Analysis of Similes in the Illiad

In the Iliad, Homer finds a great tool in the simile. Just
by opening the book in a random place the reader is undoubtedly
faced with one, or within a few pages. Homer seems to use
everyday activities, at least for the audience, his fellow

Greeks, in these similes nearly exclusively. When one is
confronted with a situation that is familiar, one is more likely
to put aside contemplating the topic and simply inject those
known feelings. This would definitely be an effective tactic
when used upon the people of Homer\'s day. From the heroic efforts
in the Iliad itself it is clear that the populace of his time
were highly emotional creatures, and higher brain activity seems
to be in short, and in Odysseus\' case, valuable, order.

It is also wise to remember that history is written by the
winners. In the Iliad, there seems to be relatively little
storyline from the Trojan\'s side. We are regaled with story upon
story of the Greeks, their heroes, and their exploits, while the

Trojan\'s are conspicuously quiet, sans Hector of course. It could
almost be assumed that throughout time most of the knowledge of
the battle from the Trojan side had been lost.

Considering the ability to affect feelings with similes, and
the one-sided view of history, Homer could be using similes to
guide the reader in the direction of his personal views, as
happens with modern day political "spin". These views that Homer
might be trying to get across might be trying to favor Troy. It
could easily be imagined that throughout time, only great things
were heard about the Greeks mettle in war, and that Homer is
attempting to balance the scales a bit by romanticizing the

Trojan peoples, especially Hector, and bringing to light the
lesser-heard tales of Greek stupidity.

Shortly into Book Two, Agamemnon gives the speech to his
assembly about his plan to rally the troops with reverse
psychology. Agamemnon shall announce he is giving up on taking

Troy, whereupon the individual army captains will then "prevent
their doing so." When the announcement is made, King Agamemnon
is startled to see the ranks, not surprisingly, take advantage of
the chance to leave and make for the ships with vigor. Homer
describes the scene as "bees that sally from some hollow cave and
flit in countless throng among the spring flowers, bunched in
knots and clusters..." This simile is tainted with dark words
like "from a hollow cave" and "bunched in knots", giving the"bees" an ominous tone. The Greek ranks are painted as a throng
of weak-kneed wimps with their constitution sapped, obviously not
the case as they go on to win the war, but it suffices to cast
the Lycians in a negative light.

A short, but emotionally appealing, simile is found after
the Greek warriors have changed their mind about leaving and
return to the Scamander: "They stood as thick upon the
flower-bespangled field as leaves that bloom in summer." This
scene assumes quite a juxtaposition. A flower-bespangled
battlefield? This is perhaps an attempt to show the absurdity of
the Greek army, changing positions from fleeing to brazenness as
flowers are to the field of death.

Near the beginning of Book Three a group of elders of Troy,
not fighting material, but skilled orators, are found resting on
the tower "like cicadas that chirrup delicately from the boughs
of some high tree in a wood." The cicadas song and the "tree in
a wood" cast memories of repose and relaxation, rest and peace,
which are then injected into the "delicate" elders. Another
attempt of Homer to cast the Trojans in a favorable light.

Later in the same book Ptolemaeus is Homer\'s vehicle for
putting down the Greeks again. Upon seeing shirkers of the front
line of battle he likens them to "frightened fawns who, when they
can no longer scud over the plain huddle together." Undoubtedly,
the men of Homer\'s time hunted to survive, and relished the sight
of the frightened fawns grouped together. But does not one also
feel pity for them? This is a wonderful simile that brings home
the nervous twitchiness that would denote a person scared to
death in such a situation.

Later in Book Five there is a great dichotomy of similes.

First, Hera comes down "flying like turtledoves in eagerness to
help the Argives." followed by a scene surrounding Diomedes where
his men are "fighting like lions or wild boars." Both of these
have their own respective importance. There is probably no more
revered avian for peace and beauty than the turtledove, and
applying this to Hera shows where her intentions lie. While
lions and boars are notoriously vicious creatures, sure