Meanings “Panoply”

July 10, 2012

A “panoply” is “a splendid array.”  In today’s usage, that array could be of almost anything: cakes, boats, flowers, or quilts.

But I am re-reading The Iliad, having recently finished Madeline Miller’s Orange Prize-winning Song of Achilles.  (Miller retells the story of the Iliad through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’ best friend and, Miller imagines, lover.)

In both the Homer and the Miller, the word panoply comes up often, always meaning “a complete suit of armor.”  Patroclus wears Achille’s panoply when he routs the Trojans before being slain by Hector.  Hector wears that same panoply in victory.  And Achilles mother, Thetis (a sea god) has a new suit of armor, a new panoply, made by the god Hephaestus so that he can avenge the death of Patroclus by slaying Hector.

Here is “panoply” from

panoply (n.) Look up panoply at
1570s, from Gk. panoplia “complete suit of armor,” from pan- “all” (see pan-) + hopla (pl.) “arms” of a hoplites (“heavily armed soldier”). Originally in English figurative, of “spiritual armor,” etc. (a reference to Eph. vi); non-armorial sense of “any splendid array” first recorded 1829.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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