Objection 1: It would seem that the divine aegis is not a ladle, for nowhere in the Iliad is it stated that the divine aegis has this form. Therefore, lacking evidence, it cannot be concluded that the divine aegis is a ladle.
Objection 2: A ladle is a servile instrument, and unfit for the noble. But all should have what befits them, and most of all the gods. Therefore the divine aegis is not a ladle.
Objection 3: Scholarly tradition teaches that the divine aegis is a shield or skin. Therefore it cannot be a ladle.
On the contrary, It is written, “So you, lord Apollo, brandished the divine aegis / which gives terror to all men, adorned with the Gorgon’s head / and the devastating fringe at the bowl’s edge, and all within is dark / as the hair of Zeus or the thoughts of his mind. But without, / the bowl and the handle rising from it gleam / like the light of the high sun or the golden horns of cattle / led to the sacrifice. But it is far more terrible than these.” This text is so clear that no explication of it will be necessary.
I answer that, The divine aegis is indeed a ladle. This can be shown in two ways. First, that interpretation which has the most explanatory and unifying power is to be accepted. And in the mystery of the divine aegis, it is the recognition of the divine aegis’ nature as a ladle which has most of such power. Now before this, scholars have only considered that the divine aegis is a shield or skin. But these are both less fit for the identity of the divine aegis than is a ladle (see the Reply to Objection 1), being mere haphazard accessories of the gods with tassels and the gorgon’s head added to them. But a ladle can be used to serve ambrosia and nectar, and these are what give the gods their immortality and permit their divine ease and power in warfare. Thus a ladle, being the symbol and enabler of the gods’ immortality and power, is most fit for them. It is also most likely to inspire terror and the remembrance of their mortality and frailty in men, who, seeing the divine aegis, are stirred by the thought of how they cannot eat ambrosia and nectar, and are doomed to death. This would make those facing the divine aegis despair and flee, while those following the god who wields the aegis would gain fresh hope in the consideration that one beyond their limitations is fighting for them. From all this it is clear that the divine aegis is a ladle, as this knits the relationship of the gods’ natures and activities most closely together.
Secondly, the divine aegis it is mentioned most in connection with “aegis-wielding Zeus.” Now Zeus is the god of hospitality, and a thing which, though shared by the other gods, belongs most to him should rightly have reference to his care for hospitality. Thus a ladle, by which guests are served, is most appropriate to Zeus, and is clearly used by him for the divine aegis.
Reply to Objection 1: Nowhere in the Iliad is it stated clearly what the divine Aegis is. But scholars have conjectured that the Aegis is a shield, by which is seen that direct textual evidence is not always necessary to interpretation. And from the proof above, it is clear that the aegis is a ladle.
Reply to Objection 2: This may be refuted in two ways. First, even if the premise of the objection is accepted, it remains that the gods do not use the divine aegis among themselves, but only among men. And it is fit that the gods use a servile instrument among those who are lower than themselves, and who do not deserve better. Second, there is no necessary foundation to the claim that cooking is a servile art unbefitting the noble. For in the Iliad we see Patroklos and Achilleus cooking, though there are serving maids at hand. (See also above for the connection between aegis-wielding Zeus and hospitality).
Reply to Objection 3: As noted in the reply to Objection 1, scholarly tradition does not have direct textual evidence for stating that the aegis is a shield or skin. Since this is the case, another interpretation, being more fit, can be right. Now a ladle is not only appropriate in itself for being the divine aegis, as shown above, but it is more fit than these others: for a shield is merely a defensive weapon, and does not strike terror into the enemies of one who wields it, while a skin is not a weapon at all. But a ladle is an offensive weapon, and therefore of itself more terrifying. Thus it is most appropriate for the divine aegis to be a ladle.