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The Use of Similes in the Iliad

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    The use of similes in the Iliad is very prevalent and much used, and in books fourteen and fifteen in particular those similes have been very interesting. They have been used to describe the great and mighty fighters like Ajax and Hector, and they truly are marvelous in their comparison to the similes of the regular soldier In books fourteen and fifteen the Achaeans take the upper hand in the battle, and push back the Trojans. Ajax himself picks up a giant boulder and vaults it into Hector’s chest, taking him out until he is strengthened again by the gods.

    The similes used in these books compare the leaders and great fighters like Ajax and Hector to magnificent creatures like horses, lions, and eagles. It is interesting that these people are compared to valiant beasts like these, and the foot soldiers are compared more than once to a pack of hounds led by their master. In book fifteen, Ajax lifts an enormous pike some forty feet long, and uses it to vault from ship to ship. He is compared to an eagle in this passage.

    Like a golden eagle dive-bombing down To a river bank where a flock of wild geese, Or cranes or long-necked swans are feeding. (Iliad 15. 302-729) The act itself is incredible, and Ajax definitely is like an eagle swooping up and down the ships. It is also worth noting that the troops fighting the bloody battle below are compared to a flock of birds feeding, oblivious to what is coming above. Hector is compared to a glorious horse in book fifteen.

    It is right after he has been strengthened by Apollo, the god of healing. He sprints down to join the fight, and to rally his soldiers to fight back. Picture a horse that has eaten barley in its stall Breaking its halter and galloping across the plain, Making for his accustomed swim in the river, A glorious animal, head held high, mane streaming Like wind on his shoulders. Sure of his splendor, He prances by the horse-runs and the mares in the pasture. (Iliad 15. 89-266) Once again the particular leader is compared to an elegant and powerful animal which runs swiftly down to join the battle. More than once the armies fighting the battle, either pushing back or being driven back, are compared to a group of hounds hunting a wounded animal. The leaders, though they are great and powerful, are not perfect or invulnerable by any means. However they are compared as great creatures such as eagles and horses, and the common soldier is compared to a dog. The difference is astonishing.

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