Iliad By Homer Essay, Research Paper
The essay of 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. From the heroic effortsin the Iliad itself it is clear that the populace of his timewere highly emotional creatures, and higher brain activity seems to be in short, and in Odysseus’ case, valuable, order. In the Iliad, there seems to be relatively little storyline from the Trojan’s side. We are regaled with story uponstory 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, ashappens 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 takingTroy, whereupon the individual army captains will then “prevent their doing so.” When the announcement is made, King Agamemnonis startled to see the ranks, not surprisingly, take advantage ofthe 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 wordslike “from a hollow cave” and “bunched in knots”, giving the “bees” an ominous tone. 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-be spangled field as leaves that bloom in summer.” This scene assumes quite a juxtaposition. A flower-be spangled 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. Later in Book Five, there is a great dichotomy of similes. First, Hera comes down “flying like turtle doves 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. While lions and boars are notoriously vicious creatures, sure to raise a hackle or two on a Greek reader, and when exercised on Diomede sit brings their ferocity home. The interesting thing here is the contrast between the two. This is another example of how the Greeks are made to look like animals. In Book Ten Nestor comments on a set of horses that Odysseusis ushering, won by Diomedes through killing some Trojans, that they are “like sunbeams.” A very short, and odd, description for horses. One is reminded of Apollo and his kinship with his chariot, often referred to as racing across the heavens. Shortly after Agamemnon dons his armor. On this armor fit for a king were “serpents of Cyanus” that appeared “like therainbows which were set in heaven.” Quite an interesting description of something that is supposed to in still fear in ones enemy. The snake, as a notoriously evil incarnation, resembling a rainbow seems foreign. The secret lies in the rest of the armor, that it is liberally covered in gold brings home the idea of the splendor and decadence of this armor, as wonderful as might be found on a god in heaven. The idea of a king possessing the gall to flaunt this frivolous armor in a situation that calls for something more practical, goes to show the in eptitude of the king of the Acheans. In Book Twelve we have Polypoetes and Leonteus, defending the gate of the wall to the Greek ships from the invasion of the Trojans. These two imposing characters “stood before the gateslike two high oak trees upon the mountains, that tower from their wide-spreading roots, and year after year battle with wind and rain.” This simile lends to the characters of the two, Polypoetes and Leonteus, along with the resolve of the Greeks atthat time. The defenses are brought out to be as long-standingand strong as one of natures most formidable creations, as any Greek would know from the evidence of their existence in such an in hospitable condition as the mountains. Going back, Book Three starts with: “the Trojans advanced as a flight of wild fowl or cranes that scream overhead when rainand winter drive them over the flowing waters of Ocean.” Thecranes bring to mind large, pure, graceful characteristics, qualities be fitting an efficient army troop. The screaming ofthe cranes would duly apply to the army, being that a scream would be terrifying, dissuading the enemy. The choice of simile here is important. Homer is letting the Trojan army achieve the appearance of gracefulness, while the Greek army is consistently portrayed as predatory animals. In Book Four Ajax duels with Simoeisius. Ajax runs Simoeisius through with a spear and “he fell as a poplar that has grown straight and tall in a meadow by some stream and is cut down by a wain wright with his gleaming axe.” The image of a well grown tree with great nourishment from the stream and the pastoral setting acquainted with Simoeisius is consistent with Homer’s beautifying the Trojan tradition. Ajax is consistently portrayed as a giant, and with his great spear it is no stretch to align him with the strength of the lumberjack with his axe, giving him an air of respect and reverence to him that extends beyond his battlefield prowess. Near the end of Book Five Diomedes is greeted by a rush from Hector’s forces. His reaction is described as like that of “aman crossing a wide plain, dismayed to find himself on the brink of some great river rolling swiftly to the sea.” Up until this point Diomedes had been a potent force for the Greeks. His new found humility brought upon by the unsurpassable “river” of Hector’s troops. It is enough to convince us that Hector’s army is menacing in this facet alone, but to imagine that mass of fighting spirit would be enough to purge its enemies like the rapids swallows an unexperienced kayaker is all the more frightening. At the end of Book Six we find Paris catching up to Hector,to rejoin the battle. Paris takes off “as a horse, stabled andfed, breaks loose and gallops gloriously over the plain to theplace where he is wont to bathe in the fair-flowing river- he holds his head high, and his mane streams upon his shoulders ashe exults in his strength and flies like the wind to the hauntsand feeding ground of the mares- even so went forth Paris from high Pergamus, gleaming like sunlight in his armor, and he laughed aloud as he sped swiftly on his way.” This simile is packed with phrases that exalt strength, beautyand gracefulness, but little reference to battle prowess, thus presenting Paris as nothing more than a figure-head. The notablelaughing at the end is something that is singularly Trojan. Notonce is a Greek found laughing, more evidence that Homer has glamorized the Trojan lifestyle. The method I used for examining these examples is exceptionally difficult. First, I examined the way the similes were used and the effect they achieved, and at the same time, and the same space, attempted to prove that Homer tried to bring the Trojans a sense of honor they didn’t receive in battle. Homer’s similes proved to have been generally bipolar, good or bad, and he applied them liberally where needed. The goal of Homer’strade, as a poet, was to stir people, and the easier the better. What better way than to appeal to ones already experienced emotions? To make a person feel like their everyday actions somehow par took in a greater story is what is accomplished by using the similes that Homer used. These similes brought the story down to earth, and everyday life into the story. There is evidence for Homer favoring the Trojans, at least literarily, in this poem. His consistent use of beauty and gracewith the Trojans contrasted with the viciousness portrayed in the Greeks is clear. Homer might have given other Trojan warriors besides Hector moments of aristea also if their exploits had not have been lost through time. Anyone, especially a poet, would feel in debted to the dead to give them some honor for their duties, and Homer has done just that.