If the Phaistos Disk was intended as a brilliant shield design, then I might even suggest it was the prototype
for the legenday Shield of Achilles, used by Achilles when he fought Hector. Below, left is a concept of the Shield of Achilles derived by Malcolm M. Willcock's reading of Homer's description of the shield in The Iliad, Chapter XVIII (see below), with five spirals. At least the Phaistos Disk, with five spirals, hints at the idea of a legendary shield as early as 1600 BCE, five or six hundred years before Achilles is supposed to have fought Hector at Troy. The bright spots on the Phaistos Disk (below, right) denote locations of the fifteen shields on this side of the disk.
The two shields have much in common. Both have five circles, with the circles drawn in a wave spiral on the Phaistos Disk as befits a Minoan disk. Earth, sea, sun, moon and stars are indicated on the Phaistos Disk, as are cattle (1), ploughing (2), reaping (3), sheep (4), dance (5), vintage (6) and City at Peace (7) and City at War (8).
Homer tells us:
First he (Vulcan) shaped the shield so great and strong, adorning it all over and binding it round with a gleaming circuit in three layers; and the baldric was made of silver. He made the shield in five thicknesses, [the five spirals] and with many a wonder did his cunning hand enrich it.
He wrought the earth, [the unconnected shield above, click the image to see it] the heavens, [the large image covering the disk, including all the shields] and the sea; [the Oceanus surrounding the design] the moon [the shields along the outside edge] also at her full and the untiring sun, [the star in the center] with all the signs that glorify the face of heaven- the Pleiads,[the man holding the shield, the Pleiades said to hang on Orion's belt] the Hyads, huge Orion, [the man holding the shield] and the Bear, which men also call the Wain and which turns round ever in one place, facing. Orion, and alone never dips into the stream of Oceanus.
He wrought also two cities, fair to see and busy with the hum of men. In the one were weddings and wedding-feasts, and they were going about the city with brides whom they were escorting by torchlight from their chambers. Loud rose the cry of Hymen, and the youths danced to the music of flute and lyre, [the Crane Dance or Dance of the Labyrinth, see the next chapter] while the women stood each at her house door to see them.
He wrought also a fair fallow field, large and thrice ploughed already. Many men were working at the plough (left) within it, turning their oxen to and fro, furrow after furrow. Each time that they turned on reaching the headland a man would come up to them and give them a cup of wine, and they would go back to their furrows looking forward to the time when they should again reach the headland. The part that they had ploughed was dark behind them, so that the field, though it was of gold, still looked as if it were being ploughed- very curious to behold.
He wrought also a field of harvest corn, and the reapers were reaping with sharp sickles in their hands. Swathe after swathe fell to the ground in a straight line behind them, and the binders bound them in bands of twisted straw. There were three binders, and behind them there were boys who gathered the cut corn in armfuls and kept on bringing them to be bound: among them all the owner of the land stood by in silence and was glad. The servants were getting a meal ready under an oak, for they had sacrificed a great ox, and were busy cutting him up, while the women were making a porridge of much white barley for the labourers' dinner.
He wrought also a herd of homed cattle. He made the cows of gold and tin, and they lowed as they came full speed out of the yards to go and feed among the waving reeds that grow by the banks of the river. Along with the cattle there went four shepherds, all of them in gold, and their nine fleet dogs (left) went with them. Two terrible lions had fastened on a bellowing bull that was with the foremost cows, and bellow as he might they haled him, while the dogs and men gave chase: the lions tore through the bull's thick hide (above left) and were gorging on his blood and bowels, but the herdsmen were afraid to do anything, and only hounded on their dogs; the dogs dared not fasten on the lions but stood by barking and keeping out of harm's way.
The god wrought also a pasture in a fair mountain dell, and large flock of sheep, with a homestead and huts, and sheltered sheepfolds.
Furthermore he wrought a green, like that which Daedalus once made in Cnossus for lovely Ariadne. Hereon there danced youths and maidens whom all would woo, with their hands on one another's wrists. (See the next chapter) The maidens wore robes of light linen, and the youths well woven shirts that were slightly oiled. The girls were crowned with garlands, while the young men had daggers of gold that hung by silver baldrics; sometimes they would dance deftly in a ring with merry twinkling feet, as it were a potter sitting at his work and making trial of his wheel to see whether it will run, and sometimes they would go all in line with one another, and much people was gathered joyously about the green. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them when the man struck up with his tune.
All round the outermost rim of the shield he set the mighty stream of the river Oceanus. (The outermost ring of the Phaistos Disk is Oceanus.)
Then when he had fashioned the shield so great and strong, he made a breastplate also that shone brighter than fire. He made helmet, (left) close fitting to the brow, and richly worked, with a golden plume overhanging it; and he made greaves also of beaten tin.
Lastly, when the famed lame god had made all the armour, he took it and set it before the mother of Achilles; whereon she darted like a falcon from the snowy summits of Olympus and bore away the gleaming armour (left) from the house of Vulcan. (Homer)
The pictographs on the disk need to seem identical because the artist intended that they produce additional images than are apparent on the faces of the disk. With the matching pictographs placed strategically to produce the images, many more meaningful designs could be contained on the artifact. Those designs reveal a world of information about the
Minoan and Egyptian civilizations. Over a period of the last 100 years many people have studied the disk
but without ever seeing the additional images contained by the disk, and for a good reason.
In retrospect, the disk is very simple but our presumptions and our distance from this
ancient civilization prevent us from immediately recognizing the patterns on the disk. We do not expect to see a
nearly 4,000 year-old connect the dots maze, so we do not see it, even after 100 years of collectively
looking at it. Had we first seen the disk in the connect the dots section of the Sunday comics of a newspaper,
we would have revealed some of the images before breakfast was over.
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