“Aegis,” Gemmy read. “Is that ‘a-gee-is’ or ‘ege-is'” she wondered, looking over her notes and trying to remember her high school Latin. “Ege-is,” I think, she decided.
At some times, it seemed to designate the breastplate worn by Athena/Minerva and, at others, a symbol on the breastplate, usually the head of the Gorgon, one of three sisters whose faces turned people to stone and whose coiffures were made of snakes. The fringe shown on later pictures of the Aegis was considered to be a stylization of those snakes.
Gemmy read in Herodotus that the aegis may have come to Greece from Libya: “Athene’s garments and ægis were borrowed by the Greeks from the Libyan women, who are dressed in exactly the same way, except that their leather garments are fringed with thongs, not serpents.” And she bookmarked the page in Robert Graves that noted that: “the ægis in its Libyan sense had been a shamanic pouch containing various ritual objects, bearing the device of a monstrous serpent-haired visage with tusk-like teeth and a protruding tongue which was meant to frighten away the uninitiated.”
Gemmy turned back to the small postcard she had of Minerva in the Library of Congress. Such a serious young woman, with short brown hair, held back by a band of gold. On her chest was a breastplate of snake scales, snakes, and the Gorgon. Yet that seemed the least important part of the picture, less important than Minerva’s spear, or scroll, or the small statue of Nike in front of the scroll. “Is my dream really about the aegis and not the scroll?” Gemmy mused. “From what do I need protection?”
Alone, in a kitchen on Capitol Hill, Susan dialed up a number on her cell phone. “Paris? Are you there? Pick up; it’s Susan. I really need to talk. Paris?”
Picture found here.