Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

Start Free Trial

What two similes describe the Phaeacians' ships in Book 7 of The Odyssey?

Quick answer:

Both similes describe Phaeacian ships as swift. One compares their speed to that of a bird in flight, the other to a thought.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The "curved" and "swift" ships of the Phaeacians are described by Athena in Book 7 of the Odyssey as, reiterating the "swift" descriptor, "swift as a bird on the wing or as a thought." This is effectively two similes in one, as it uses two separate points of comparison to reinforce the point the goddess is making about the quality of the Phaeacian fleet. Later, it is stated that the Phaeacians are famed for their ships; we can deduce from the context that this is because of their great speed and their construction.

We see the same term, "swift," applied again to the Phaeacian ships later in the book, when the Phaeacian men's skill at crafting swift ships is described as equalling their women's skill at the loom. This equivocation is not really a simile, although it compares one thing to another, but it does help illuminate our understanding of Phaeacian society.

As far as I can see, there are no further similes describing the ships.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus, after leaving Calypso's island, is shipwrecked by Poseidon and washes ashore in the land of the Phaeacians. Odysseus encounters Nausicaa, the daughter of the Phaeacians king, and she directs him to go to her father's palace and ask him and her mother for assistance.

On the way to the palace, Odysseus meets Athena, who is disguised as a young girl. Athena tells Odysseus about the Phaeacians and comments on their ships, which she says "are as quick as a bird in flight, or a thought" (Kline translation).

I have not been able to find any other similes about the Phaeacians ships in Odyssey 7, so I am assuming the questioner will take the comparison to a bird as one simile and the comparison to thought as the other simile.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial