Achilles-1About the Author

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Kathleen Vail is a member of the Maker Movement taking on the Classics. Combining career skills as a computer engineer and graphic artist for the US Department of Defense with research skills as a lifetime student of Homer’s ancient Greece, Kathleen has created a physical, artistically relevant reconstruction of the divine shield of Achilles based literally and solely on Homer’s specifications in Book 18 of the Iliad.

Enjoying great success since its creation, Vail’s reconstruction of Achilles’ shield appears on the cover of Dr. Kenneth Atchity’s 2014 Kindle version of “Homer’s Iliad: The Shield of Memory,” and Carolina López-Ruiz’ “Gods, Heroes, and Monsters” (2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2018). She has also given presentations of her work to various groups and organizations, including Virginia chapters of the Classical Association and Mediterranean Society.

Visit Kathleen’s website and blog, for an in depth exploration of all things Achilles, including his spectacular armor, and Homer’s amazing power to excite our imaginations and inspire great creations by artists and artisans, aka Makers, throughout the ages and across all art forms.



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