Homework Help

Homer ends Book II of the Iliad with an aray of comparissons. How are they constructed,...

user profile pic

lolaleon | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted October 1, 2013 at 4:36 PM via web

dislike 4 like

Homer ends Book II of the Iliad with an aray of comparissons. How are they constructed, why are they included and what is their function?

 As a raging fire lights the endless forest on a high mountain peak, and the glare is seen from afar, so, as they marched, the glittering light flashed from their gleaming bronze through the sky to heaven.

          As the countless flocks of wild birds, the geese, the cranes, the long-necked swans, gathering by Cayster’s streams in the Asian fields, wheel, glorying in the power of their wings, and settle again with loud cries while the earth resounds, so clan after clan poured from the ships and huts on Scamander’s plain, and the ground hummed loud to the tread of men and horses, as they gathered, in the flowery river-meadows, innumerable as the leaves and the blossoms in their season.

          Like the countless swarms of flies that buzz round the cowherd’s yard in spring, when the pails are full of milk, as numerous were the long-haired Greeks drawn up on the plain, ready to fight the men of Troy and utterly destroy them.

          And as goatherds swiftly sort the mingled flocks, scattered about the pastures, so their leaders ordered the ranks before the battle, King Agamemnon there among them, with head and gaze like Zeus the Thunderer, with Ares’ waist and Poseidon’s chest. As a bull, pre-eminent among the grazing cattle, stands out as by far the finest, so Zeus made Agamemnon seem that day, first among many, chieftain among warriors. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 2, 2013 at 5:49 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

These are great examples of epic similes which are very characteristic of Homer's work. These epic similes are detailed comparisons which are extended and are many lines in length. Homer uses a series of epic similes here to emphasise the massive number of troops in Agamemnon's army, and to highlight the very real threat to Troy. Note for example, how the first simile is constructed:

As a raging fire lights the endless forest on a high mountain peak, and the glare is seen from afar, so, as they marched, the glittering light flashed from their gleaming bronze through the sky to heaven.

The comparison of the light reflecting from the army's "gleaming bronze" to a "raging fire" that lights up a massive forest highlights the sheer number of troops that is in the Greek army and that Agamemnon has control over, and serves to raise the tension of the text at this point, as the conflict between Agamemnon's forces and Troy has not yet started. The other epic similes quoted in this question act in a similar way, focusing as they do on the numbers of troops that Agamemnon has control over. The epic similes at this point in the text therefore are used to emphasise the massive military threat that Agamemnon's forces represent to Troy, and also help to raise the tension and suspense as we think about what is going to happen next. 

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes