Chapter 5. Simile Space and Narrative Space

In the Iliad, place is most often delineated within the context of the Homeric similes, rather than in narrative. [1] Previous scholarship has emphasized two distinct but equally important aspects of Iliadic Gleichnisorte (“simile spaces”): their use as a way of making intratextual references, and their function within the wider framework of the epic’s plot. With respect to the former, Elliger has detected two further uses. When the narrative context is that of the Trojan plain, then the Gleichnisort may be that of a plain (Iliad V 597; VI 507) or a garden (XXI 257–258; 346). At other times, the correspondence can refer overtly to a geographical feature not belonging to the landscape of the Troad, as in II 461, where the famous simile of the geese, cranes, and long-throated swans is set “in the Asian meadow beside the Kaüstrian waters.” [2] As far as the functional use of the Gleichnisort is concerned, Elliger has argued that its relation to narrative scenery “causes … a different distribution of the simile landscapes in the distinct phases of the Iliadic plot,” [3] and concludes by suggesting that the rhythm of the entire Iliadic epic can also be traced in the rhythm of the various simile sceneries. The choice of mountains and sea as the two most frequent Gleichnisorte reflects both the “outer zone” of the Iliadic setting—the mountain of Ida and the sea—and the “inner zone” of the Trojan plain. [4]
Although he was not interested in the Homeric similes’ spatial aspect, Moulton made a number of acute observations on their function as a whole. He highlighted their connection with narrative structure, [5] argued convincingly for the existence of networks of similes that intensified events and themes, and claimed that vehicles were associated and simile-generated major images were coordinated across substantial narrative segments in order to create consistent characterization. [6] In accord with other studies that suggested explicitly or implicitly that similes must be interpreted within a wider nexus of inter connections permeating (and sometimes extending beyond) epic poetry, [7] Moulton’s research broke new ground.
Minchin’s study of the Homeric similes marked what we may call a “cognitive turn,” [8] since she was the first who systematically focused her attention on “the interactive relationship between imagery, which is at the heart of the simile, and memory―the way in which memory prompts an image, the way in which imagery and memory guide the expression of the simile, and the way in which imagery promotes recall―and the working out of this relationship in the Homeric simile.” [9]
In discussing the way ancient authors studied the simile, I suggest that the notion of situational analogy, which lies at the very heart of the Homeric simile, is closely associated with the creation of background images, on which the storyteller is able to “hang” various scenes of his narrative. I also emphasize the fact that these background images are presented as a coherent whole, which takes the form of a narrative snapshot that may be called “paratopic,” in the sense that it lies outside the space delineated by the main narrative. The principle underlying this approach is that what is familiar and easily recognized lends force and clarity to what is unknown and hard to visualize, and that narrative images pertaining to a scene and corresponding to individual background images are effectively recalled when they are “deposited” along a clear mental pathway, which the storyteller readily “tours” when performing the simile. In order to make this point clear, let us review the following evidence.
One of the most remarkable modern examples of strong memory recall is that reported by the neuropsychologist A. R. Luria, who studied the case of Solomon Venyaminovich Shereshevsky (1886–1958), a highly gifted man who became famous for his astounding feats of memory. Shereshevsky used Gorky Street in Moscow as a background framework on which to place images he wanted to recall. Shereshevsky devised a method that allowed him to walk mentally along Gorky Street and actually “see” in his mind the various images he had stored in different locations along it. This does not mean that the gifted mnemonist did not make mistakes. What is remarkable is that these mistakes resulted from “misplacing” certain images, storing them in the “wrong” locations, a problem he was able to solve “by inserting a streetlamp into his memorized scene for illumination or by adding in a contrasting background.” [10] The case of Shereshevsky is telling, for it allows us to verify the arguments presented above. Like the Homeric storyteller, this Russian mnemonist organized the various background images into a coherent whole by spatializing them, that is, positioning them in locations that were all placed along Gorky Street. The selection of Gorky Street is not very different from the setting of the Homeric similes in nature. As Gorky Street was a familiar place for Shereshevsky, so the natural background of the Homeric similes was well known to, and therefore easily visualized by the Homeric narrator. Likewise, as Gorky Street facilitated a mental tour by Shereshevsky, who could easily walk down it and encounter the various images he had deposited in front of or next to familiar background locations, so the Homeric storyteller can easily follow the constant movements of the subjects of his similes, who are constantly presented as performing some activity. Trypho’s formulations that “the simile is speech that refers to a similar thing and represents the subject while performing some activity [11] and “the simile is speech attempting to ‘make visible’ by means of similar and known things what exists in the mind” [12] find strong confirmation and ample support in the case of Shereshevsky.
It now becomes clear that for both Shereshevsky and the Homeric storyteller, space is the determining factor in the mental organization and retrieval of images. There is, though, one more point to be made, regarding the principle of analogy. As we have noted, Luria observed that Shereshevsky’s mistakes were due to “misplacement” of certain images, and that the famous mnemonist resorted to mechanisms of further “mental illumination” by creating a shining effect (street lamp) or a strong contrast. Let us review a Homeric simile that employs the same technique:
τῇ ῥά μιν οὖτα τυχών, διὰ δὲ χρόα καλὸν ἔδαψεν,
ἐκ δὲ δόρυ σπάσεν αὖτις. ὃ δ’ ἔβραχε χάλκεος Ἄρης,
ὅσσόν τ’ ἐννεάχειλοι ἐπίαχον ἢ δεκάχειλοι
ἀνέρες ἐν πολέμῳ ἔριδα ξυνάγοντες Ἄρηος.
τοὺς δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπὸ τρόμος εἷλεν Ἀχαιούς τε Τρῶάς τε
δείσαντας· τόσον ἔβραχ’ Ἄρης ἆτος πολέμοιο.
οἵη δ’ ἐκ νεφέων ἐρεβεννὴ φαίνεται ἀήρ
καύματος ἔξ, ἀνέμοιο δυσαέος ὀρνυμένοιο,
τοῖος Τυδείδῃ Διομήδεϊ χάλκεος Ἄρης
φαίνεθ’ ὁμοῦ νεφέεσσιν, ἰὼν εἰς οὐρανὸν εὐρύν.

Picking this place she stabbed and driving it deep in the fair flesh
wrenched the spear out again. Then Ares the brazen bellowed
with a sound as great as nine thousand men make, or ten thousand,
when they cry as they carry into the fighting the fury of the war god.
And a shivering seized hold alike on Achaians and Trojans
in their fear at the bellowing of battle-insatiate Ares.
As when out of the thunderhead the air shows darkening
after a day’s heat when the stormy wind uprises,
thus to Tydeus’ son Diomedes Ares the brazen
showed as he went up with the clouds into the wide heaven.
Iliad V 858–867
While Athena and Diomedes are unleashing a fierce attack against Ares, the god of war, Athena is presented as driving Diomedes’ bronze spear into the depth of Ares’ belly. It is at this moment that the narrator cannot visualize the situation clearly, for Ares is a god and so he cannot be killed. [13] Given that Ares has to escape, the storyteller has to create a familiar background, marked by a situational analogy with what Ares and Diomedes are facing. For this he uses two spatial mechanisms in succession: the bellowing of the god of war is like the bellowing of nine or ten thousand men, while Ares’ ascension to Olympos is presented by the illustrative analogy of the darkening of the sky “after a day’s heat when the stormy wind uprises.” [14] The storyteller is careful to tell his audience that this was how Diomedes saw Ares ascending to the sky, because this is the background image he has stored in his mind, watching the darkening sky after a warm day. The two successive similes correspond to two successive narrative scenes: they are organized by means of spatial mechanisms (sound and color), and both deal with different kinds of activity (shouting and ascending), thus bringing before the storyteller’s and the audience’s eyes “what exists in the mind” (τὸ νοούμενον). Moreover, in both similes the visual framework is characterized by the principle of absolute correspondence and pictorial economy: when the narrative space changes, then the simile space changes too. In other words, each narrative space corresponds to a single simile space. Ares’ ascent to Olympos pertains to a different spatial mechanism than his bellowing, and so a different spatial framework has to be employed.
Having discussed pictorial correspondence between unfamiliar and familiar images, I turn now to the use and function of visual units, the larger components of narrative scenes and similes, and visual frames, the smaller building blocks grouped together in the simile snapshots. A visual unit can be defined as a eusynoptic mental view of a narrative or simile scene that contains a coherent action by one or more subjects, with a beginning and an end. A visual frame is a subdivision of the visual unit, that is, the larger image collection that forms a coherent whole, be it a narrative scene or a simile. Visual frames do not emphasize segmentation, however, but are orchestrated into a coherent visual tableau that works “as a model for the integration of description and action.” [15] With this notion of visual frames, we have a truly eusynoptic view of a narrative or simile scene, that is, one that is easily taken in at a glance by the storyteller, [16] as it is by the internal spectator Diomedes, from one point of view and im selben Augenblick, to recall Zielinski’s apt expression. [17]
In the example above, the visual frames forming the narrative and the second simile are organized in correlated pairs (Table 6):
Table 6: Narrative-simile pairs in Iliad V
Target Domain Simile Marker Base Domain
(1) Agamemnon is Like fire
(2) the heads of the Trojans Like bushes
The darkening thunderhead after a day’s heat (οἵη δ’ ἐκ νεφέων ἐρεβεννὴ φαίνεται ἀήρ / καύματος ἔξ) constitutes the first “visual frame,” which matches the narrative’s correlated visual frame of Ares rising with the clouds into the wide heaven. The illustrative analogy is markedly expressed by almost full correspondence of all its constituent elements: the air that is compared to Ares bears such a close aural similarity (ἀήρ, Ἄρης) that it facilitates correlation; the “showing” (φαίνεται, φαίνεθ’) underscores the visual parallel between the moving air and Ares, the clouds (ἐκ νεφέων, ὁμοῦ νεφέεσσιν) function as a smaller orientation point that enhances the clarity of the suggested visualization, and finally the contrast between the darkening (ἐρεβεννή) of the air and the shining (χάλκεος) of Ares’ armor further reinforces the entire illustration.
In the second visual frame, the internal observer of Ares’ ascent to the sky is Diomedes, whereas the unstated observer of the scene in the simile is obviously the narrator (and also the audience). They are both able to capture the corresponding narrative and simile vistas with a single glance, in a truly eusynoptic way, as the simile’s inherent pictureability encourages an equivalent mental visualization of its correlated narrative scene. [18]
In the third visual frame, Ares’ ascent is compared with the rising wind. There are no smaller constituent parts here, as there were in the first visual frame. The key point is that the moving air in the simile widens the visual field of the mind’s eye and brings before it the action of Ares in the narrative. The moving landscape of the simile “ensures that the plot-image keeps moving” [19] as well, and that this movement is visualized with clarity and ease.
This system of visual frames confirms astute observations concerning the “art of memory” that were first explored by ancient authors. [20] In fact, visual frames allow the Homeric narrator to exploit at full length the two fundamental aspects of the process of mnemonic recall, both of which are subdivisions of the concept of space: namely the place system and the arrangement of places. As argued by both the Rhetorica ad Herennium (3.17–24) and by Cicero in On the Orator (354), association is enhanced not only by using the place system, but also by arranging the selected visual images in an orderly fashion. If the order of the localities corresponds to the order of things (as in the first visual frame of the simile discussed above), then the narrator will be able to move easily along his mental pathway and retrieve them, more or less as Quintilian’s speaker (Institutio oratoria 11.2.18–22), who moves in his memory within an imaginary building, visiting the various rooms and looking at the furniture and ornaments on which various images have been fixed. [21] It is now clear that visual frames are the building blocks of the visual snapshots encountered in the correlated narrative-simile pairs, and equally importantly that they are fundamentally spatial.
In this light, and drawing on both Minchin’s research on cognitive factors enhancing memorability and the pioneering work of Rubin on memory and oral traditions (such as epic, ballad, and counting-out rhymes), I argue that the storyteller uses homologous visual mappings for the space of narrative scenes and corresponding similes. This technique, which is clearly a result of the process of mnemonic association enhanced by spatial unity, and has been recognized in cognitive psychology as a powerful cue to recall, [22] has far-reaching consequences for the storyteller’s mode of performance or composition in performance.
This is not to suggest that recall is the only reason, or even the main reason, for the use of hundreds of extended similes in the Iliad. Besides enhancing memorability, [23] foregrounding, and informing, a full list of the similes’ multiple functions in the Homeric epics would include explaining and modeling, reconceptualizing, filling lexical gaps, expressing emotional attitude, decoration and hyperbole, cultivating intimacy, textual structuring, and extending the audience’s pleasure. [24] What is clearly significant, though, is that the spatial component of the similes is stronger than the spatial indicators of the battle narrative, and the similes are by far more frequent in the main narrative than in the speeches. By analyzing a representative number of extended similes in the Iliad and considering their spatial coordinates within their specific contexts, I will maintain that Gleichnisorte are organized with respect to narrative space. To be sure, the simile is called up in the process of visualizing the events of the narrative, but it is done on the basis of the visual space of the narrative, which is organized around whole visual units with their respective visual frames, the mental building blocks of similes. The correspondence is not one-to-one, but is based on the spatial representation of entire scenes or episodes.
A key aspect in understanding this process is the partial overlap between the common mental structure underlying every simile and its particularized expression, adapted to meet the contextual restrictions of a given scene. Taking a cue from Scott’s recent work on the Homeric similes, I suggest that we should distinguish between what he calls the simileme, that is, “the mental structure underlying each simile―in itself not fully expressible but composed of repeated actions and objects and alternative modes of expression, all of which have become associated through frequent usage” and the “individual simile [that] is the single poet’s particularized composition shaped by poet and audience.” [25] In fact, the nonverbal background of the simileme that Scott speaks about is profoundly pictorial. [26] It pertains to the deep structure of the simile, which has through frequent usage become part of the tradition’s (the poet’s and the audience’s) cultural memory. The regularity with which individual features appear in distinct families of similes in the Homeric epics is both impressive and suggestive. Given that their phrasing is not necessarily the same, it is perhaps advisable to recall that as there are clusters of meaning, there are also constellations of images, grouped together in the form of a mental gallery, shaped by “the lifeblood of generations of poems and performances.” [27] Returning to my point of departure, I would claim that the Homeric epics’ version of Shereshevsky’s Gorky Street is a metonymic pathway, stemming from the notion of traditional referentiality, and embracing a context far wider than that of the individual performance. The epic storyteller is able to recall, by means of traditional referentiality, not only foci of meaning but also clusters of background images.
This approach elucidates two widely recognized features of the Homeric simile: its limited use of formulas and its much more frequent occurrence in the main narrative than in the speeches. [28] As far as the low degree of formulaic repetition in the similes is concerned, it can be plausibly argued that it is because similes pertain to the recall of images rather than words—for which the place system we have described does not work effectively, as observed by both the author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium and Alexander Luria, who noticed that Shereshevsky had serious problems when challenged to recall words or whole passages of text. [29] With respect to the greater frequency of similes in the main narrative of the Iliad, [30] the limitation of most of the action to a single theater of activity  [31] is balanced by the wealth of locations that the system of similes can offer. [32]
I now turn my attention to how the narrator uses homologous visual mappings for the spaces of narrative scenes and corresponding similes, in four books of the Iliad (II, V, XI, and XVI). [33] First, I briefly discuss the thematic structure of each book; then I cite all the relevant passages and divide the book’s similes, based on their homologous visual mappings, into visual units comprising one or more similes; and last I explore the interaction between narrative and simile space, on the levels of both the larger visual units and the smaller visual frames. [34] My selection of these books of the Iliad is based both on the wealth of similes attested in each of them and on the fact that—scattered as they are over a large part of the epic—they offer a general outline of the developing plot.

Iliad II

Iliad II comprises two large narrative sections: (1) attempts to organize the Greek army (1–483) and (2) the Catalogue of Ships and the Catalogue of Trojans and their Allies (484–877). The main theme in this book is the challenge to Agamemnon’s leadership when he deliberately misinforms the army, with almost disastrous consequences that put the entire expedition in peril. The action unfolds around the area where the first and second Achaean councils take place, and then in the plain not far from the Achaean camp, as the troops march to battle.
Iliad II contains ten extended similes, [35] which are for the most part concentrated in the first narrative section (Iliad II 1–483), before the Catalogue of Ships, and are divided into two visual units, the first comprising the first and second Achaean councils, the second the army’s marching into battle. Simile subjects vary widely, but spatial mappings are rather limited, since they correspond to the specific locations presented in the equivalent narrative sections. In the second visual unit, most of the similes occur just before the important narrative juncture of the final marshaling of the troops before the Catalogue of Ships. This cluster will be discussed in detail after the analysis of the relevant visual units.
Visual unit 1
First Achaean council:
87–93: (N1) huts > seashore (ἀγορή) / (S1) rock > springtime flowers
144–146: (N2) seashore > huts / (S2) sea waves
147–149: (N3) seashore (ἀγορή) > ships / (S3) cornfield
Second Achaean council:
207–210: (N4) ships (ἀγορή) / (S4) seashore, πόντος
394–397: (N5) ἀγορή > ships / (S5) cliff jutting out (sea)
ἠΰτε ἔθνεα εἶσι μελισσάων ἁδινάων
πέτρης ἐκ γλαφυρῆς αἰεὶ νέον ἐρχομενάων,
βοτρυδὸν δὲ πέτονται ἐπ’ ἄνθεσιν εἰαρινοῖσιν·
αἳ μέν τ’ ἔνθα ἅλις πεποτήαται, αἳ δέ τε ἔνθα·
ὣς τῶν ἔθνεα πολλὰ νεῶν ἄπο καὶ κλισιάων
ἠϊόνος προπάροιθε βαθείης ἐστιχόωντο
ἰλαδὸν εἰς ἀγορήν·

Like the swarms of clustering bees that issue forever
in fresh bursts from the hollow in the stone, and hang like
bunched grapes as they hover beneath the flowers in springtime
fluttering in swarms together this way and that way,
so the many nations of men from the ships and the shelters
along the front of the deep sea beach marched in order
by companies to the assembly …
Iliad II 87–93
κινήθη δ’ ἀγορὴ φὴ κύματα μακρὰ θαλάσσης.
πόντου Ἰκαρίοιο· τὰ μέν τ’ Εὖρός τε Νότος τε
ὤρορ’ ἐπαΐξας πατρὸς Διὸς ἐκ νεφελάων.

And the assembly was shaken as on the sea the big waves
in the main by Ikaria, when the south and south-east winds
driving down from the clouds of Zeus the father whip them.
Iliad II 144–146
ὡς δ’ ὅτε κινήσῃ Ζέφυρος βαθὺ λήϊον ἐλθών,
λάβρος ἐπαιγίζων, ἐπί τ’ ἠμύει ἀσταχύεσσιν,
ὣς τῶν πᾶσ’ ἀγορὴ κινήθη· …

As when the west wind moves across the grain deep standing,
boisterously, and shakes and sweeps it till the tassels lean, so
all of that assembly was shaken, …
Iliad II 147–149
ὣς ὅ γε κοιρανέων δίεπε στρατόν· οἳ δ’ ἀγορήνδε
αὖτις ἐπεσσεύοντο νεῶν ἄπο καὶ κλισιάων
ἠχῇ, ὡς ὅτε κῦμα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
αἰγιαλῷ μεγάλα βρέμεται, σμαραγεῖ δέ τε πόντος.

So he went through the army marshalling it, until once more
they swept back into the assembly place from the ships and the shelters
clamorously, as when from the thunderous sea the surf-beat
crashes loudly [36] upon the beach, and the whole sea is in tumult.
Iliad II 207–210
ὣς ἔφατ’, Ἀργεῖοι δὲ μέγ’ ἴαχον, ὡς ὅτε κῦμα
ἀκτῇ ἔφ’ ὑψηλῇ, ὅτε κινήσῃ Νότος ἐλθών,
προβλῆτι σκοπέλῳ· τὸν δ’ οὔ ποτε κύματα λείπει
παντοίων ἀνέμων, ὅτ’ ἂν ἔνθ’ ἠ’ ἔνθα γένωνται.

So he spoke, and the Argives shouted aloud, as surf crashing
against a sheer ness, driven by the south wind descending,
some cliff out-jutting, left never alone by the waves from
all the winds that blow, as they rise one place and another.
Iliad II 394–397
In visual unit 1, the movement of the kings and troops who leave their ships and huts and gather at the seashore (II 92 ἠϊόνος προπάροιθε βαθείης) is illustrated by bees flying from a hollow rock (88 πέτρης ἐκ γλαφυρῆς) to the springtime flowers (89 ἐπ’ ἄνθεσιν εἰαρινοῖσιν). When the meeting is over and both kings and troops return to their ships, the narrator employs two successive similes, which share the same simileme by their pictorial association of wind and waves. [37] Although the visual spaces of sea and cornfield are different, they are linked through the blowing wind that makes the waves rise and the ears of grain bob. The same associative principle is employed for the second Achaean council: the movement of the troops to their meeting place by the seashore is illustrated by the simile of the roaring waves of the sea, and the army’s noisy return to their ships and huts is presented as a wave against a high cliff (394–397). Although there is no “base” form for all these similes, as Scott observes, [38] I maintain that quite a different principle explains their selection by the storyteller: namely size. The multitude of bees (87 μελισσάων ἁδινάων), the long sea waves (144 κύματα μακρὰ θαλάσσης), the depth of the field of grain (147 βαθὺ λήϊον), the wave of the much-sounding sea (209 κῦμα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης), and the wave against a high cliff (394–395 κῦμα / ἀκτῇ ἔφ’ ὑψηλῇ) do not belong to the same simile family, but share the same simileme. This is the guiding principle in the selection of familiar mental images by the narrator, who organizes this pictorial material on the basis of homologous spatial mappings. As long as the narrative scene he is describing is located at a given spot, the space delineated by the simile does not change: when the space where the troops are placed shifts, then different spatial coordinates are “summoned” within the simile space. The use of the same simileme (size) becomes the mental pathway that allows the storyteller to correlate narrative and simile space, while particular visual frames help him reinforce these associations. The designation of both the bees and the troops as ἔθνεα ‘swarms’ (87) and ‘nations’ (91), and the emphasis on sound in both narrative and simile (209 ἠχῇ and 210 αἰγιαλῷ μεγάλα βρέμεται, σμαραγεῖ δέ τε πόντος) when the second meeting begins, constitute effective visual frames. The tremendous visual force of spatial mappings is best seen in the very last of the similes in this first visual unit. The simile in 394–397 is anticipated in the narrative by the impression that this comparison will be based on sound (394 Ἀργεῖοι δὲ μέγ’ ἴαχον). [39] After the simile, though, the narrative goes on to emphasize the troops’ being scattered among the ships. Surprisingly, in the simile itself “the only support for the scattering of the Greeks is the winds that blow ‘from this side and that.’” [40] In my view, this is a key example of the impact of space on the organization and presentation of simile material. The storyteller began his narrative, after the end of Agamemnon’s speech (370–393), with the approbation of the Argive troops, which he attempted to illustrate through an extended simile. Such was the influence of the spatial mappings of the previous similes, within the same visual unit and along the lines of the same simileme (size), that the comparison that started with an emphasis on sound, with the simile of “a wave,” [41] soon turned into the illustrative analogy of “a wave and a wind,” which owing to its “false” start did not materialize properly. This visual spilling over of space due to the impact of simileme-reinforced pictorial illustrations “corrects” the double focus of the simile in the narrative by a process of visual and spatial contextualization: [42] the audience can easily interpret this narrative-simile cluster. [43]
Let us now turn our attention to the second visual unit:
Visual unit 2
455–458: (N1) plain (distance) / (S1) mountains > air
ἠΰτε πῦρ ἀΐδηλον ἐπιφλέγει ἄσπετον ὕλην
οὔρεος ἐν κορυφῇς, ἕκαθεν δέ τε φαίνεται αὐγή,
ὣς τῶν ἐρχομένων ἀπὸ χαλκοῦ θεσπεσίοιο
αἴγλη παμφανόωσα δι’ αἰθέρος οὐρανὸν ἷκεν.

As obliterating fire lights up a vast forest
along the crests of the mountain, and the flare shows far off,
so as they marched, from the magnificent bronze the gleam went
dazzling all about through the upper air to the heaven.
Iliad II 455–458
τῶν δ’, ὥς τ’ ὀρνίθων πετεηνῶν ἔθνεα πολλά,
χηνῶν ἢ γεράνων ἢ κύκνων δουλιχοδείρων,
Ἀσίω(ι) ἐν λειμῶνι Καϋστρίου ἀμφὶ ῥέεθρα
ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα ποτῶνται ἀγαλλόμενα πτερύγεσσιν,
κλαγγηδὸν προκαθιζόντων, σμαραγεῖ δέ τε λειμών,
ὣς τῶν ἔθνεα πολλὰ νεῶν ἄπο καὶ κλισιάων
ἐς πεδίον προχέοντο Σκαμάνδριον· αὐτὰρ ὑπὸ χθών
σμερδαλέον κονάβιζε ποδῶν αὐτῶν τε καὶ ἵππων.

These, as the multitudinous nations of birds winged,
of geese, and of cranes, and of swans long-throated
in the Asian meadow beside the Kaÿstrian waters
this way and that way make their flights in the pride of their wings, then
settle in clashing swarms and the whole meadow echoes with them,
so of these the multitudinous tribes from the ships and
shelters poured to the plain of Skamandros, and the earth beneath their
feet and under the feet of their horses thundered horribly.
Iliad II 459–466
ἠΰτε μυιάων ἁδινάων ἔθνεα πολλά,
αἵ τε κατὰ σταθμὸν ποιμνήϊον ἠλάσκουσιν
ὥρῃ ἐν εἰαρινῇ, ὅτε τε γλάγος ἄγγεα δεύει,
τόσσοι ἐπὶ Τρώεσσι κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί
ἐν πεδίῳ ἵσταντο, διαρραῖσαι μεμαῶτες.

Like the multitudinous nations of swarming insects
who drive hither and thither about the stalls of the sheepfold
in the season of spring when the milk splashes in the milk pails:
in such numbers the flowing-haired Achaians stood up
through the plain against the Trojans, hearts burning to break them.
Iliad II 469–473
τοὺς δ’, ὥς τ’ αἰπόλια πλατέ’ αἰγῶν αἰπόλοι ἄνδρες
ῥεῖα διακρίνωσιν, ἐπεί κε νομῷ μιγέωσιν,
ὣς τοὺς ἡγεμόνες διεκόσμεον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα
ὑσμίνηνδ’ ἰέναι …

These, as men who are goatherds among the wide goatflocks
easily separate them in order as they take to the pasture,
thus the leaders separated them in this way and that way
toward the encounter …
Iliad II 474–477
ἠΰτε βοῦς ἀγέληφι μέγ’ ἔξοχος ἔπλετο πάντων
ταῦρος, ὃ γάρ τε βόεσσι μεταπρέπει ἀγρομένῃσιν,
τοῖον ἄρ’ Ἀτρείδην θῆκε Ζεὺς ἤματι κείνῳ,
ἐκπρεπέ’ ἐν πολλοῖσι καὶ ἔξοχον ἡρώεσσιν.

like some ox of the herd pre-eminent among the others,
a bull, who stands conspicuous in the huddling cattle;
such was the son of Atreus as Zeus made him that day,
conspicuous among men, and foremost among the fighters.
Iliad II 480–483
οἳ δ’ ἄρ’ ἴσαν ὡς εἴ τε πυρὶ χθὼν πᾶσα νέμοιτο,
γαῖα δ’ ὑπεστονάχιζε Διὶ ὣς τερπικεραύνῳ
χωομένῳ, ὅτε τ’ ἀμφὶ Τυφωέϊ γαῖαν ἱμάσσῃ
εἰν Ἀρίμοις, ὅθι φασὶ Τυφωέος ἔμμεναι εὐνάς.
ὣς ἄρα τῶν ὑπὸ ποσσὶ μέγα στοναχίζετο γαῖα
ἐρχομένων· μάλα δ’ ὦκα διέπρησσον πεδίοιο.

But the rest went forward, as if all the earth with flame were eaten,
and the ground echoed under them, as if Zeus who delights in thunder
were angry, as when he batters the earth about Typhoeus,
in the land of the Arimoi, where they say Typhoeus lies prostrate.
Thus beneath their feet the ground re-echoed loudly
to men marching, who made their way through the plain in great speed.
Iliad II 780–785
The second visual unit, consisting of six similes and their corresponding narrative contexts, is visually localized through nature (mountains, pasturelands) and the plain of Troy. The narrator mentally takes six distinct snapshots in the course of the fighting, and enhances his recall and the audience’s visualization of them by grouping an equal number of similes on the basis of their spatial placement.
Of these six extended similes, the first five are presented successively, just before the beginning of the second part of Iliad II, the famous Catalogue of Ships, followed by the smaller Catalogue of the Trojans and their Allies. I will discuss first the thorny question regarding the narrator’s decision to use a cluster of similes, and second the role of “transitional” similes attached to two of this cluster’s extended similes. I will then go on to explore the function of the similes in this visual unit as a whole.
The question concerning this larger clustering of similes in the entire Iliad is closely linked to both larger narrative issues, such as the placing of extended similes at cardinal points of the plot, [44] and cognitive aspects of image organization and recall. The clustering of extended similes, which is characterized by the storyteller’s attempt to offer multiple image-mappings of basically the same narrative scene (the marshaling of the Achaean troops), shows that there was some strongly felt need for such a grand undertaking. [45] The narrator wanted to make it clear that the impending Catalogue of Ships was a major watershed for his epic, a large-scale presentation of the Achaean army in all its splendor and grandeur; as Scott has neatly put it, “this display of the Greek forces provides a moment of order from which the maelstrom of the Iliad will be generated; only in book 23 will the characters of the Greek heroic world be regathered.” [46] The storyteller was well aware that the strong pictorial input of a series of extended similes would have marked this moment as of key importance, and make his audience focus even greater attention on the ensuing narrative section. Along the same lines, this magisterial “parade” of images, impressive as it is by itself, would have somehow balanced the long and perhaps monotonous “parade” of Achaean forces that is to follow. The rather colorless Catalogue of Ships would thus be “prefaced” by a cornucopia of mental pictures that captivate the imagination. Aesthetic considerations of this kind may have been coupled, on the narrator’s part, with his attempt to offer a background against which he wished his listeners to conceptualize the Catalogue of Ships. The similes’ inherent pictureability would have helped put the Catalogue into the “right” perspective. The pictorial wealth of the similes, referring to multiple scenes of the natural world, is an excellent way of dynamically interpreting the illustrative analogy to the Catalogue that the storyteller is suggesting: the gathering of the Achaean army at Troy and its marshaling is silently compared to the behavior of a large part of the natural world, presented not in its menacing aspect—as it is often with simile families pertaining to fire, birds, and pasture—but as harmonious cooperation. [47]
I have decided to treat separately the two similes of the troops that are as numerous as leaves or springtime flowers and of Agamemnon, whose appearance is compared to that of Zeus, Ares, and Poseidon, because they are “transitional” similes, attached to two of the extended similes of this cluster in order to facilitate the mental leap to the next narrative-simile pair. The term transitional describes extended similes that are not fully developed according to the typical structure of the Homeric simile and are used as “bridging” devices within a cluster of similes. [48] A closer look at these two similes shows that they both lack the standard expansive relative clause that turns the initial comparative statement into a brief pictorial snapshot. In 467–468 ἔσταν δ’ ἐν λειμῶνι Σκαμανδρίῳ ἀνθεμόεντι / μυρίοι, ὅσσά τε φύλλα καὶ ἄνθεα γίνεται ὥρῃ, [49] the initial “anaphoric” ὅσσα clause is never developed by the accumulation of other anaphoric expansions, paratactically juxtaposed according to common simile practice, but is abruptly replaced by another extended simile. Likewise in 477–479 μετὰ δὲ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων, / ὄμματα καὶ κεφαλὴν ἴκελος Διὶ τερπικεραύνῳ, / Ἄρεϊ δὲ ζώνην, στέρνον δὲ Ποσειδάωνι, [50] Agamemnon’s anatomical comparison to three different gods is carried out by the typical means of a brief comparison (ἴκελος + dative). Both these similes are attached to their simile contexts: in 467–468 the expressions ἐν λειμῶνι Σκαμανδρίῳ and γίνεται ὥρῃ look toward the previous and the following similes respectively, where similar expressions are used (465 ἐς πεδίον προχέοντο Σκαμάνδριον and 471 ὥρῃ ἐν εἰαρινῇ), and in 477–479 the highlighting of Agamemnon’s preeminence among the other ἡγεμόνες that is expressed rather implicitly (477 μετὰ δὲ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων) becomes explicitly and emphatically stated in the following simile (481 μεταπρέπει). Considering that the role of these two similes is to aid the transition from one narrative-simile pair to another, let us dwell for a moment on the mental process that determined the storyteller’s choice. Put differently, why did the narrator use these “undeveloped” similes instead of other extended ones? The answer to this question can only be of a cognitive nature, that is, his choice was determined by mental factors of image organization and recall. During the performance of the extended simile in 459–466, the spatial designation ἐς πεδίον προχέοντο Σκαμάνδριον (465), further reinforced by its creeping up toward the end of the simile, created a “pictorial response,” a visual saut du même au même, to use an expression from the field of textual criticism. The force of the spatial designation of Skamandros was doubled by a new image that the narrator began to develop in his mind’s eye. By the time he started to visualize the new simile, though, the storyteller happened to employ familiar images that activated other, stronger simile families, like the “insect” similes. In particular, visualizing the meadow of Skamandros as “full of flowers” (ἀνθεμόεντι) triggered the simile of “leaves and flowers” (φύλλα καὶ ἄνθεα), which evoked in its turn the stronger simile family of insects (μυιάων ἁδινάων). We can even trace certain aural by-products of this process of “visual rebounding,” like the reverse alliteration of the cluster νθ/θν in ἀνθεμόεντι, ἄνθεα/ἔθνεα. Through a similar process, as soon as the pastoral simile in 477–479 was completed, the narrator added Agamemnon to the concluding “deictic” part (476–477 ὣς τοὺς ἡγεμόνες διεκόσμεον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα / ὑσμίνηνδ’ ἰέναι). In this case two factors determined the final result: First, the pressure exercised by the clustering of similes, and in particular of the two previous pastoral similes which directed the storyteller’s mind toward a new pastoral simile, centered on the figure of Agamemnon. This was a rather expected outcome, for the great king of Mycenae had been dictionally fossilized in epic idiom by the formula ποιμὴν λαῶν ‘shepherd of the people’, and in this respect it was only natural for him to be described as such visually as well, just before the presentation of the Achaean forces in toto, among whom he was preeminent. Second, his brief anatomical comparison to three different gods, which was nontraditional and rather innovative (there is no other example in Homer), had few chances to be expanded within the pictorial series of these concatenated pastoral similes. It may have been created by the narrator’s effort to help his audience mentally see Agamemnon among the multitude of warriors marching to battle. Such were the crowds of men on the battlefield that the narrator had to resort to a handy epic mechanism for allowing his audience to visualize Agamemnon: a “disguised” epiphany, the sudden impressive appearance of a god to mortal men. [51] Agamemnon’s anatomical assimilation to three different gods through the accumulation of familiar mental images was an eye-catching technique that distinguished the king of Mycenae from the other warriors. It was destined to be short-lived, however, for the force of the pastoral similes’ imagery was soon to take over.
Apart from its relevance to the following scene, a cluster of extended similes belonging to the same visual unit and marked by their built-in pictorial abundance would have created extremely strong background images for visualizing the marshaling of the troops from multiple angles. As we will see, the narrator aimed to offer his audience a visualization of the gathering of Achaean forces that was as complete as possible. To this end, he accumulated similes whose spatial aspect let him visualize the marshaling of the troops from different points of view. In particular, we will see how the concatenation of simile space was made possible in his mind by means of pictorial dovetailing, mentally selecting each simile on the grounds of a spatial aspect highlighted in the previous narrative-simile pair. In fact, the two transitional similes I have analyzed above serve exactly this purpose, each one functioning as a bridge that enables the visual crossing from one narrative-simile pair to the next.
A careful reading of this scene shows that the storyteller’s eye follows the marshaling of the army in various steps, and gradually zooms in. He visualizes the army as it moves to the plain and takes its fighting position, dividing this process into various steps, each of which he mentally illustrates by means of the homologous visual mappings of concatenated similes. In particular, he first watches the troops moving from a distance; at this point he can see only the gleaming of their bronze armor, which he visualizes through the simile of the fire blazing on mountain peaks and rising to the sky. Although the fire similes depict fire as destructive, the expression “destructive fire” (455 πῦρ ἀΐδηλον) is not activated, and the fire’s menacing aspect is left unexplored. [52] This weakening or deactivation of the simileme allows us to glimpse the narrator at work, as he visually recontextualizes his simile subject matter. We can also see how he lets himself be guided by his simile’s strong spatial coordinates: the gleam going up and “dazzling all about through the upper air to the heaven,” which is the last visual frame of the first simile, evokes another visual frame in the beginning of the second simile that is marked by a homologous image-mapping: the spatial aspect of height triggers the image of the birds flying noisily this way and that above the meadow of Kaüstros. This is not to say that the storyteller did not plan on depicting the second phase of the army’s marshaling as the Achaean troops flood the plain of Skamandros, but the particular visualization of this phase is effected by an initial mental cue given by the last, spatially oriented visual frame of the previous simile. This pictorial dovetailing goes on, since the storyteller, who next sees the numerous warriors standing close to one another, employs the illustrative analogy of the numerous flies. Here, the spatial aspect denoted by the flying birds in the previous simile, particularized by the reference to springtime in the transitional simile of lines 467–468, has been visually combined in the extended simile of the flies “who drive hither and thither about the stalls of the sheepfold / in the season of spring when the milk splashes in the milk pails.” The introduction of a pastoral simile belonging to an extremely strong simile family generates a series of three successive extended similes, based on specific visual frames of a clearly spatial nature. In particular, visualizing the troops as they now take their fighting positions presupposes a mental “zooming in,” since the troops no longer move but stand still in the plain. Therefore, the pastoral simile of the goatherds separating and sorting the herd is based on the same visual frame of pastoral life. A further zooming in is then possible, by selecting a single hero among the Achaean leaders, who like the goatherds tries to place the troops in the right positions. By focusing on Agamemnon “standing conspicuous among men,” the narrator can visualize further details of the larger scene he has mentally pictured. The widely represented simile family of pastoral life is presented no longer in a menacing framework (with some carnivorous predator attacking helpless sheep or cattle), but through the dominating presence of a single animal, the bull, whose prominence among the rest of the cattle effectively brings before the audience’s eyes Agamemnon standing out among the troops.
I have used the term pictorial dovetailing to describe the process of concatenating visually interlocked simile images through spatially oriented enmeshing. The impressive simile cluster in Iliad II is telling, since it shows how important space is as a mental cue for image recall and organization of narrative-simile pairs in narrative junctures placed at turning-points of the plot. Within the system of epic song, memorization and traditionality go hand in hand with innovation and originality, to such an extent that Lord’s saying that “the singer is the tradition”—with all its flexibility and rigor, one might add—acquires its true meaning.
Despite being separated from the cluster of similes discussed above, the last extended simile, in Iliad II 780–785, still falls within the same visual unit as the previous ones in lines 455–483. The narrator has kept in his mind several spatial features, such as the blazing fire and the loud echoing of the earth, that occur in different similes but belong to the same long simile cluster before the Catalogue of Ships. This time, though, when the battle is about to begin, the recalled spatial features of the earth as well as noise acquire their traditional menacing role. The majestic grandeur of the whole scene is further reinforced by the visualization of a mythical event, the fighting between Zeus and Typhoeus after the Titanomachy. Although the mythical reference weakens the pictorial openness of the simile by attaching it to a specific “event,” the mechanism of spatial association through homologous visual mappings between narrative and simile still works. When leaving the register of catalogic poetry to come back to that of narrative poetry, the storyteller returns to the same spatial coordinates, facilitating recall and allowing him to remember where he left off when he began to sing the Catalogue of Ships.

Iliad V

Iliad V comprises four thematic sections:
1–165: Diomedes’ entering battle and killing of Trojans
166–459: his episode with Aineias and Aphrodite
460–710: the intervention of Ares, who regroups the Trojan troops
711–909: Diomedes’ wounding of Ares by means of Athena’s and Hera’s help
Iliad V contains twelve extended similes, mentally organized in seven visual units, which are unequally distributed in these four thematic sections. Most of the similes refer, quite understandably, to Diomedes, who prevails by means of his truly extraordinary military exploits. Most of these visual snapshots allow the storyteller to place Diomedes’ activity in space, whereas the rest enable him to mnemonically “locate” several phases or incidents that have different protagonists. Space, therefore, becomes a means by which the general theme “Diomedes excels in battle” is mentally visualized by narrator and audience alike. Iliad V has been called a “fragile mixing of unmixable locales and characters,” [53] which focuses on the ineffectiveness of Diomedes’ ἀριστεία and his fighting against the gods. In the following analysis, I will deal with the way the storyteller employs the spatial mappings of a number of extended similes with respect to these two main themes, in his effort to view the protagonist’s action as belonging to a single trajectory and to create a continuous action space.
Visual unit 1
5–8: (N1) Diomedes’ first entrance on the battlefield / (S1) shining star rising from the ocean
87–94: (N2) Diomedes’ second entrance on the battlefield / (S2) strong-compacted dikes and mounded banks of blossoming vineyards
136–143: (N3) Diomedes’ third entrance on the battlefield / (S3) wild lands, fence of the fold, sheep pens, deep yard
161–165: (N4) two Trojans in a chariot / (S4) wooded places
ἀστέρ’ ὀπωρινῷ ἐναλίγκιον, ὅς τε μάλιστα
λαμπρὸν παμφαίνῃσι λελουμένος Ὠκεανοῖο.
τοῖόν οἱ πῦρ δαῖεν ἀπὸ κρατός τε καὶ ὤμων,
ὦρσε δέ μιν κατὰ μέσσον, ὅθι πλεῖστοι κλονέοντο.

like that star of the waning summer who beyond all stars
rises bathed in the ocean stream to glitter in brilliance.
Such was the fire she made blaze from his head and his shoulders
and urged him into the middle fighting, where most were struggling.
Iliad V 5–8
θῦνε γὰρ ἂμ πεδίον ποταμῷ πλήθοντι ἐοικώς
χειμάρρῳ, ὅς τ’ ὦκα ῥέων ἐκέδασσε γεφύρας,
τὸν δ’ οὔτ’ ἄρ τε γέφυραι ἐεργμέναι ἰσχανόωσιν
οὔτ’ ἄρα ἕρκεα ἴσχει ἀλωάων ἐριθηλέων
ἐλθόντ’ ἐξαπίνης, ὅτ’ ἐπιβρίσῃ Διὸς ὄμβρος,
πολλὰ δ’ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἔργα κατήριπε κάλ’ αἰζηῶν·
ὣς ὑπὸ Τυδείδῃ πυκιναὶ κλονέοντο φάλαγγες
Τρώων, οὐδ’ ἄρα μιν μίμνον πολέες περ ἐόντες.

since he went storming up the plain like a winter-swollen
river in spate that scatters the dikes in its running current,
one that the strong-compacted dikes can contain no longer,
neither the mounded banks of the blossoming vineyards hold it
rising suddenly as Zeus’ rain makes heavy the water
and many lovely works of the young men crumble beneath it.
Like these the massed battalions of the Trojans were scattered
by Tydeus’ son, and many as they were could not stand against him.
Iliad V 87–94
δὴ τότε μιν τρὶς τόσσον ἕλεν μένος, ὥς τε λέοντα,
ὃν ῥά τε ποιμὴν ἀγρῷ ἐπ’ εἰροπόκοις ὀΐεσσιν
χραύσῃ μέν τ’ αὐλῆς ὑπεράλμενον, οὐδὲ δαμάσσῃ·
τοῦ μέν τε σθένος ὦρσεν, ἔπειτα δέ τ’ οὐ προσαμύνει,
ἀλλὰ κατὰ σταθμοὺς δύεται, τὰ δ’ ἐρῆμα φοβεῖται·
αἳ μέν τ’ ἀγχηστῖναι ἐπ’ ἀλλήλῃσι κέχυνται,
αὐτὰρ ὃ ἐμμεμαὼς βαθέης ἐξάλλεται αὐλῆς·
ὣς μεμαὼς Τρώεσσι μίγη κρατερὸς Διομήδης.

Now the strong rage tripled took hold of him, as of a lion
whom the shepherd among his fleecy flocks in the wild lands
grazed as he leapt the fence of the fold, but has not killed him,
but only stirred the lion’s strength, and can no more fight him
off, but hides in the steading, and the frightened sheep are forsaken,
and these are piled pell-mell on each other in heaps, while the lion
raging still leaps out again over the fence of the deep yard;
such was the rage of strong Diomedes as he closed upon the Trojans.
Iliad V 136–143
ὡς δὲ λέων ἐν βουσὶ θορὼν ἐξ αὐχένα ἄξῃ
πόρτιος ἠὲ βοός, ξύλοχον κάτα βοσκομενάων,
ὣς τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους ἐξ ἵππων Τυδέος υἱός
βῆσε κακῶς ἀέκοντας, ἔπειτα δὲ τεύχε’ ἐσύλα,
ἵππους δ’ οἷς ἑτάροισι δίδου μετὰ νῆας ἐλαύνειν.

As among cattle a lion leaps on the neck of an ox or
heifer, that grazes among the wooden places, and breaks it,
so the son of Tydeus hurled both from their horses
hatefully, in spite of their struggles, then stripped their armour
and gave the horses to his company to drive to their vessels.
Iliad V 161–165
Iliad V begins with an impressive presentation of its protagonist, [54] Diomedes, who is visually singled out by being compared to a star of the waning summer or early autumn that “rises bathed in the ocean stream to glitter in brilliance” (6). In his mind’s eye, the narrator sees Diomedes entering battle for the first time by means of a blaze of fire rising from his head and shoulders. The simileme of the shining star is particularly apt for visualizing Diomedes, since it is accompanied by a short but effective visual frame of the ocean, which renders the rising star mentally clearer since it presents it as a single object against the backdrop of a massive amount of water. To put it a different way, the star is not visualized as a separate entity, but is “tagged” to a location of an impressive size. Perceiving a single very bright object against a larger background enhances visualization and memorability. [55] Iliad V thus begins with a clear look at Diomedes, moving toward the enemy troops. To visualize him penetrating the Trojan phalanxes two more times, [56] the storyteller employs two extended similes, while one more simile brings the whole scene to a close. [57] He does not change visual units, but organizes his material in successive phases, each of which is mentally mapped to an equivalent simile space. In particular, Diomedes’ second violent assault on the Trojans is compared to a “winter-swollen river” that destroys the “strong-compacted dikes” and “mounded banks” of the vineyards which can hold it no longer. The visual frame of the rain “making heavy the water” particularizes this rather common simileme, and adds force to the mental picture of the Trojan troops’ scattering hither and thither as Diomedes unleashes his fierce attack. [58] The third extended simile depicts Diomedes as a lion entering the pens where the sheep are kept. The shepherd cannot stop it, and the sheep in utmost fear “are piled pell-mell on each other in heaps, while the lion / raging still leaps out again over the fence of the deep yard.” Although the spatial coordinates of the simile and the deep structure of the simileme are the same—they represent the impressive, unstoppable, and destructive activity of a physical phenomenon or animal—individual spatial frames create variation. Whereas in the previous simile the dikes and mounded banks of the vineyards are destroyed, here the sheep are heaped one upon the other. The shift of visual frames not only in theme but also in function is illustratively analogous to the activity of the Trojans, who are scattered and grouped together in the equivalent narrative units. [59] The fourth extended simile brings this initial visual unit to an end, as the narrative lens zooms in on Ekhemmon and Khromios, the sons of Priam, who are driving their chariot. Diomedes, who “hurls them from their horses,” [60] is compared to a lion jumping on “the neck of an ox or heifer that grazes among the wooden places.” [61] The storyteller’s mind still holds the picture of wild nature, where a ferocious carnivore makes his attack against powerless animals. By zooming in on a particular spot on the battlefield, he creates a visual analog that can only have the same spatial characteristics as the previous simile, since the narrative space has not changed.
We see here the importance of imagery in organizing and processing the material of separate narrative incidents. [62] To increase recall and visualize the action, the oral poet employs background information rich in pictorial features. Diomedes, who will be the book’s protagonist, looms large in this initial visual unit of Iliad V. His aggressive attack on the Trojans and killing of various second-rank opponents is organized by a process of narrative segmentation, in which each of his three successive attacks is mentally tied to an extended simile, whose spatial features allow the storyteller to create strong mental links with his protagonist’s different narrative snapshots. As long as Diomedes’ narrative space remains the same, the narrator uses homologous simile space for material recall and visual clarity. When the storyteller decides to shift to a different scene, he employs an extended simile with analogous spatial coordinates to indicate completion (161–164). One of the oral poet’s principal aims in Iliad V is to view the protagonist’s action as belonging to a single trajectory and create a continuous action space. The spatial function of the similes facilitates this effect, because similes constitute high-imagery spatial units that require more visual imagery on the part of the narrator and audience than do the low-imagery visual units of narrative. [63] The similes thus become a series of spatial links, creating through high-density imagery a single path on which the activity of Diomedes can be placed. Thus by the time this visual unit is completed and the narrator breaks off, the similes with their vivid visual imagery and the powerful pictureability that has so vividly highlighted the exploits of Diomedes have created high expectations for the action: the audience is invited to believe that something really great will come out of Diomedes’ outstanding military performance. We shall now see how the listeners’ horizon of expectations will be further broadened by the introduction of a new theme, Diomedes’ fighting against the gods.
Section 2 (Iliad V 166–459) lacks extended similes, for Diomedes, who is still the protagonist, does not change location. The narrator does not need new image-mappings in order to visualize his leading character’s further exploits against Pandaros, Aineias, and Aphrodite. Conversely, in section 3, where new scenes with protagonists other than Diomedes are introduced (Sarpedon and Hektor, the Ajaxes, Odysseus, and Diomedes defending the Achaean troops) the storyteller uses the spatial mapping of similes as a backdrop against which he can mentally locate and visualize the new action. The final simile of this section, with Diomedes drawing back on Ares, functions as a bridge that allows the narrator to return mentally to where he left Diomedes, for he will be the great protagonist of the book’s fourth and final section.
The third part of Iliad V (460–710) includes four extended similes distributed among three visual units, the first containing two similes and the other two one each. Distribution of similes over a wide range of visual units shows a low level of dramatization of the plot, for segmentation and visual “bricolage” unavoidably diminish cohesion and leave little, if any, room for character exploitation. The narrator is at pains to create cohesion in a scene whose only central theme is Ares’ intervention and rallying of the Trojans.
Visual unit 2
499–505: (N1) Achaeans standing firm against Trojan counterattack / (S1) whitening of heaps of chaff blown by the wind
522–527: (N2) Ajaxes, Odysseus, and Diomedes standing firm against Trojan counterattack / (S2) clouds heaping up above the mountaintops
ὡς δ’ ἄνεμος ἄχνας φορέῃ ἱερὰς κατ’ ἀλωάς
ἀνδρῶν λικμώντων, ὅτε τε ξανθὴ Δημήτηρ
κρίνῃ ἐπειγομένων ἀνέμων καρπόν τε καὶ ἄχνας,
αἳ δ’ ὑπολευκαίνονται ἀχυρμιαί, ὣς τότ’ Ἀχαιοί
λευκοὶ ὕπερθε γένοντο κονισάλῳ, ὅν ῥα δι’ αὐτῶν
οὐρανὸν ἐς πολύχαλκον ἐπέπληγον πόδες ἵππων
ἂψ ἐπιμισγομένων· ὑπὸ δ’ ἔστρεφον ἡνιοχῆες.

As when along the hallowed threshing floors the wind scatters
chaff, among men winnowing, and fair-haired Demeter
in the leaning wind discriminates the chaff and the true grain
and the piling chaff whitens beneath it, so now the Achaians
turned white underneath the dust the feet of the horses
drove far into the brazen sky across their faces
as they rapidly closed and the charioteers wheeled back again.
Iliad V 499–505
ἀλλ’ ἔμενον, νεφέλῃσιν ἐοικότες, ἅς τε Κρονίων
νηνεμίης ἔστησεν ἐπ’ ἀκροπόλοισιν ὄρεσσιν
ἀτρέμας, ὄφρ’ εὕδῃσι μένος Βορέαο καὶ ἄλλων
ζαχρειῶν ἀνέμων, οἵ τε νέφεα σκιόεντα
πνοιῇσιν λιγυρῇσι διασκιδνᾶσιν ἀέντες·
ὣς Δαναοὶ Τρῶας μένον ἔμπεδον οὐδ’ἐφέβοντο.

but stayed where they were, like clouds, which the son of Kronos
stops in the windless weather on the heights of the towering mountains,
motionless, when the strength of the north wind sleeps, and the other
tearing winds, those winds that when they blow into tempests
high screaming descend upon the darkening clouds and scatter them.
So the Danaans stood steady against the Trojans, nor gave way.
Iliad V 522–527
Ares’ entry on the battlefield after Aphrodite is wounded creates high expectations for the Trojans, since the god of war rallies them and prepares a fierce attack against the Achaeans. The narrator visualizes this attack in two steps, by means of two extended similes sharing the same simileme: in the first, he focuses on Hektor’s and Sarpedon’s attack, and in the second on that of Aineias, who has returned to the battlefield (to the great surprise and joy of the Trojans) and is led by Apollo, Ares, and Enuo. To see how the two similes’ spatial coordinates help the storyteller organize his scene, we must note that the action is localized on the basis of a balanced presentation of the Trojans attacking and the Achaeans holding their ground. Having flirted with the idea of a successful Trojan counterattack under the leadership of the fiercest god, the god of war, the storyteller begins to undermine it, even from its beginning. Although he has reintroduced Aineias, one of the Trojan protagonists of section 2 (166–459), [64] and has also brought into the picture more reinforcements of the highest caliber and fighting skill, such as the preeminent Lycian leader Sarpedon and the best Trojan warrior Hektor, he makes it clear that the Achaeans will hold their positions and fight back. For the time being, he can concentrate on this scene, leaving Diomedes’ triumph for later. One can see here how the narrator uses the motif of “ineffective fighting” in developing and organizing his material. Violation of expectations and narrative suspension are key terms for Iliad V. Both of the extended similes in this visual unit offer strong illustrative analogies: in the first, the whitening (from the dust raised by the horses’ feet) of the heads and shoulders of the Achaeans, who refuse to withdraw, is compared with the whitening of heaps of chaff blown by the wind, while in the second the Achaeans are likened to clouds piling high on mountaintops when the winds are asleep. Wind similes are often employed to denote imminent destruction, [65] and are associated with some change that may happen in the plot. [66] In this visual unit the emphasis is on the spatial markers of density (piling up) and verticality (depth and height): the blowing wind whitens heaps of chaff underneath the true grain in the threshing floor (first simile), while its absence allows the clouds to pile up over the mountain peaks (second simile). This pictorial movement along a vertical axis in the same visual unit indexes two separate yet associated phases in the narrative: the Achaeans, massing in their ranks like the chaff and the clouds, will hold their ground. The similes the storyteller employs replay on a different spatial register the same game of creating and then violating the audience’s expectations: for the listeners, the family of the wind simile would no doubt have created the impression of a destructive result. By draining these similes of their typical, expected force as images [67] and linking them by means of the spatial markers of density and verticality (below: chaff and high up: clouds), the narrator created for his audience a new visual situation, that of the Achaeans standing firm one close to the other, just as with the piling up of chaff and clouds in the two extended similes. In this way, he was able to exploit at full length the high-imagery spatial dynamics of the similes and mentally almost “impose” their spatial horizon on the main narrative. [68]
Visual unit 3
554–560: (N1) battlefield (sons of Diokles) / (S1) high places in the mountains
οἵω τώ γε λέοντε δύω ὄρεος κορυφῇσιν
ἐτραφέτην ὑπὸ μητρὶ βαθείης τάρφεσιν ὕλης·
τὼ μὲν ἄρ’ ἁρπάζοντε βόας καὶ ἴφια μῆλα
σταθμοὺς ἀνθρώπων κεραΐζετον, ὄφρα καὶ αὐτώ
ἀνδρῶν ἐν παλάμῃσι κατέκταθεν ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ·
τοίω τὼ χείρεσσιν ὕπ’ Αἰνείαο δαμέντε
καππεσέτην, ἐλάτῃσιν ἐοικότες ὑψηλῇσιν.

These, as two young lions in the high places of the mountains,
had been raised by their mother in the dark of the deep forest,
lions which as they prey upon the cattle and the fat sheep
lay waste the steadings where there are men, until they also
fall and are killed under the cutting bronze in the men’s hands;
such were these two who beaten under the hands of Aineias
crashed now to the ground as if they were two tall pine trees.
Iliad V 554–560
Aineias’ attacking and killing Diokles’ twin sons seems to tip the scales in favor of the Trojans, just as Diomedes’ killing of the two sons of Dares in the beginning of Iliad V signaled Achaean victory. The narrator exploits this parallel in order to play with his audience’s expectations. To this end, he also uses secondary features, such as the wealth of their father  [69] and their skill in war, [70] which reinforce the analogy. A long, high-imagery simile with vivid spatial features marks the narrative event as important. The twins are compared to two lions that lay waste the farmstead, prey upon cattle and sheep, and are subsequently killed at the hands of shepherds. The deep structure of a lion simile includes the human protection of otherwise powerless sheep and cattle against the attack of this fierce and persistent predator, but the brief snapshot usually remains suspended, as no end result is stated. Conversely, this simile ends with the death of the two lions, which are killed by the shepherds, just as the sons of Diokles are by Aineias. The narrator has used the simile’s rich spatial imagery, with its typical locations of farmsteads and mountains, as a background image to suggest a comparison with Diomedes’ previous activity. For a moment, Aineias seems to be an anti-Diomedes, who this time returns to the battlefield in triumph. Members of the audience may have even expected a second encounter between the two, a replay of their initial conflict, cut short by Aphrodite’s intervention. Since the narrative circumstances are analogous and the spatial coordinates have not changed, the storyteller reemploys the same simileme of the lion attacking sheep and cattle in wild, wooded places that has already been applied twice to Diomedes, in V 136–143, when he entered the Trojan phalanxes for the third time, and later in 161–164, when he killed Priam’s sons Ekhemmon and Khromios. Exactly at the point when Diomedes fades into the background and Aineias prevails, the storyteller uses spatial imagery that evokes Diomedes’ earlier exploits. [71] In this way, the narrator is able to devise an internal organizing mechanism that “guides” him and his listeners and creates effective mnemonic associations between different narrative scenes.
Visual unit 4
597–600: (N1) Diomedes draws back / (S1) river
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἀνὴρ ἀπάλαμνος, ἰὼν πολέος πεδίοιο,
στήῃ ἐπ’ ὠκυρόῳ ποταμῷ ἅλαδε προρέοντι,
ἀφρῷ μορμύροντα ἰδών, ἀνά τ’ ἔδραμ’ ὀπίσσω,
ὣς τότε Τυδείδης ἀνεχάζετο

and like a man in his helplessness who, crossing a great plain,
stands at the edge of a fast-running river that dashes seaward,
and watches it thundering into white water, and leaps a pace backward,
so now Tydeus’ son gave back …
Iliad V 597–600
Visual unit 4 is marked by the same phenomenon observed in the previous visual unit: a simileme employed earlier on (in visual unit 1) for Diomedes is repeated under analogous spatial coordinates but for a different narrative situation. Diomedes, who was then compared to a “river in spate that scatters the dikes in its running current, / one that the strong-compacted dikes can contain no longer, / neither the mounded banks of the blossoming vineyards hold it” [72] is now like a man faced with a rushing river. The storyteller employs equivalent image-mappings to visualize reverse narrative situations occurring in the same narrative space. This spatial homology cues recall and facilitates thematic interconnections. The space delineated by the imagery of the river is evoked again when the storyteller returns to Diomedes, although this time he is retreating instead of attacking the Trojans. With this simile, the storyteller completes a separate visual unit that brings the entire third section to an end. The four similes he has used have allowed him to organize disparate scenes (Sarpedon’s and Hektor’s attack; the resistance of the two Ajaxes, Odysseus, and Diomedes who hold their ground; the killing of Diokles’ twin sons by Aineias; Diomedes’ withdrawal at the attack of Ares) and coordinate them with earlier narrative scenes by means of simile space. From this point of view, he has created for his audience a mechanism for observing and evaluating internal thematic correlations, as his narrative unfolds with the tide turning to the Trojan side and Ares prevailing, albeit temporarily.
Visual unit 5
770–772: (N1) stride of divine horses between earth and sky / (S1) lookout–sea
ὅσσον δ’ ἠεροειδὲς ἀνὴρ ἴδεν ὀφθαλμοῖσιν
ἥμενος ἐν σκοπιῇ, λεύσσων ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον,
τόσσον ἐπιθρῴσκουσι θεῶν ὑψηχέες ἵπποι.

As far as into the hazing distance a man can see with
his eyes, who sits in his lookout [73] gazing on the wine-blue water,
as far as this is the stride of the gods’ proud neighing horses.
Iliad V 770–772
The last thematic section of Iliad V (711–909) includes four extended similes, organized in three visual units. As noted before, wide distribution of similes and lack of accumulation within a single visual unit is a sign of a low level of dramatization. The storyteller aims mainly at presenting Diomedes’ counterattack and wounding of Ares, thus interweaving the two threads he has been unraveling since the beginning of Iliad V, that is, the suspended results of the action and the problematic interference of the gods in human affairs. In this visual unit, an extended simile is employed to introduce divine action on the Achaean side. The arrival of the goddesses Athena and Hera is visualized by means of the stride of their horses, which is compared to the distance seen by a man sitting in his lookout. The simile, which is based on distance, an aspect of space, aims at imagining the divine chariot of Athena and Hera approaching at high speed. [74] Their arrival at the place where the rivers Simoeis and Skamandros meet reinforces the visualization. [75] Taking the form of doves, they will now approach the Achaean troops and try to instill courage in their hearts. The storyteller, who has decided to use the divine advent as a turning point in the plot of Iliad V, needs a strong prop for his audience, a sign marking this shift in the course of the action. He therefore employs the spatial aspect of distance as a way to introduce a new scene. Once this is done, he has to change visual units and focus his mind’s eye again on the battlefield, but this time when Diomedes inflicts a serious wound on Ares himself.
Visual unit 6
859–863: (N1) sound (Ares’ roar) / (S1) sound
864–867: (N2) color, clouds (Ares) / (S2) color, clouds
ὃ δ’ ἔβραχε χάλκεος Ἄρης,
ὅσσόν τ’ ἐννεάχειλοι ἐπίαχον ἢ δεκάχειλοι
ἀνέρες ἐν πολέμῳ ἔριδα ξυνάγοντες Ἄρηος·
τοὺς δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπὸ τρόμος εἷλεν Ἀχαιούς τε Τρῶάς τε
δείσαντας· τόσον ἔβραχ’ Ἄρης ἆτος πολέμοιο.

Then Ares the brazen bellowed
with a sound as great as nine thousand men make, or ten thousand,
when they cry as they carry into the fighting the fury of the war god.
And a shivering seized hold alike on Achaians and Trojans
in their fear at the bellowing of battle-insatiate Ares.
Iliad V 859–863
οἵη δ’ ἐκ νεφέων ἐρεβεννὴ φαίνεται ἀήρ
καύματος ἔξ, ἀνέμοιο δυσαέος ὀρνυμένοιο,
τοῖος Τυδείδῃ Διομήδεϊ χάλκεος Ἄρης
φαίνεθ’ ὁμοῦ νεφέεσσιν, ἰὼν εἰς οὐρανὸν εὐρύν.

As when out of the thunderhead the air shows darkening
after a day’s heat when the stormy wind uprises,
thus to Tydeus’ son Diomedes Ares the brazen
showed as he went up with the clouds into the wide heaven.
Iliad V 864–867
The fighting between Diomedes (aided by Athena) and Ares is presented by means of two extended similes focusing on two different spatial aspects, sound and color, and (as noted above) correspond to two successive narrative scenes. Although they both deal with different kinds of activity (shouting and ascending), their visual frameworks show absolute correspondence between narrative space and simile space: when the former changes, then the latter changes too. Ares’ ascent to Olympos belongs to a different spatial mechanism than that of his bellowing, and so a different spatial framework has to be employed.
Both similes highlight the strong divine element of this last section of Iliad V. The audience will now have realized that Ares’ intervention and the false expectation of a Trojan victory that it created are interwoven with a complex nexus of associations between gods and men, and that in the end, the narrative suspension of the plot is a feature that permeates the whole of Iliad V. Neither can the pro-Trojan gods prevail (for both Aphrodite and Ares are wounded and withdraw from the fighting), nor will Diomedes achieve any solid results.
Visual unit 7
902–904: (N1) Ares’ wound / (S1) white milk
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ὀπὸς γάλα λευκὸν ἐπειγόμενος συνέπηξεν
ὑγρὸν ἐόν, μάλα δ’ ὦκα περιτρέφεται κυκόωντι,
ὣς ἄρα καρπαλίμως ἰήσατο θοῦρον Ἄρηα.

As when the juice of the fig in white milk rapidly fixes
that which was fluid before and curdles quickly for one who
stirs it; in such speed as this he healed violent Ares.
Iliad V 902–904
Iliad V ends with an extended simile referring to the swift healing of Ares’ wound by Paion. The emphasis here is on the speed, another aspect of space, with which Ares is healed. The illustrative analogy of “curdling milk” belongs to a completely different simileme, one that has not been used before. The storyteller, therefore, employs a different spatial aspect to coordinate narrative and simile. The effect of this last simile can be appreciated only when it is seen as the last in a series of extended similes that frame the entire book. Iliad V ends with the quick healing of a god, [76] a sure hint at the unbridgeable gulf separating the divine from the human world, but also with the implicit indication to the audience that no progress has really been achieved with respect to the developing plot. We are basically at the same place [77] where we were when Diomedes first entered the battlefield, “like that star of the waning summer who beyond all other stars / rises bathed in the ocean stream to glitter in brilliance.” [78]

Iliad XI

Iliad XI is one of the richest books of the epic in both extended similes (sixteen) and the visual units to which they belong (nine). Clustering is limited to half (five) of the total number of visual units, but the repetition of simile subjects shows that the storyteller used them to suggest lines of association and cross-references for his audience. [79] Iliad XI is marked by its tight structure and thematic cohesion as well as its key function in the unfolding of the Iliadic plot. Given that a fair number of themes developed here “are absorbed into overriding structures and play on our imagination as a set,” [80] it is important to explore how a dense array of similes has allowed the storyteller to elaborate characterization and organize the development of his plot. [81]
The book’s structure is as follows:
1–283: Agamemnon’s ἀριστεία
284–596: Hektor’s entry into battle (310–440: wounding of Diomedes; 401–488: wounding of Odysseus; 489–596 fighting of Ajax)
597–848: the Nestor-Patroklos episode [82]
The first section comprises four visual units containing six similes, and the second five visual units including nine similes, whereas the last section lacks any extended similes. From these data it becomes clear that the storyteller has concentrated most on the similes in the central battle section of this book, and has created a strong antithesis between the first and third sections. The reason may be that the last and final section is for the most part occupied by the *Nestoris, the long digression by the great king of Pylos on his heroic past. Speeches, as we have argued, are notoriously lacking in extended similes, the more so since Nestor’s embedded narrative displays high-density imagery, but of a different quality than that found in similes: the thematized space of Pylos is so rich in itself, and so spatially differentiated from the story space of the Iliadic narrative, that the narrator had no need or reason to employ extended similes.
Iliad XI is a good example of the technique of visual progression on the run that the narrator is employing. He begins his narrative with the two armies preparing for battle (visual units 1 and 2); he then focuses his attention on Agamemnon, whose ἀριστεία stamps Iliad XI (visual unit 3); turns his mind’s eye to the wounding and withdrawal of Agamemnon (visual unit 4) and then to the attacks of the Trojans (visual unit 5) and Hektor (visual unit 6); visualizes the brief counterattack by Diomedes and Odysseus (visual unit 7); and devotes much narrative space to Odysseus’ perils (visual unit 8) and Ajax’s retreat (visual unit 9). In particular, the storyteller uses a technique of visual exhaustion of a character: when Agamemnon is out of his sight (because he withdraws), he visualizes Hektor and the Trojans (who attack); when Diomedes and Odysseus fight back, he visualizes Odysseus, who is now in danger; and when Odysseus is saved by Ajax, he watches Ajax until he retreats. Iliad XI amply shows how space, as a powerful cue for recall, allows the oral composer to tour the notional area where his narrative takes place by means of the vivid and solid space of the extended similes, the mental GPS that allows him to navigate effectively from one character to the next across the vast space of the Iliadic battlefield.
Visual unit 1
62–65: (N1) rise in the plain, first and last ranks of the Trojans / (S1) sky and clouds
οἷος δ’ ἐκ νεφέων ἀναφαίνεται Αὔλιος ἀστὴρ
παμφαίνων, τοτὲ δ’ αὖτις ἔδυ νέφεα σκιόεντα,
ὣς Ἕκτωρ ὁτὲ μέν τε μετὰ πρώτοισι φάνεσκεν,
ἄλλοτε δ’ ἐν πυμάτοισι κελεύων·

as among the darkened clouds the rustic [83] star shows forth
in all its shining, then merges again in the clouds and the darkness.
So Hektor would at one time be shining among the foremost,
and then once more urging on the last …
Iliad XI 62–65
Visual unit 1 refers initially to the placement of the Trojans around Hektor at the rise in the plain (56 ἐπὶ θρωσμῶι πεδίοιο), and then to his movement among the first and last ranks of the army (64–65 μετὰ πρώτοισι / ἐν πυμάτοισι). The simile of the star shining when it emerges out of the clouds and then disappearing when it merges back into the clouds creates a twofold space that effectively captures Hektor’s movement. The storyteller here employs the reference to the rise in the plain (one of the few landmarks on the battlefield) to create for his audience a location around which the Trojans are placed. But since the rise in the plain pertains to the stationing of the troops and not to the movement of Hektor in and out of the ranks of his men, he resorts to the familiar space of the aforementioned simile. Although both Hektor and the Trojan troops are positioned at the rise in the plain, the narrator still has trouble seeing them separately from this landmark. In other words, as soon as the storyteller has to refer to the internal connection of Hektor and the troops, he resorts to the space of a simile in order to “see” them apart from the rise. [84] Whereas the θρωσμός delineates a space with reference to the entire battlefield, the space of the simile creates a mental hook on which further positionings can be visually hung.
Visual unit 2
67–71: (N1) plain (Achaeans and Trojans approaching each other) / (S1) a field of wheat or barley
οἳ δ’, ὥς τ’ ἀμητῆρες ἐναντίοι ἀλλήλοισιν
ὄγμον ἐλαύνωσιν ἀνδρὸς μάκαρος κατ’ ἄρουραν
πυρῶν ἢ κριθῶν, τὰ δὲ δράγματα ταρφέα πίπτει,
ὣς Τρῶες καὶ Ἀχαιοὶ ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι θορόντες
δῄουν …

And the men, like two lines of reapers who, facing each other,
drive their course all down the field of wheat or of barley
for a man blessed in substance, and the cut swathes drop showering,
so Trojans and Achaians driving in against one another
cut men down …
Iliad XI 67–71
Although the spotlight is close to where Hektor was just before, the narrator tries to mentally chart a different location on the plain as he visualizes the Achaean and Trojan troops approaching each other. To visualize further the two armies of the Achaeans and Trojans fighting each other “somewhere there,” between the rise in the plain and the ditch, the storyteller resorts to the spatial framework offered by another extended simile. The field of wheat or barley constitutes a solid visual space where narrator and audience can place the two groups of reapers facing each other. [85] Now, the hazy “somewhere there” of the narrative can become a clear mental picture. The space of the simile thus helps the narrator to move on to a different spot on the battlefield, but also enables his listeners to follow this move and see with their mind’s eye the forward movement of the Trojans, previously set next to the rise in the plain, and the Achaeans coming close for a dreadful battle that will soon begin. This gradual preparation for the battle exploits of various individuals who will be the focus and organizing principle of most of Iliad XI reflects a law of oral narrative, according to which the storyteller’s mind moves from the general and collective to the individual and personal. Having laid the groundwork for an undertaking of truly epic proportions, the narrator will soon focus his attention to Agamemnon, whose ἀριστεία will be presented in a single visual unit loaded with four extended similes.
Visual unit 3
86–90: (N1) plain / (S1) mountain glens
113–121: (N2) plain / (S2) lair of a deer, forests
155–159: (N3) plain / (S3) timbered forest
172–178: (N4) middle of the plain, Ilos’ tomb / (S4) pasture
ἦμος δὲ δρυτόμος περ ἀνὴρ ὡπλίσσατο δεῖπνον
οὔρεος ἐν βήσσῃσιν, ἐπεί τ’ ἐκορέσσατο χεῖρας
τάμνων δένδρεα μακρά, ἅδος τέ μιν ἵκετο θυμόν,
σίτου τε γλυκεροῖο περὶ φρένας ἵμερος αἱρεῖ,
τῆμος σφῇ ἀρετῇ Δαναοὶ ῥήξαντο φάλαγγας

But at the time when the woodcutter makes ready his supper
in the wooded glens of the mountains, when his arms and hands have grown weary
from cutting down the tall trees, and his heart has had enough of it,
and longing for food and for sweet wine takes hold of his senses;
at that time the Danaans by their manhood broke the battalions
calling across the ranks to each other.
Iliad XI 86–90
ὡς δὲ λέων ἐλάφοιο ταχείης νήπια τέκνα
ῥηϊδίως συνέαξε λαβὼν κρατεροῖσιν ὀδοῦσιν,
ἐλθὼν εἰς εὐνήν, ἁπαλόν τέ σφ’ ἦτορ ἀπηύρα·
ἣ δ’ εἴ πέρ τε τύχῃσι μάλα σχεδόν, οὐ δύναταί σφιν
χραισμεῖν, αὐτὴν γάρ μιν ὑπὸ τρόμος αἰνὸς ἱκάνει,
καρπαλίμως δ’ ἤϊξε διὰ δρυμὰ πυκνὰ καὶ ὕλην
σπεύδουσ’, ἱδρώουσα κραταιοῦ θηρὸς ὑφ’ ὁρμῆς·
ὣς ἄρα τοῖς οὔ τις δύνατο χραισμῆσαι ὄλεθρον
Τρώων, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοὶ ὑπ’ Ἀργείοισι φέβοντο.

And as a lion seizes the innocent young of the running
deer, and easily crunches and breaks them caught in the strong teeth
when he has invaded their lair, and rips out the soft heart from them,
and even if the doe be very near, still she has no strength
to help, for the ghastly shivers of fear are upon her also
and suddenly she dashes away through the glades and the timber
sweating in her speed away from the pounce of the strong beast;
so there was no one of the Trojans who could save these two
from death, but they themselves were running in fear from the Argives.
Iliad XI 113–121
ὡς δ’ ὅτε πῦρ ἀΐδηλον ἐν ἀξύλῳ ἐμπέσῃ ὕλῃ,
πάντῃ τ’ εἰλυφόων ἄνεμος φέρει, οἱ δέ τε θάμνοι
πρόρριζοι πίπτουσιν ἐπειγόμενοι πυρὸς ὁρμῇ,
ὣς ἄρ’ ὑπ’ Ἀτρείδῃ Ἀγαμέμνονι πίπτε κάρηνα
Τρώων φευγόντων· …

As when obliterating fire comes down on the timbered forest
and the roll of the wind carries it everywhere, and bushes
leaning under the force of the fire’s rush tumble uprooted,
so before Atreus’ son Agamemnon went down the high heads
of the running Trojans …
Iliad XI 155–159
οἳ δ’ ἔτι κὰμ μέσσον πεδίον φοβέοντο βόες ὥς,
ἅς τε λέων ἐφόβησε μολὼν ἐν νυκτὸς ἀμολγῷ
πάσας, τῇ δέ τ’ ἰῇ ἀναφαίνεται αἰπὺς ὄλεθρος,
τῆς δ’ ἐξ αὐχέν’ ἔαξε λαβὼν κρατεροῖσιν ὀδοῦσιν
πρῶτον, ἔπειτα δέ θ’ αἷμα καὶ ἔγκατα πάντα λαφύσσει·
ὣς τοὺς Ἀτρείδης ἔφεπε κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων,
αἰὲν ἀποκτείνων τὸν ὀπίστατον· οἳ δ’ ἐφέβοντο.

while others still in the middle plain stampeded like cattle
when a lion, coming upon them in the dim night, has terrified
the whole herd, while for a single one sheer death is emerging.
First the lion breaks her neck caught fast in the strong teeth,
then gulps down the blood and all the guts that are inward;
so Atreus’ son, powerful Agamemnon, went after them
killing ever the last of the men; and they fled in terror.
Iliad XI 172–178
In his desire to move one step further than the previous visual unit, where he visualized the two armies approaching each other, the narrator begins his mental “localization” of Agamemnon’s triumph by using the spatial coordinates of a new simile, set in the wooded mountain glens (lines 86–90). In this way, he is able to offer an impressive visualization of the first clash of Achaeans and Trojans. His choice of the space of the mountains is crucial for the visual unfolding of the rest of Agamemnon’s ἀριστεία. By employing the technique of associative composition, [86] the storyteller reactivates the same simile space every time he wants to mark a different step in Agamemnon’s outstanding performance. To organize his material, he mentally follows Agamemnon as he first kills Isos and Antiphos, the sons of Priam. [87] The lack of landmarks to which he can anchor this scene is here counterbalanced by the vivid space of the simile, which visualizes both the lair where the innocent fawns (Isos and Antiphos) are located  [88] and the forest where their mother finds refuge, as she is unable to fight the lion attacking them. [89] The latter spatial reference (the forest) is then narratively exploited, as the audience finds out that the Trojans, being unable to help Isos and Antiphos, are running away like deer. The simile of the lion seizing the innocent young of the fleeing deer that does not dare even to try to save them is powerful, since it sets the tone for the kind of ἀριστεία the storyteller will present to his audience. Picking up the thread of the fighting from the end of Iliad VIII, and after the “interlude” of the embassy and the Doloneia, [90] Agamemnon is pictured as a ruthless warrior who kills, tellingly, the two sons of Priam whom Achilles [91] had spared in the past. [92] The storyteller plays with the idea of an Achaean triumph brought about by Agamemnon, whose gifts Achilles has just refused (Iliad IX) and whose insolent behavior is beginning to create problems for the army. Since the narrator is determined to keep his attention focused on Agamemnon, he will resort to the same simile space when the son of Atreus leads the Achaean troops forward. Leaving the spot where he kills the two sons of Antimakhos (148–149), the storyteller turns to a comparison of Agamemnon with a destructive forest fire (155–159). [93] Critics have emphasized the completeness of the destruction that this simile expresses, [94] but have failed to notice that the storyteller, despite changing similemes, is mentally visualizing Agamemnon’s ruthless and destructive activity “on the run,” as if he is following his hero as he moves over the plain. This coordination of narrative and simile space creates strong mental links that tighten the developing action and enhance memorability. [95] The third and last extended simile of this visual unit is again a lion simile, which shares the same spatial coordinates with the two previous similes of the same visual unit. When the Trojan troops retreat, passing the tomb of Ilos [96] and the wild fig tree, they arrive at the Skaian Gates and the oak tree, a thematized landmark on the Trojan plain. [97] Seen from this angle, the simile space’s mnemonic function may seem redundant, since both storyteller and audience may readily employ these same landmarks for the Trojans. In other words, they can easily use the signposts of the tomb of Ilos and the fig tree as place-markers to facilitate visualization. But the point is not where the second group of Trojans is placed, but which part (space) of their ranks Agamemnon attacks. To create a further mental image for this purpose, the storyteller resorts to a timely expressed simile of a lion attacking a group of cows by breaking the neck of one of them. Although the wider space of the simile is not indicated expressis verbis, the audience can call to mind the familiar space of the pasture where the cattle are. The lion’s attack on the neck of one—that is, from behind—can be then visualized together with Agamemnon’s wreaking havoc and killing the last of the retreating Trojan army. [98]
Visual unit 4
269–272: (N1) woman in labor / (S1) wound on Agamemnon’s body
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ὠδίνουσαν ἔχῃ βέλος ὀξὺ γυναῖκα,
δριμύ, τό τε προϊεῖσι μογοστόκοι Εἰλείθυιαι,
Ἥρης θυγατέρες πικρὰς ὠδῖνας ἔχουσαι,
ὣς ὀξεῖ’ ὀδύνη δῦνεν μένος Ἀτρείδαο. [99]

As the sharp sorrow of pain descends on a woman in labour,
the bitterness that the hard spirits of childbirth bring on,
Hera’s daughters, who hold the power of the bitter birthpangs,
so the sharp pain began to break in on the strength of Atreides.
Iliad XI 269–272
Visual unit 4 contains an extended simile comparing the sharp pain experienced by the wounded Agamemnon to that of a woman in labor. The wordplay [100] between ὀδύναι/ὀδύνη ‘pain(s)’ (268, 272), ὠδίνουσαν ‘in labor’ (269), and ὠδῖνας ‘birth pangs’ (271) and the repetition of ὀξύ-ὀξεῖ’(α) ‘sharp’ (269–272) no doubt strengthen the link between Agamemnon’s pain and that of a woman in labor, but the particular way space is visualized is also important. The storyteller uses the image of the “sharp arrow” sent by the daughters of Hera down into the body of a pregnant woman as a foil for the same descending movement of the spear inside Agamemnon’s body. [101]
Complementing the theme of a warrior’s entering battle, similes marking a hero’s withdrawal and denoting a reversal in the action indicate the completion of a narrative scene. Where both the beginning and the end of a narrative section are indicated by the entrance and withdrawal of a character, the storyteller may resort to the use of similes as a highlighting device that delineates openings and closures. [102]
Visual unit 5
292–295: (N1) Hektor leads the Trojans in the plain / (S1) a hunter drives his hounds against a beast
ὡς δ’ ὅτε πού τις θηρητὴρ κύνας ἀργιόδοντας
σεύῃ ἐπ’ ἀγροτέρῳ συῒ καπρίῳ ἠὲ λέοντι,
ὣς ἐπ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν σεῦε Τρῶας μεγαθύμους
Ἕκτωρ Πριαμίδης, βροτολοιγῷ ἶσος Ἄρηϊ·

As when some huntsman drives to action his hounds with shining
teeth against some savage beast, wild boar or lion,
so against the Achaians Hektor the son of Priam,
a man like the murderous war god, lashed on the high-hearted Trojans.
Iliad XI 292–295
In visual unit 5, the storyteller visualizes the movement of the Trojans and their allies on the battlefield, after Agamemnon is wounded and withdraws, through the space of the familiar simile of hounds chasing a wild beast. Although the simile space is not denoted in so many words, the simile’s compressed nature allows for a “filling in” of the missing data by recourse to the deep structure of the simileme. By assuming through traditional referentiality that the scene takes place in the mountains or in wild nature, that is, in a place that they can easily visualize, the audience can tie to it Hektor’s reentering the battle and picture it vividly in their mind’s eye. Having being absent from the narrative because of Agamemnon’s ἀριστεία, [103] Hektor—whose initial entry into the battle in Iliad XI was accompanied by another extended simile (62–65)—looms large, for he will be the undisputed protagonist of the following visual unit.
Visual unit 6
297–298: (N1) Hektor (attacks) the first ranks of Achaeans / (S1) wind blowing over the sea
305–309: (N2) Hektor (attacks) the first ranks of Achaeans / (S2) wind blowing over the sea
ἐν δ’ ἔπεσ’ ὑσμίνῃ ὑπεραέϊ ἶσος ἀέλλῃ,
ἥ τε καθαλλομένη ἰοειδέα πόντον ὀρίνει.

and hurled himself on the struggle of men like a high-blown storm-cloud
which swoops down from above to trouble the blue sea-water.
Iliad XI 297–298
… ὡς ὁπότε νέφεα Ζέφυρος στυφελίξῃ
ἀργεστᾶο Νότοιο, βαθείῃ λαίλαπι τύπτων,
πολλὸν δὲ τρόφι κῦμα κυλίνδεται, ὑψόσε δ’ ἄχνη
σκίδναται ἐξ ἀνέμοιο πολυπλάγκτοιο ἰωῆς·
ὣς ἄρα πυκνὰ καρήαθ’ ὑφ’ Ἕκτορι δάμνατο λαῶν.

… as when the west wind strikes in the deepening
whirlstorm to batter the clouds of the shining south wind,
so that the bulging big waves roll hard and the blown spume
scatters high before the force of the veering wind’s blast.
So the massed high heads of the people were struck down by Hektor.
Iliad XI 305–309
The obvious question is why the storyteller has decided to shift from one visual unit to another, although we are clearly still dealing with Hektor, who has just been described as leading the Trojan troops into battle. Fenik draws a parallel with Iliad V 554–560, where a “long simile is followed by a very short and common one.”  [104] But the parallel is inaccurate, since the situation is not the same: whereas in V 554–560 the final short simile is embedded, so to speak, and forms part of the long lion simile, the simile in XI 297–298 is both (a) separate from the previous long one, since almost three lines intervene between the two, and (b) not a short simile but an extremely compressed and elliptical form of an extended simile belonging to the wind family. The tree simile in V 554–560 is a kind of pictorial reflex triggered by typical usage, since fallen warriors are often compared to downed trees. Conversely, in XI 297–298 a very specific reason has evoked in the storyteller’s mind the imagery of “a high-blown storm-cloud / which swoops down from above to trouble the blue sea-water.” [105] A careful look at the passage shows that Hektor is now presented as changing locations, albeit still within the general framework of the battlefield. While visualizing him as “hurling himself on the struggle,”  [106] the storyteller evokes a simile belonging to the widely attested wind family. In this way, he can more readily visualize Hektor’s movement and entry into battle, [107] since the background images of the simile will function as the necessary backdrop that enhances image recall. The extremely abbreviated form of this “extended” simile seems to have resulted from a new need that was even stronger than the one the simile addressed: namely the list of warriors killed by Hektor which the narrator was about to utter. [108] The list of Hektor’s victims, which extends to a few lines, must have been such a high priority for the storyteller, who had to recite this series of names accurately, that the simile immediately preceding it was drained to its minimum. It is no accident that as soon as the list was over, the narrator mentally “returned” to an extended simile from the very same family, which he could now fully expand.
Visual unit 7
324–326: (N1 plain) / (S1) place of hunting
ὡς ὅτε κάπρω
ἐν κυσὶ θηρευτῇσι μέγα φρονέοντε πέσητον.
ὣς ὄλεκον Τρῶας πάλιν ὀρμένω·

as when two wild boars
hurl themselves in their pride upon the hounds who pursue them.
So they whirled on the Trojans again and destroyed them.
Iliad XI 324–326
This simile serves a twofold purpose: first, it marks the transition to a different visual unit, focusing on the joint activity of Diomedes and Odysseus, who try to stop Hektor’s slaughter; second, it helps the storyteller shed light on a specific aspect of the current fighting by highlighting a spatial aspect of the situation at hand. By drawing on the rich pictorial force of the simile referring to how two wild boars hurl themselves upon the hounds, [109] that is, by emphasizing that the pursued boars turn around and counterattack the hunting dogs, the narrator helps his listeners vividly “picture” Diomedes’ and Odysseus’ turning around and killing the Trojans. [110] The introduction of a new visual unit is accompanied by a shift of simileme, underlining the change in the storyteller’s mental course as he moves from the spot where Hector is to that of the two Achaean heroes. Now that Agamemnon is wounded and has withdrawn from the fighting, the storyteller’s mind can turn to other central heroes so as to promote his narrative goal, which is nothing else than Trojan victory. To this end, other Achaean leaders need to be brought into the picture, only to be wounded and withdraw from battle so that Trojan success can be guaranteed. When Odysseus and Diomedes stand close to each other, kill Thumbraios and Molion, and attack the ranks of the Trojans, the need to locate their activity within the area of the fighting makes the storyteller use the space delineated by the movement of two wild beasts against a group of hounds. It seems that this part of the fighting has now, at least visually, come full circle, since visual units 5 and 7 spatially frame the two similes of unit 6: the wind-sea similes pertaining to Hektor’s attack are enclosed by a visual ring of two hunting similes.
A. Visual unit 5
292–295: hunting simile
B. Visual unit 6
297–298: wind-sea simile
305–309: wind-sea simile
A'. Visual unit 7
324–326: hunting simile
Visual unit 8
414–420: (N1) ranks of Trojans falling on Odysseus / (S1) deep of a thicket
474–484: (N2) ranks of Trojans falling on Odysseus / (S2) mountains and shaded glen
492–497: (N3) Ajax approaches Odysseus and helps him / (S3) mountains
ὡς δ’ ὅτε κάπριον ἀμφὶ κύνες θαλεροί τ’ αἰζηοί
σεύωνται, ὃ δέ τ’ εἶσι βαθείης ἐκ ξυλόχοιο
θήγων λευκὸν ὀδόντα μετὰ γναμπτῇσι γένυσσιν,
ἀμφὶ δέ τ’ ἀΐσσονται, ὑπαὶ δέ τε κόμπος ὀδόντων
γίγνεται, οἳ δὲ μένουσιν ἄφαρ δεινόν περ ἐόντα,
ὥς ῥα τότ’ ἀμφ’ Ὀδυσῆα διίφίλον ἐσσεύοντο

as when closing about a wild boar the hounds and the lusty young men
rush him, and he comes out of his lair in the deep of a thicket
grinding to an edge the white fangs in the crook of the jawbones,
and these sweep in all about him, and the vaunt of his teeth uprises
as they await him, terrible though he is, without wavering;
so closing on Odysseus beloved of Zeus the Trojans
rushed him.
Iliad XI 414–420
ὡς εἴ τε δαφοινοὶ θῶες ὄρεσφιν
ἀμφ’ ἔλαφον κεραὸν βεβλημένον, ὅν τ’ ἔβαλ’ ἀνήρ
ἰῷ ἀπὸ νευρῆς· τὸν μέν τ’ ἤλυξε πόδεσσιν
φεύγων, ὄφρ’ αἷμα λιαρὸν καὶ γούνατ’ ὀρώρῃ,
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ δὴ τόν γε δαμάσσεται ὠκὺς ὀϊστός,
ὠμοφάγοι μιν θῶες ἐν οὔρεσι δαρδάπτουσιν
ἐν νέμεϊ σκιερῷ· ἐπί τε λῖν ἤγαγε δαίμων
σίντην· θῶες μέν τε διέτρεσαν, αὐτὰρ ὃ δάπτει·
ὥς ῥα τότ’ ἀμφ’ Ὀδυσῆα δαΐφρονα ποικιλομήτην
Τρῶες ἕπον πολλοί τε καὶ ἄλκιμοι, αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ἥρως
ἀΐσσων ᾧ ἔγχει ἀμύνετο νηλεὲς ἦμαρ·

as bloody scavengers in the mountains
crowd on a horned stag who is stricken, one whom a hunter
shot with an arrow from the string, and the stag has escaped him, running
with his feet, while the blood stayed warm, and his knees were springing beneath him.
But when the pain of the flying arrow has beaten him, then
the rending scavengers begin to feast on him in the mountains
and the shaded glen. But some spirit leads that way a dangerous
lion, and the scavengers run in terror, and the lion eats it;
so about wise, much-devising Odysseus the Trojans
crowded now, valiant and numerous, but the hero
with rapid play of his spear beat off the pitiless death-day.
Iliad XI 474–484
ὡς δ’ ὁπότε πλήθων ποταμὸς πεδίονδε κάτεισιν
χειμάρρους κατ’ ὄρεσφιν, ὀπαζόμενος Διὸς ὄμβρῳ,
πολλὰς δὲ δρῦς ἀζαλέας, πολλὰς δέ τε πεύκας
ἐσφέρεται, πολλὸν δέ τ’ ἀφυσγετὸν εἰς ἅλα βάλλει,
ὣς ἔφεπε κλονέων πεδίον τότε φαίδιμος Αἴας,
δαΐζων ἵππους τε καὶ ἀνέρας·

As when a swollen river hurls its water, big with rain,
down the mountains to the flat land following rain from the sky god,
and sweeps down with it numbers of dry oaks and of pine trees
numbers, until it hurls its huge driftwood into the salt sea;
so now glittering Aias cumbered the plain as he chased them,
slaughtering men and horses alike;
Iliad XI 492–497
In visual unit 8, three extended similes are employed as the narrator aims at pinning down Odysseus as he is surrounded by the Trojans. The depth of a thicket, the glens in the mountains, and last the movement of water in a river from the mountains, oaks, and pines to the sea constitute a vivid spatial framework intended to locate Odysseus on the battlefield. Although the last simile refers to Ajax, the storyteller does not change visual units, for Ajax approaches Odysseus and drives the Trojans away. In fact, by turning the spotlight on Ajax, the storyteller prepares to concentrate his attention on him in the following visual unit.
This visual unit is a typical example of what I have called above the visual exhaustion of a character: the storyteller, like his heroes in Iliad XI, is “on the run”: he moves his mind’s eye from one hero to the next and refuses to look back. When Agamemnon is wounded he turns to Hektor, then to Diomedes; after Diomedes is injured to Odysseus, and after Odysseus to Ajax; he then changes direction and focuses his attention on the Nestor-Patroklos episode that brings Iliad XI to a close. Scholars who have studied the similes of this long Iliadic book have observed two important features: first, that many of them are organized as a dispersed sequence stretching from the extended middle section and overlapping the beginning of Iliad XII, [111] and second, that if seen as a whole, the similes picture Agamemnon, who dominates the first section, and Hektor, who seems to be the common thread of the second section (since he leads the Trojans against various Achaean leaders), as stronger and weaker figures respectively. [112] Given that both of these arguments are explicitly or implicitly linked to the visual unit at hand, I would like to briefly explore some relevant issues.
The first claim, about the dispersed sequence of similes, is based on their “defensive emphasis,” [113] which is visually expressed by their belonging, for the most part, to the same or equivalent subject matter, namely that of animal similes (featuring boars, stags, lions, a donkey, and insects). This approach indicates that the storyteller has decided to employ subject matter of a given type to picture the same narrative theme. In other words, the storyteller has organized his material on the basis of narrative relevance. In this light, my own suggested classification of the similes in visual units on the basis of the cognitive factors of mental recall and homologous image-mappings allows for a further interpretive step. In particular, the formation of the dispersed simile sequence observed by Moulton is facilitated by the techniques of visual exhaustion of a character and spatial correlation of narrative and simile: as long as the action takes place in a given spot or area of the battlefield, the space referred to in the similes does not change. To restrict myself to Iliad XI, it can be plausibly argued that in the dispersed sequence of similes in lines 324–565, the storyteller has visually concatenated a series of similes on the basis of the spatial correlation of their images, since they all take place in the mountains or the fields.In fact, of all those similes Moulton [114] calls “interspersed,” because they interrupt his “dispersed” sequence as non–hunting similes, the first two (297–298 and 305–309) precede the chain of similes that share a “defensive” emphasis (so they do not really interrupt it); while the third (492–497), which has a clearly “defensive” theme (as Ajax approaches Odysseus to offer his help), and is a river- and not an animal or hunting simile, is left unexplained, provided that we adopt only the logic of thematic association. On the contrary, subject-matter relevance is a secondary associative mechanism, occurring alongside the primary associative mechanism of spatial correlation, which is based on cognitive factors. From this perspective, spatial imaging shows itself to be the driving force and unifying mechanism in this dispersed sequence of similes.
The second claim, that the simile sequences pertaining to Agamemnon and Hektor in sections 1 and 2 present the former as dominating and the latter as weak, needs to be elaborated and modified. According to Scott, “the poet uses his similes to show the undiminished power of the Greek warriors, who thus retain sufficient strength to reverse the direction of the battle in books 13–15.” [115] This is certainly true, but again—as in the previous claim by Moulton—subject matter is neither the sole nor the primary correlating factor. Apart from the fact that the wind-sea similes used for Hektor in XI 297–298 and 305–309 picture him as a tremendous force of nature and not at all as frail, the “weak” aspect of the Trojans is rather a by-product of the whole system of animal and hunting similes that dominates most of Iliad XI. Narrative themes have indeed shaped and determined the specific verbalization of most (but not all) of the animal and hunting similes pertaining to the Trojans in the central section of Iliad XI, but only within the much broader framework of the primary pictorial correlation between narrative and simile space. The fact that according to the constraints of the system of Iliadic simile images, dogs, oaks, and pines or small boys are not used “to describe impressive power” is a secondary development of the system, since the use of the above subjects in quite different similemes indicates that the storyteller can employ them for various purposes.
Visual unit 9
548–557: (N1) Ajax retreats / (S1) mid-fenced ground
558–565: (N2) Ajax retreats / (S2) cornfield
ὡς δ’ αἴθωνα λέοντα βοῶν ἀπὸ μεσσαύλοιο
ἐσσεύαντο κύνες τε καὶ ἀνέρες ἀγροιῶται,
οἵ τέ μιν οὐκ εἰῶσι βοῶν ἐκ πῖαρ ἑλέσθαι
πάννυχοι ἐγρήσσοντες· ὃ δὲ κρειῶν ἐρατίζων
ἰθύει, ἀλλ’ οὔ τι πρήσσει· θαμέες γὰρ ἄκοντες
ἀντίον ἀΐσσουσι θρασειάων ἀπὸ χειρῶν
καιόμεναί τε δεταί, τάς τε τρεῖ ἐσσύμενός περ,
ἠῶθεν δ’ ἀπὸ νόσφιν ἔβη τετιηότι θυμῷ·
ὣς Αἴας τότ’ ἀπὸ Τρώων τετιημένος ἦτορ
ἤϊε, πόλλ’ ἀέκων· περὶ γὰρ δίε νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν.

as when the men who live in the wild and their dogs have driven
a tawny lion away from the mid-fenced ground of their oxen,
and will not let him tear out the fat of the oxen, watching
nightlong against him, and he in his hunger for meat closes in
but can get nothing of what he wants, for the raining javelins
thrown from the daring hands of the men beat ever against him,
and the flaming torches, and these he balks at for all of his fury
and with the daylight goes away, disappointed of desire;
so Aias, disappointed at heart, drew back from the Trojans
much unwilling, but feared for the ships of the Achaians.
Iliad XI 548–557
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ὄνος παρ’ ἄρουραν ἰὼν ἐβιήσατο παῖδας
νωθής, ᾧ δὴ πολλὰ περὶ ῥόπαλ’ ἀμφὶς ἐάγῃ,
κείρει τ’ εἰσελθὼν βαθὺ λήϊον· οἳ δέ τε παῖδες
τύπτουσιν ῥοπάλοισι, βίη δέ τε νηπίη αὐτῶν,
σπουδῇ τ’ ἐξήλασσαν, ἐπεί τ’ ἐκορέσσατο φορβῆς·
ὣς τότ’ ἔπειτ’ Αἴαντα μέγαν Τελαμώνιον υἱόν
Τρῶες ὑπέρθυμοι πολυηγερέες τ’ ἐπίκουροι
νύσσοντες ξυστοῖσι μέσον σάκος αἰὲν ἕποντο.

As when a donkey, stubborn and hard to move, goes into a cornfield
in despite of boys, and many sticks have been broken upon him,
but he gets in and goes on eating the deep grain, and the children
beat him with sticks, but their strength is infantile; yet at last
by hard work they drive him out when he is glutted with eating;
so the high-hearted Trojans and companions in arms gathered
from far places kept after great Aias, the son of Telamon,
stabbing always with their spears at the centre of the great shield.
Iliad XI 558–565
In the next and last visual unit (9), two similes, one using the space of the “mid-fenced ground” and the other of a cornfield, help the storyteller locate Ajax as he retreats from the swarms of opponents moving against him. Scholars have argued that these two successive similes picture two distinct and rather contrasting aspects of the unifying theme of Ajax’s stubborn resistance against superior force. [116] In both of them, Ajax’s stubbornness is illustrated in spatial terms. A careful look at the lion and donkey similes shows that both lion and donkey finally retreat, although in the first the lion does so without having achieved its goal (551–552), whereas in the second the donkey gets out of the cornfield only after having satisfied its desire for food (562). In other words, both similes play with the intrusion of an animal into a place of human activity, be it herding or farming, and its stubborn refusal to be driven out of this place. The storyteller visualizes Ajax’s obstinate opposition to the Trojans in terms of space, since the great Achaean hero refuses to withdraw, and even when he does so he turns back for a while (547 ἐντροπαλιζόμενος, ὀλίγον γόνυ γουνὸς ἀμείβων; [117] 566–568 Αἴας δ’ ἄλλοτε μὲν μνησάσκετο θούριδος ἀλκῆς / αὖτις ὑποστρεφθείς, καὶ ἐρητύσασκε φάλαγγας / Τρώων ἱπποδάμων· ὁτὲ δὲ τρωπάσκετο φεύγειν [118] ). The shift from the traditional lion simile [119] to the hapax of the donkey has often been noticed, and explained by means of the two different aspects of Ajax’s stubbornness. [120] From the point of view of cognitive theory, imagery variation in the illustrative presentation of one and the same event reflects the storyteller’s effort to limit and control his audience’s image-mappings. [121] By doing so—though he can never succeed completely—and by piling up details that lead to particularization and hence greater levels of involvement for his listeners, the storyteller leaves room for the discovery of a profound and hidden meaning which he consistently refuses to state. [122] This meaning lies in the fact that since in their respective similes both lion and donkey are pictured as intruders, the audience is invited to realize that Ajax is also an intruder, this time in a space that is not his own. The narrator, therefore, tries to cultivate the notion of “proper” space that the Trojans now possess on the plain, and that Ajax represents a warrior who is retreating from an area that is no longer controlled by the Achaean army. This point accords with the gradually developed idea of a Trojan victory that will result in complete control of the plain, after the Achaeans have been pushed back to their ships. The multiple image-mappings offered by the lion and donkey similes, with their rich pictureability and abundance of detail, help the audience realize a far-reaching consequence for the Iliadic plot: now that Zeus is clearly on the Trojan side, [123] the Achaeans will continually lose ground, until they are threatened with the loss of the only “proper” space left to them, their camp by the ships.

Iliad XVI

Iliad XVI can be divided into the following four thematic units:
Iliad XVI contains more extended similes than any other book of the epic, with no fewer than twenty similes, organized in ten visual units. Simile grouping occurs in seven units, mainly as a result of the action’s concentration around the fighting activity of major heroes like Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor. [124] Given its importance for the development of the plot—since Patroklos’ death is the major turning point in the epic, as it will lead to the return of Achilles—Iliad XVI displays not only the largest number of extended similes, but also a remarkably concentrated range of simile-generated spatial imagery, which speaks for the strongly dramatic coloring of the narrative’s subject matter. The storyteller visualizes the various events in Iliad XVI in the light of their impact on the epic as a whole.
Visual unit 1
3–4: (N1) Patroklos next to Achilles / (S1) impassable rock (spring of dark-running water)
[7–11: Speech]
156–166: (N2) along the shelters / (S2) mountains, spring of dark-running water
δάκρυα θερμὰ χέων ὥς τε κρήνη μελάνυδρος,
ἥ τε κατ’ αἰγίλιπος πέτρης δνοφερὸν χέει ὕδωρ.

… and wept warm tears, like a spring dark-running
that down the face of a rock impassable drips its dim water;
Iliad XVI 3–4
οἳ δὲ λύκοι ὥς
ὠμοφάγοι, τοῖσίν τε περὶ φρεσὶν ἄσπετος ἀλκή,
οἵ τ’ ἔλαφον κεραὸν μέγαν οὔρεσι δῃώσαντες
δάπτουσιν, πᾶσιν δὲ παρήϊον αἵματι φοινόν,
καί τ’ ἀγεληδὸν ἴασιν, ἀπὸ κρήνης μελανύδρου
λάψοντες γλώσσῃσιν ἀραιῇσιν μέλαν ὕδωρ
ἄκρον, ἐρευγόμενοι φόνον αἵματος· ἐν δέ τε θυμός
στήθεσιν ἄτρομός ἐστι, περιστένεται δέ τε γαστήρ·
τοῖοι Μυρμιδόνων ἡγήτορες ἠδὲ μέδοντες
ἀμφ’ ἀγαθὸν θεράποντα ποδώκεος Αἰακίδαο

And they, as wolves
who tear flesh raw, in whose hearts the battle fury is tireless,
who have brought down a great horned stag in the mountains, and then feed
on him, till the jowls of every wolf run blood, and then go
all in a pack to drink from a spring of dark-running water,
lapping with their lean tongues along the black edge of the surface
and belching up the clotted blood; in the heart of each one
is a spirit untremulous, but their bellies are full and groaning;
as such the lords of the Myrmidons and their men of counsel
around the brave henchman of swift-footed Aiakides
swarmed, and among them was standing warlike Achilleus
and urged on the fighting men with their shields, and the horses.
Iliad XVI 156–166
In unit 1, the storyteller visualizes Patroklos and Achilles in their part of the camp through the simile of the flowing spring. The two instances seem different because in the first Patroklos is standing next to Achilles, whereas in the second the Myrmidons begin taking their positions inside Achilles’ headquarters. In the first, the target domain of the simile is the picture of Patroklos’ tears; in the second, it is the Myrmidons, who are like wolves satisfying their thirst. This is certainly true, but the space where these two activities are placed in the narrative is the same, that is, Achilles’ camp, and the storyteller has every reason to link two different activities in his mind by means of their location: the spring is their common mental hook.
The beginning of Iliad XVI is telling in this respect, for the initial simile of the spring (3–4) seems to have been cut short by the storyteller’s speedy transition to character speech, which soon takes the form of an extended simile, one of the few attested in direct speech. The whole matter becomes even more intriguing since, although Achilles asks Patroklos why he is crying, he employs a different kind of simile altogether: that of a girl holding her mother’s dress and asking to be taken in her arms (7–11).
At the beginning of Iliad IX, the distraught Agamemnon is compared to a “spring of dark-running water.” What is significant, though, is that in both cases the spring simile is never fully developed, for the storyteller cuts it short by giving the floor to one of the main characters of the surrounding narrative, in Iliad IX to Agamemnon, in Iliad XVI to Achilles. Similarities between books IX and XVI have made critics entertain the thought that the spring simile in Iliad XVI is a conscious reminiscence and internal allusion to the beginning of Iliad IX, since the storyteller wanted to draw a parallel between the situations the Greeks were and are facing. The association is further strengthened by the fact that the fountain similes are interrupted by the speeches of the same two characters, Agamemnon and Achilles, whose initial disagreement has brought the Achaean army to this difficult situation. [125] In my view, this parallel does exist, but we need not resort to speculations about compositional priority—the more so since the repetition of the spring simile is not an isolated phenomenon, but intricately entwined with its highly compressed character. Visual abbreviation of this sort is mental: the storyteller used the spatial coordinates of the spring simile to picture Achilles and Patroklos. The fact that the same simile was employed for Agamemnon in Iliad IX shows that the storyteller has thematized not only narrative but also simile space: [126] the dark spring symbolized in his pictorial metalanguage “distress” in the face of a difficult situation. [127] In this light, the compressed nature of this simile, which has become standardized in the process of shaping pictorial material, may have resulted from built-in mental factors and not from the “phantom” of interruption by the speeches of Agamemnon and Achilles. In other words, what is at work here is a form of compact mental picture that has acquired contextual significance not through parallel verbal input but through association by theme: the mental image of “the distraught hero in his hut” has been so closely anchored to the imagery of a fountain, with its water looking like a black streak flowing over a cliff, that it can be employed under similar circumstances.
With respect to the simile of the young girl that Achilles employs in his speech (7–11), the change of register is mainly responsible for the change in the simile’s spatial coordinates. Even though Achilles is situated in the same place where the storyteller mentally placed him in the previous narrative, when he begins to speak he cancels the previous visualization and creates a very different one. Similes of this family “describe a character acting strangely or foolishly and illustrate the protection given by a strong ally,”  [128] and sometimes, especially when men are about to enter fighting space, “make the change to active combat all the more striking.”  [129] This is generally correct, and one would not be wrong in stating that Patroklos has been associated with some feminine tasks and traits (like preparing food and being gentle), [130] but other reasons as well may have influenced the choice of this simile. [131] The narrator carefully constructs a Patroklos who cannot live up to the Achaeans’ expectations: he is not and will never be a second Achilles. There are numerous instances where the Iliad makes this quite clear, and I see no reason why the storyteller cannot make even Achilles himself (or perhaps especially Achilles), now that his friend’s death is approaching, tragically allude to Patroklos’ unwarlike nature. [132]
Visual unit 1 also includes the simile of the Myrmidons, who will accompany Patroklos in his doomed entry into the battle. The storyteller sees them standing beside the shelters and evokes the illustrative analogy of wolves that have killed a stag in the mountains. The visual unity of the spaces occupied by Patroklos and the Myrmidons is reflected in the way the animal simile of the wolves is swiftly absorbed by the fountain simile (160–166). The spatial coordinates of the spring simile cue the narrator’s mind to a homologous image-mapping that “erases,” or at least subordinates, the initial spatial aspect of the wolf simile. Image coding reveals the storyteller’s aim: Patroklos and the Myrmidons are visualized similarly, for they are and always will be together throughout Iliad XVI.
Visual unit 2
212–217: (N1) lines of Myrmidons / (S1) house-wall, stones
ὡς δ’ ὅτε τοῖχον ἀνὴρ ἀράρῃ πυκινοῖσι λίθοισιν
δώματος ὑψηλοῖο, βίας ἀνέμων ἀλεείνων,
ὣς ἄραρον κόρυθές τε καὶ ἀσπίδες ὀμφαλόεσσαι.
ἀσπὶς ἄρ’ ἀσπίδ’ ἔρειδε, κόρυς κόρυν, ἀνέρα δ’ ἀνήρ,
ψαῦον δ’ ἱππόκομοι κόρυθες λαμπροῖσι φάλοισιν
νευόντων· ὣς πυκνοὶ ἐφέστασαν ἀλλήλοισιν.

And as a man builds solid a wall with stones set close together
for the rampart of a high house keeping out the force of the winds, so
close together were the helms and shields massive in the middle.
For shield leaned on shield, helmet on helmet, man against man,
and the horse-hair crests along the horns of the shining helmets
touched as they bent their heads, so dense were they formed on each other.
Iliad XVI 212–217
Visual unit 2 focuses on the Myrmidons’ preparation for battle: the storyteller views them standing close to each other and compares them to stones in a house-wall. This is the second of three “camera shots” of the Myrmidons, [133] each one visualized with the help of an extended simile: XVI 156–166, 212–217, and 259–267. The emphasis on density or closeness between the ranks of the troops works very well for the storyteller’s visualization and organization of the ensuing battle; as I have shown in chapter 1 above, it will be Patroklos’ transgression of spatial borders and his moving away from the safety of the closely packed ranks of his companions that will lead him to his death.
Visual unit 3
259–267: (N1) the Myrmidons start moving from the ships / (S1) street
αὐτίκα δὲ σφήκεσσιν ἐοικότες ἐξεχέοντο
εἰνοδίοις, οὓς παῖδες ἐριδμαίνωσιν ἔθοντες,
αἰεὶ κερτομέοντες, ὁδῷ ἔπι οἰκί’ ἔχοντας,
νηπίαχοι· ξυνὸν δὲ κακὸν πολέεσσι τιθεῖσιν·
τοὺς δ’ εἴ περ παρά τίς τε κιὼν ἄνθρωπος ὁδίτης
κινήσῃ ἀέκων, οἳ δ’ ἄλκιμον ἦτορ ἔχοντες
πρόσσω πᾶς πέτεται καὶ ἀμύνει οἷσι τέκεσσιν.
τῶν τότε Μυρμιδόνες κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἔχοντες
ἐκ νηῶν ἐχέοντο· βοὴ δ’ ἄσβεστος ὀρώρει.

The Myrmidons came streaming out like wasps at the wayside
when little boys have got into the habit of making them angry
by always teasing them as they live in their house by the roadside;
silly boys, they do something that hurts many people;
and if some man who travels on the road happens to pass them
and stirs them unintentionally, they in heart of fury
come swarming out each one from his place to fight for their children.
In heart and in fury like these the Myrmidons streaming
came out from their ships, with a tireless clamour arising.
Iliad XVI 259–267
The second thematic section of Iliad XVI begins with an impressive extended simile from the insect family. In order to visualize the movement of the Myrmidons from the camp to the battlefield, the storyteller has employed the illustrative analogy of a swarm of wasps streaming out at the wayside when little boys have made them angry. Scholars have argued about the “authenticity” of this simile, since they have tended to regard it as the conflation of two initially independent similes, one of the children destroying the nests of wasps and one of a passer-by irritating them as they try to protect their own children. [134] From the point of view of cognitive theory, a crucial observation supports the authenticity of the simile as we have it. The simile’s spatial unity—since both “parts” describe activities occurring at the same place where the wasps’ nests are situated—shows that we are dealing with one and the same spatial imagery, and by extension with one and the same simile. No extended simile is spatially divided into smaller parts: [135] spatial unity means imagery unity within the simile snapshot. The mental factors of image organization and recall must capture the continuity and connectedness of space, which is “an important ingredient in spatial representation.” [136]
Visual unit 4
297–302: (N1) (Danaans try to push back the fire) along the ships / (S1) peak of mountain
352–357: (N2) in front of ships / (S2) mountains
364–367: (N3) from the ships / (S3) Mount (Olympos)
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἀφ’ ὑψηλῆς κορυφῆς ὄρεος μεγάλοιο
κινήσῃ πυκινὴν νεφέλην στεροπηγερέτα Ζεύς,
ἔκ τ’ ἔφανεν πᾶσαι σκοπιαὶ καὶ πρώονες ἄκροι
καὶ νάπαι, οὐρανόθεν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπερράγη ἄσπετος αἰθήρ,
ὣς Δαναοὶ νηῶν μὲν ἀπωσάμενοι δήιον πῦρ
τυτθὸν ἀνέπνευσαν· πολέμου δ’ οὐ γίγνετ’ ἐρωή·

And as when from the towering height of a great mountain Zeus
who gathers the thunderflash stirs the cloud dense upon it,
and all the high places of the hills are clear and the shoulders out-jutting
and the deep ravines, as endless bright air spills from the heavens,
so when the Danaans had beaten from the ships the ravening
fire, they got breath for a little, but there was no check in the fighting;
Iliad XVI 297–302
ὡς δὲ λύκοι ἄρνεσσιν ἐπέχραον ἠ’ ἐρίφοισιν
σίνται, ὕπεκ μήλων αἱρεόμενοι, αἵ τ’ ἐν ὄρεσσιν
ποιμένος ἀφραδίῃσι διέτμαγεν, οἳ δὲ ἰδόντες
αἶψα διαρπάζουσιν ἀνάλκιδα θυμὸν ἐχούσας,
ὣς Δαναοὶ Τρώεσσιν ἐπέχραον· οἳ δὲ φόβοιο
δυσκελάδου μνήσαντο, λάθοντο δὲ θούριδος ἀλκῆς.

They as wolves make havoc among lambs or young goats in their fury,
catching them out of the flocks, when the sheep separate in the mountains
through the thoughtlessness of the shepherd, and the wolves seeing them
suddenly snatch them away, and they have no heart for fighting;
so the Danaans ravaged the Trojans, and these remembered
the bitter sound of terror, and forgot their furious valour.
Iliad XVI 352–357
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἀπ’ Οὐλύμπου νέφος ἔρχεται οὐρανὸν εἴσω
αἰθέρος ἐκ δίης, ὅτε τε Ζεὺς λαίλαπα τείνῃ,
ὣς τῶν ἐκ νηῶν γένετο ἰαχή τε φόβος τε,
οὐδὲ κατὰ μοῖραν πέραον πάλιν.

As when a cloud goes deep into the sky from Olympos
through the bright upper air when Zeus brings on the hurricane,
so rose from beside the ships their outcry, the noise of their terror.
Ιn no good order they went back.
Iliad XVI 364–367
When the storyteller passes to a new thematic section, featuring Patroklos’ advancing into battle and repelling the Trojans from the ships, he employs three extended similes that allow him to coordinate narrative action with the content of his similes’ snapshots. Helping his audience “see” the unexpected reversal of the almost desperate situation the Achaeans were facing and the intense rhythm of the fighting upon Patroklos’ entry into the battle, the narrator chooses three similes that take place on high ground (mountains and even Olympos), to which he attaches the image of fighting in front of the ships. In imagining a spatial layout, the storyteller uses labels, [137] one for each imagined location, that allow him to keep the mentally indexed individual locations apart and create patterns between them. The embedding of the imagery contained in these three similes within the same visual unit reflects their sharing of the spatial label of “high ground.” Having said this, I would postulate a process in which the storyteller selects a “target” space (the high ground of a mountain) where a brief snapshot is visualized. [138] In fact, the removal of a cloud and the appearance of the hills, out-jutting shoulders and glens in the first simile (297–302) visually replays the gradual revealing of space in the narrator’s mind. His target space becomes clearer as the pictorial load of the simile begins to make its presence felt. As the simile’s imagery unfolds, the target space increases in visual force and memorability. It can now be pictured with ease, even when it has temporarily disappeared from the mnemonic horizon of the storyteller, who returns to his main narrative once the simile is over. As long as he is mentally situated within the borders of the same visual unit, the target space can be readily accessed, although it can now activate a different set of images. This is exactly the case with the next simile (352–357): since the narrative space has not changed, the storyteller retrieves from his memory the same target space, that of the mountains, which now becomes the setting of an animal imagery. The Myrmidons are once more compared to wolves attacking lambs or young goats not properly protected by their shepherd, [139] as Hektor fails to protect his Trojan troops against the fierce attack of Patroklos and his army. [140] The role of spatial factors in the function of this visual unit’s next and last simile is observable in the way the storyteller pictures his selected target space. Having given his audience a hint at the role of Hektor, on whose advice the Trojans have invaded the Achaean camp, the narrator briefly but selectively describes how the hero holds his position against all odds in his attempt to save his comrades. As the force of the preceding simile “spills over” to the narrative, the storyteller visually reactivates once more the target space of “high ground” and introduces a new simile. This time, he visualizes the noise of terror rising from the ships by means of “a cloud going deep into the sky from Olympos / through the bright upper air when Zeus brings on the hurricane” (364–365). In spatial mental imagery, the property of continuity and connectedness of space leads the narrator one more time to activate the target space of “high ground.” As the simile evokes imagery that begins to resemble that used in the first simile of this visual unit, the storyteller realizes that he does not need to say more. His target space has done the work for him.
Visual unit 5
384–393: (N1) noise of horses / (S1) noise of sky, rivers, glens, sea, mountains
ὡς δ’ ὑπὸ λαίλαπι πᾶσα κελαινὴ βέβριθε χθών
ἤματ’ ὀπωρινῷ, ὅτε λαβρότατον χέει ὕδωρ
Ζεύς, ὅτε δή ἄνδρεσσι κοτεσσάμενος χαλεπήνῃ,
οἳ βίῃ εἰν ἀγορῇ σκολιὰς κρίνωσι θέμιστας,
ἐκ δὲ Δίκην ἐλάσωσι, θεῶν ὄπιν οὐκ ἀλέγοντες,
τῶν δέ τε πάντες μὲν ποταμοὶ πλήθουσι ῥέοντες,
πολλὰς δὲ κλειτὺς τότ’ ἀποτμήγουσι χαράδραι,
ἐς δ’ ἅλα πορφυρέην μεγάλα στενάχουσι ῥέουσαι
ἐξ ὀρέων ἐπικάρ, μινύθει δέ τε ἔργ’ ἀνθρώπων,
ὣς ἵπποι Τρῳαὶ μεγάλα στενάχοντο θέουσαι.

As underneath the hurricane all the black earth is burdened
on an autumn day, when Zeus sends down the most violent waters
in deep rage against mortals after they stir him to anger
because in violent assembly they pass decrees that are crooked,
and drive Righteousness from among them and care nothing for what the gods think,
and all the rivers of these men swell current to full spate
and in the ravines of their water-courses rip all the hillsides
and dash whirling in huge noise down to the blue sea, out of
the mountains headlong, so that the works of men are diminished;
so huge rose the noise from the horses of Troy in their running.
Iliad XVI 384–393
This is one of the most problematic similes in the entire Iliad: its moralizing tone, the meaning of Δίκη, [141] seemingly at odds with standard Homeric use, and the Hesiodic echoes of the passage are the main source of trouble for a large number of scholars. [142] I would add a new perspective, that of cognitive theory, to the ongoing discussion of this vexing problem.
Classifying this simile in one of the standard families is difficult, since its paratactic expansion, which adds new blocks of lines, extends the simile’s borders so much that its beginning is almost forgotten. The fact that these additions have clear-cut boundaries, since only one (the second) of its nine lines is not coterminous, [143] is on a cognitive level a hint at the pictorial comprehensiveness of its visual frames. In other words, from the standpoint of cognitive theory, most of the “problems” detected by scholars who doubt the authenticity of this simile can be translated into the phenomenon of image accumulation. Let us first review the simile’s six visual frames:What we see here is one of the conditions of active spatial representation, according to which space can sometimes be multimodal. Spatial features that are initially perceived and represented in one modality can be remapped onto other modalities. [144] Seen from the standpoint of image processing and the organization of spatial representation, the simile at hand displays exactly this crossover between modalities, as its sequence of six visual frames shows that the narrator has continuously shifted from one modality to another: the size and noise made by the hurricane is interrupted by the visualization of the assembly place, which is followed by the emphasis on the size of the flowing rivers, then by the movement of the water on the hillsides, its noise as it falls into the sea, and retrospectively its flowing from the mountains. Movement, placement, noise, and size are all different modalities of spatial representation that constitute the visual frames, that is, the building blocks of this extended simile. What scholars have called a “paratactic expansion of smaller units” [145] is better explored in terms of a crossing over of modalities in active spatial representation. The dispersed sequence of cloud/rain similes in 297–302 and 364–366 was so strong in the storyteller’s mind that it activated relevant images in line 384; this time, though, as the narrative frame has changed and the combat is taking place at the ditch (and not by the ships), the flow of images changes fast and produces a multimodal spatial representation that captures our attention. [146]
Visual unit 6
406–410: (N1) between ships, river, and Achaean wall / (S1) jutting rock next to the sea
428–430: (N2) between ships, river, and Achaean wall / (S2) high rock
ὡς ὅτε τις φώς
πέτρῃ ἔπι προβλῆτι καθήμενος ἱερὸν ἰχθύν
ἐκ πόντοιο θύραζε λίνῳ καὶ ἤνοπι χαλκῷ·
ὣς ἕλκ’ ἐκ δίφροιο κεχηνότα δουρὶ φαεινῷ,
κὰδ δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπὶ στόμ’ ἔωσε· πεσόντα δέ μιν λίπε θυμός.

as a fisherman
who sits out on the jut of a rock with line and glittering
bronze hook drags a fish, who is thus doomed, out of the water.
So he hauled [147] him, mouth open to the bright spear, out of the chariot,
and shoved him over on his face, and as he fell the life left him.
Iliad XVI 406–410
οἳ δ’, ὥς τ’ αἰγυπιοὶ γαμψώνυχες ἀγκυλοχεῖλαι
πέτρῃ ἔφ’ ὑψηλῇ μεγάλα κλάζοντε μάχωνται,
ὣς οἳ κεκλήγοντες ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισιν ὄρουσαν.

They as two hook-clawed beak-bent vultures
above a tall rock face, high-screaming, go for each other,
so now these two, crying aloud, encountered together.
Iliad XVI 428–430
While the fighting is taking place somewhere between the ships, the Achaean wall, and the river (396–397), the storyteller facilitates visualization by recourse to the same pictorial space, that of a jutting or high rock (visual unit 6). The actual corresponding scenes may be different (Patroklos kills Thestor and then dismounts his chariot and is ready to face Sarpedon), but the spatial cue for recall is the same. Storytellers often employ a map strategy, according to which “space is represented panoramically from a perspective ranging from the disembodied god’s-eye point of view of pure vertical projection to the oblique view of an observer situated on an elevated point.” [148] Elevated places, corners, or outjutting peaks, rocks, and so on are effective mental vantage points that facilitate pictureability, for they enhance visual isolation and distinctiveness, which assist the narrator in his effort to visualize space.
The use of the same visual unit for the beginning of the Sarpedon-Patroklos encounter (419–683) helps the narrator make the transfer smoothly, since he will now have to change the tone from Patroklos’ “easy” victories against second- or third-rate opponents to a dangerous duel versus the Lycian prince Sarpedon. The emphasis on the “two hook-clawed beak-bent vultures” (428) screaming at each other invites the audience to visualize the two opponents on an equal footing. [149] The storyteller creates for his audience the illusion that the narrative game of Iliad XVI is replayed or even intensified in the visually richer register of the similes, since the ease with which the fisherman catches the fish matches the apparent equality between Sarpedon and Patroklos. But while the fisherman’s easy success remains unchanged, the equality between the two heroes will be painfully overturned: Patroklos will kill his Lycian opponent anything but easily, and he will continue to prevail on the battlefield, but not for long. The storyteller gradually moves his hero to an unfamiliar space which Achilles has explicitly told him not to enter, a space that will bring his death. The simile space paves the way for this violation of boundaries by cueing the audience to the possibility that nothing is as it seems—especially Patroklos, who can never be a second Achilles.
Visual unit 7
482–486: (N1) (Sarpedon falls) in front of horses and chariot / (S1) mountains
487–491: (N2) in front of horses and chariot / (S2) unspecified (among other cattle)
ἤριπε δ’ ὡς ὅτε τις δρῦς ἤριπεν ἢ ἀχερωΐς
ἠὲ πίτυς βλωθρή, τήν τ’ οὔρεσι τέκτονες ἄνδρες
ἐξέταμον πελέκεσσι νεήκεσι νήϊον εἶναι·
ὣς ὃ πρόσθ’ ἵππων καὶ δίφρου κεῖτο τανυσθείς,
βεβρυχώς, κόνιος δεδραγμένος αἱματοέσσης.

He fell, as when an oak goes down or a white poplar,
or like a towering pine tree which in the mountains the carpenters
have hewn down with their whetted axes to make a ship-timber.
So he lay there felled in front of his horses and chariots
roaring, and clawed with his hands at the bloody dust.
Iliad XVI 482–486
ἠΰτε ταῦρον ἔπεφνε λέων ἀγέληφι μετελθών
αἴθωνα μεγάθυμον ἐν εἰλιπόδεσσι βόεσσιν,
ὤλετό τε στενάχων ὑπὸ γαμφηλῇσι λέοντος,
ὣς ὑπὸ Πατρόκλῳ Λυκίων ἀγὸς ἀσπιστάων
κτεινόμενος μενέαινε

or as
a blazing and haughty bull in a huddle of shambling cattle
when a lion has come among the herd and destroys him
dies bellowing under the hooked claws of the lion, so now
before Patroklos the lord of the shield-armoured Lykians
died raging …
Iliad XVI 487–491
Sarpedon’s death at the hands of Patroklos is of course the major event in this thematic section of Iliad XVI. The narrator caps the narrative of the actual duel with a cluster of two extended similes: Sarpedon’s falling in front of his horses and chariot is visualized by means of two familiar scenes: the felling of a tall tree by men who wish to use its wood for shipbuilding, [150] and a lion attacking a bull among a herd of cattle. Both similes are very traditional, for they belong to two widely attested families, the tree and lion similes. [151] Yet they both display a certain aberration from regular usage with respect to their structure, which comprises two visual frames. In the tree simile, the first visual frame of the falling of a tall tree (an oak or a white poplar or a tall pine) is coupled with a second one of its being felled in the mountains by men’s “whetted axes to make a ship’s timber.” Likewise in the lion simile, the lion’s attack on the bull among the herd is followed by a zooming in on the bull held under its hooked claws. The mental construction of imagery by means of visual framing should be seen not as segmentation, but as a method for building and organizing data. In fact, the double visual framing of each simile reveals the exact process the storyteller follows in dealing with mental imagery. In the first, he moves from a general mental picture to a detail initially contained in this picture but stated separately. The image of the falling tree is particularized by a spatial specification, namely the mountains, where the storyteller later sees men felling the tree with their axes. In the second simile, he follows a different course: from the spatial specification of the lion attack (ἀγέληφι ‘among the herd’), he zooms in on an even smaller spot in his mental image, the snapshot of the bull being held by the hooked claws of the lion. This visual particularization of space reflects the storyteller’s very process of constructing mental images, as he first reconnoiters in his mind’s eye the territory in which he will place his simile’s snapshot, and then mentally plunges himself into it by focusing on a particular spot. In this way, the storyteller can shed light on special aspects of his similes that allude to hidden aspects of his narrative: the emphasis on “men’s progress and purposefulness” [152] in felling the tree to make a ship’s timber in the first simile, and the absence of any reference to “protecting shepherd, men, dogs, and sheltering farmstead” [153] in the second allude to the lack of planning and calculation that will eventually lead Patroklos to his death. [154]
Visual unit 8
582–585: (N1) (Patroklos moves) among the πρόμαχοι / (S1) struggle between a hawk and other birds (measure: “so straight”)
589–592: (N1) retreat (of Trojans and Hektor) / (S1) contest or battle (measure)
ἴθυσεν δὲ διὰ προμάχων ἴρηκι ἐοικώς
ὠκέϊ, ὅς τ’ ἐφόβησε κολοιούς τε ψῆράς τε·
ὣς ἰθὺς Λυκίων, Πατρόκλεις ἱπποκέλευθε,
ἔσσυο καὶ Τρώων, κεχόλωσο δὲ κῆρ ἑτάροιο.

He steered his way through the ranks of the front fighters, like a flying
hawk who scatters into flight the daws and the starlings.
So straight for the Lykians, o lord of horses, Patroklos,
you swept, and for the Trojans, heart angered for your companion.
Iliad XVI 582–585
ὅσση δ’ αἰγανέης ῥιπὴ ταναοῖο τέτυκται,
ἥν ῥά τ’ ἀνὴρ ἀφέῃ πειρώμενος ἠ’ ἐν ἀέθλῳ,
ἠὲ καὶ ἐν πολέμῳ δηΐων ὕπο θυμοραϊστέων,
τόσσον ἐχώρησαν Τρῶες, ὤσαντο δ’ Ἀχαιοί.

As far as goes the driving cast of a slender javelin
which a man throws making trial of his strength, either in a contest
or else in battle, under the heart-breaking hostilities, [155]
so far the Trojans gave way with the Achaians pushing them.
Iliad XVI 589–592
After the death of Sarpedon, Glaukos tries to stir Hektor to launch a counter attack in order to save Sarpedon’s corpse from the Achaeans. Hektor is convinced and the Achaeans are initially pushed back (569 ὦσαν δὲ πρότεροι Τρῶες ἑλίκωπας Ἀχαιούς). The storyteller zooms his narrative lens in on the death of Epeigeus, son of Agakles and one of the Myrmidons, whose head is smashed by a stone thrown by Hektor just at the moment when he is about to remove Sarpedon’s corpse. By concentrating on the killing of a Myrmidon by Hektor, the narrator paves the way for the deadly encounter with Patroklos, who at once moves among the first ranks (the πρόμαχοι) and kills, again by throwing a stone, Sthenelaos, son of Ithaimenes. Both events are presented through parallel actions: [156]
A. Hektor leads the Trojans and Lycians straight against the Achaeans
B. Hektor throws a stone and kills Epeigeus
Aˊ. Patroklos enters the ranks of the πρόμαχοι
C. Simile for Patroklos
Bˊ. Patroklos throws a stone and kills Sthenelaos
Cˊ. Simile for Hektor and the Trojans
The ABAˊBˊ structure is interrupted by two extended similes. Having turned his mind’s eye to a new visual unit, the storyteller visualizes the movement of Patroklos and the retreat of Hektor and the Trojans by means of two similes of measurement. Although the sweeping down of a hawk straight against other birds and the cast of a javelin belong to different families of similes, they are both presented here in terms of measuring. The aggressive advance of Patroklos and the speedy retreat of Hektor and the Trojans are viewed through the space covered by the hawk and by a javelin throw respectively. Cognitive psychologists have convincingly shown that the larger the mental drawing of imagery, [157] the faster the information included in the verbal output will be processed. [158] In other words, visualizing the speed by which Patroklos moves forward and the spear “travels” in the two extended similes facilitates the mental following up or parallelism with the situation described in the narrative. [159] The audience is thus able to see Patroklos’ speedy advance and the Trojan retreat in similar terms. Once more, the narrator with utmost precision and efficiency plays the game of mirrors, [160] where appearances are regularly misleading, since Hektor’s counterattack is deliberately cut short by the response of Patroklos, who seems to prevail, but only for a while. The throwing of the stones, like the speedy movement of the two warriors in the front ranks of their troops, shows how the storyteller singles out his two future opponents, almost as soon as the duel between Patroklos and Sarpedon is over.
Visual unit 9
633–637: (N1) plain / (S1) mountains
641–644: (N2) plain (around Sarpedon) / (S2) sheepfold
τῶν δ’, ὥς τε δρυτόμων ἀνδρῶν ὀρυμαγδὸς ὀρώρει
οὔρεος ἐν βήσσῃς, ἕκαθεν δέ τε γίγνετ’ ἀκουή,
ὣς τῶν ὄρνυτο δοῦπος ἀπὸ χθονὸς εὐρυοδείης
χαλκοῦ τε ῥινοῦ τε βοῶν τ’ εὐποιητάων,
νυσσομένων ξίφεσίν τε καὶ ἔγχεσιν ἀμφιγύοισιν.

As the tumult goes up from men who are cutting
timber in the mountain valleys, and the sound is heard from far off,
such was the dull crashing that rose from earth of the wide ways,
from the bronze shields, the skins and the strong-covering ox-hides
as the swords and leaf-headed spears stabbed against them.
Iliad XVI 633–637
ὡς ὅτε μυῖαι
σταθμῷ ἔνι βρομέωσι περιγλαγέας κατὰ πέλλας
ὥρῃ ἐν εἰαρινῇ, ὅτε τε γλάγος ἄγγεα δεύει·
ὣς ἄρα τοὶ περὶ νεκρὸν ὁμίλεον.

as flies
through a sheepfold thunder about the pails overspilling
milk, in the season of spring when the milk splashes in the buckets.
So they swarmed over the dead man.
Iliad XVI 641–644
In visual unit 9, the fighting in the plain around the body of Sarpedon is visualized with the help of the familiar space of a pair of mountain scenes (as in unit 7). [161] Timber-cutting and flies belong to two very different similemes, and yet they are joined in the narrator’s imagination through two spatial features: noise and placement. By evoking two pictorial snapshots placed at mountain locations, and highlighting the noise produced by the activity of these two groups of actants (men and flies), the storyteller creates a solid visual background against which he is able to inscribe noise, a rather neglected but quite important aspect of active spatial representation. The emphasis on the sound produced during the fierce fighting over Sarpedon’s body creates the impression of “being there,” of coming close to the actual hubbub of battle. By recourse to spatial mechanisms that the universe of the similes contains in abundance, the narrator can thus turn his listeners into spectators and then back into listeners: they listen to his song about the death of Sarpedon, see the actual fighting in their mind’s eye, and even mentally hear the clamor of battle against the spatial backdrop of the similes, which offer familiar image-mappings that enhance mental representation and aesthetic pleasure. [162]
Visual unit 10
752–754: (N1) plain (next to Hektor’s chariot) / (S1) sheepfolds
756–761: (N2) plain (next to Hektor’s chariot) / (S2) peaks of mountain
765–771: (N3) plain (next to Hektor’s chariot) / (S3) valleys of mountains
823–828: (N4) plain (next to Hektor’s chariot) / (S4) peaks of mountains
οἶμα λέοντος ἔχων, ὅς τε σταθμοὺς κεραΐζων
ἔβλητο πρὸς στῆθος, ἑή τέ μιν ὤλεσεν ἀλκή·
ὣς ἐπὶ Κεβριόνῃ, Πατρόκλεις, ἆλσο μεμαώς.

with the spring of a lion, who as he ravages the pastures
has been hit on the chest, and his own courage destroys him.
So in your fury you pounced, Patroklos, above Kebriones.
Iliad XVI 752–754
τὼ περὶ Κεβριόναο λέονθ’ ὣς δηρινθήτην,
ὥ τ’ ὄρεος κορυφῇσι περὶ κταμένης ἐλάφοιο,
ἄμφω πεινάοντε μέγα φρονέοντε μάχεσθον·
ὣς περὶ Κεβριόναο δύω μήστωρες ἀϋτῆς,
Πάτροκλός τε Μενοιτιάδης καὶ φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ,
ἵεντ’ ἀλλήλων ταμέειν χρόα νηλέϊ χαλκῷ.

and the two fought it out over Kebriones, like lions
who in the high places of a mountain, both in huge courage
and both hungry, fight together over a killed deer.
So above Kebriones these two, urgent for battle,
Patroklos, son of Menoitios, and glorious Hektor,
were straining with the pitiless bronze to tear at each other.
Iliad XVI 756–761
ὡς δ’ Εὖρός τε Νότος τ’ ἐριδαίνετον ἀλλήλοιιν
οὔρεος ἐν βήσσῃς βαθέην πελεμιζέμεν ὕλην,
φηγόν τε μελίην τε τανύφλοιόν τε κράνειαν,
αἵ τε πρὸς ἀλλήλας ἔβαλον τανυήκεας ὄζους
ἠχῇ θεσπεσίῃ, πάταγος δέ τε ἀγνυμενάων,
ὣς Τρῶες καὶ Ἀχαιοὶ ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι θορόντες
δῄουν, οὐδ’ ἕτεροι μνώοντ’ ὀλοοῖο φόβοιο.

As east wind and south wind fight it out with each other
in the valleys of the mountains to shake the deep forest timber,
oak tree and ash and the cornel with the delicate bark; these
whip their wide-reaching branches against one another
in inhuman noise, and the crash goes up from the splintering timber;
so Trojans and Achaians springing against one another
cut men down, nor did either side think of disastrous panic.
Iliad XVI 765–771
ὡς δ’ ὅτε σῦν ἀκάμαντα λέων ἐβιήσατο χάρμῃ,
ὥ τ’ ὄρεος κορυφῇσι μέγα φρονέοντε μάχεσθον
πίδακος ἀμφ’ ὀλίγης, ἐθέλουσι δὲ πιέμεν ἄμφω,
πολλὰ δέ τ’ ἀσθμαίνοντα λέων ἐδάμασσε βίηφιν,
ὣς πολέας πεφνόντα Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμον υἱόν
Ἕκτωρ Πριαμίδης σχεδὸν ἔγχεϊ θυμὸν ἀπηύρα.

As a lion overpowers a weariless boar in wild combat
as the two fight in their pride on the high places of a mountain
over a little spring of water, both wanting to drink there,
and the lion beats him down by force as he fights for his breath, so
Hektor, Priam’s son, with a close spear-stroke stripped the life
from the fighting son of Menoitios, who had killed so many.
Iliad XVI 823–828
After Sarpedon, the storyteller turns his gaze to the area where Hektor stands, since that is the one hero he has to bring close to Patroklos for their fatal encounter. Hektor’s position, somewhere next to his chariot, is visualized through no fewer than four similes, all of which contain small narratives occurring in mountain settings. The cornucopia of imagery displayed for the mental mapping of Hektor’s location in the plain reflects his importance for the rest of Iliad XVI, [163] since the narrator intends to dwell for a while on the climactic duel that will end with Patroklos’ death at his hands. For this, the storyteller (and his audience) need to have a clear view of the space where this fighting will take place.
The first (752–754) and last (823–828) of the four similes of this last visual unit refer to the deaths of Kebriones and Patroklos respectively, while the two others (756–761 and 765–771) pertain to the actual fighting between Patroklos and Hektor over the body of the slain charioteer Kebriones. The importance of Kebriones for this whole episode has been explained by neoanalytical scholars in terms of the “dependence” of the Patrokleia on the so-called *Memnonis, but we are in no position to ascertain the Iliad’s debt to this particular episode in terms of the pictorial richness reflected in the use of similes. On the contrary, the overflow of images that marks this scene as of utmost importance shows how the Iliadic storyteller was able to coordinate narrative emphasis with simile-oriented pictorial wealth. Moreover, he made full use of a visual grammar he seems to have devised especially for Iliad XVI, the turning point in his exposition of the plot. The simile cross-reference with respect to the dark spring, creating a ring that denotes the opening and closing of Iliad XVI, [164] the systematic clustering of similes, and the use of simile sequences constitute effective mechanisms for creating cohesion and dramatic effect, in a book that is characterized by a continuous movement from one episode to the other. This strung-on style is strongly supported by the simile system as employed in Iliad XVI. Active spatial representation by means of rich imagery enhances visualization and reinforces internal associations, keying the audience to the special weight of the interconnected deaths of Sarpedon, Kebriones, and Patroklos.
In the first part of this chapter I attempted to offer a comprehensive mapping of the distribution of all the extended similes and their narrative context in four books of the Iliad, on the basis of what I termed “visual units,” the building blocks of the mental representation of the plot. These optical groupings allow the storyteller to tour the Iliadic landscape, and especially the spatially uncharted (and for this reason δυσμνημόνευτον) area of the vast Trojan plain, and turn it into an εὐσύνοπτον (and therefore εὐμνημόνευτον [165] ) whole, which he can see in “one glance” (to stick to the famous Zielinskian expression) [166] but can also tour with ease. Seeing vividly with the mind’s eye requires the use of effective mnemonic tools, such as imagery, which combined with another powerful cue to recall, space, allows the narrator to create vivid mental representations of unknown areas. The spatial aspect of strong forms of imagery such as the similes satisfies this need in a remarkably successful manner. Simile space provides the mental signposts for tagging narrative space and turning the vague Iliadic landscape into clear and vivid visual snapshots.
Gleichnisorte are organized with respect to narrative space. The narrator composes his similes in visual units that correspond to the spatial organization of his narrative. Being concerned with the deployment of the similes throughout the plot, the examination of their sequence or relevance to the context has not dealt at all with the actual process by which the narrator mnemonically recalls or constructs them. This is partly due to the lack of interest in the means by which memory recall or mental visualization is enhanced. Cognitive psychology has stressed the importance of space as a cue to recall: people tend to use spatial elements, coordinates, and features as mnemonic anchors on which series of images are based and developed. Within the medium of oral performance, the system has to be economical: when the visual setting of a given narrative unit does not change, then the space delineated in an extended simile has to be the same or at least of the same sort. If we try to reconstruct this mental process, we see that the narrator creates in his mind a visual image of the story he sings. He follows the process of a visual tour of the mental space of the places he refers to in his story. When he interrupts his narrative by inserting a simile or similes, he consistently does not change the spatial framework as long as he remains within the same narrative unit. In other words, he represents each spatial framework in the narrative by a single spatial framework within the corresponding simile or similes. When the space of a narrative unit changes, then the space of the equivalent simile or similes changes too. This correspondence is to be explained neither by some deeper narrative plan nor by the content of the similes, as has been done in the past, but by a mental process of recall through space.
Similes are much more frequent in battle scenes, not only because they allow the narrator to present his audience with something familiar in their own experience (since their subject matter is drawn from daily life), which stands in contrast to the unfamiliar (and hard to map) battle scenes, but also because similes are organized on the basis of solid spatial constraints that allow the storyteller to “find his way” amid the spatial vagueness created by continuous fighting. Nowhere is this clearer than in Iliad XV. In this light, a comparison with Iliad XVI is noteworthy: in Iliad XV there are thirteen visual units for seventeen similes, whereas in Iliad XVI there are ten visual units for twenty similes—in other words, there is a significantly higher grouping of similes in Iliad XVI than in Iliad XV. This is because most of the fighting in Iliad XVI is concentrated on the activity of a single man, Patroklos, who confronts two major heroes, Sarpedon (two similes in a single visual unit) and Hektor (four similes in a single visual unit). The storyteller’s mental concentration on Patroklos’ spatial activity is therefore more condensed than in Iliad XV, where the narrator, given that there is no major protagonist, needs to visualize first one hero and then another and another, and so changes visual snapshots more frequently. From this perspective, it can be plausibly argued that the higher th e dramatic pitch in the fighting books of the Iliad, the stronger is the tendency of the similes to be mentally charted by the storyteller in groups on the basis of spatial markers which function as cues to recall.
Another aspect of the changing Gleichnisorte that has not been dealt with by scholars in the past concerns what I would call imagery splitting. In order to grasp the meaning and function of this phenomenon, let us consider the fact that although “there are no one-scene epics,” [167] most of the action of the Homeric Iliad is carried out in a rather confined area between the city of Troy and the Achaean ships by the sea. [168] This almost built-in difficulty stemming from the poem’s subject matter is effectively compensated for by the constantly changing location of battles and other events. [169] Even when the storyteller narrates continuous fighting taking place in an uncharted, rather vague area “somewhere by the Achaean ships” or “somewhere in the plain,” and although he lacks any other means to locate and narrate the action, he adopts a strategy of visual segmentation, by creating sublocations within the larger area of the plain or the Achaean camp. One of the most powerful means at his disposal to achieve this segmentation is the extended simile. This is because the pictorial output of the simile is much greater than that of a simple scene or episode. What we call the extended or Homeric simile is a strong pictorial snapshot, characterized more intensely than simple narrative by its spatial nature: the emphasis on movement and spatial references that are constantly found in Homeric similes transform what seems, at least initially, like a simple form of comparison into an intense and vigorous, albeit short-lived, story-world existing within a known and recognizable space. By dividing an event, like the death of Patroklos, into smaller scenes leading up to the hero’s end and placing each of them in a different location, made clearer by its pictorial attachment to a spatially stronger extended simile, the narrator is able to mentally orient himself and find his way amid the confusion of battle. In this way, the oral tradition’s spatial nature becomes plainly evident: similes are the spatial hooks on which visual imagery is hung, making memory recall “on the run” a reality of the performance.


[ back ] 1. See Storch 1957:69; Elliger 1975:81.
[ back ] 2. Ἀσίω(ι) ἐν λειμῶνι Καϋστρίου ἀμφὶ ῥέεθρα.
[ back ] 3. “… bedingt … eine unterschiedliche Verteilung der Gleichnislandschaften in den einzelnen Phasen der Iliashandlung” (Elliger 1975:83).
[ back ] 4. Elliger 1975:85.
[ back ] 5. Moulton 1977:49.
[ back ] 6. Moulton 1977:87, 116.
[ back ] 7. See Petegorsky 1982; Nimis 1987.
[ back ] 8. 2001:132–160.
[ back ] 9. Minchin 2001:133.
[ back ] 10. Whitehead 2009:28.
[ back ] 11. παραβολή ἐστι λόγος διὰ παραθέσεως ὁμοίου πράγματος τὸ ὑποκείμενον μετ’ ἐνεργείας παριστάνων; see discussion above.
[ back ] 12. παραβολὴ δέ ἐστι λόγος δι’ ὁμοίων καὶ γινωσκομένων εἰς ὄψιν ἄγειν πειρώμενος τὸ νοούμενον; see discussion above.
[ back ] 13. Ares, who will soon return to Olympos, is presented as “grieving in his spirit” (Iliad V 869 θυμὸν ἀχεύων). Emphasis on divine suffering is very often accompanied by the gods’ easy alleviation from pain. See Neal 2006:160, who makes the important point that “this is underlined by the fact that they [gods] can leave the mortal sphere, the apparently exclusive locus of their suffering” (the emphasis is mine). On how divine injury draws a line between immortal and mortal fate (with special attention to Ares and Aphrodite, the two wounded pro-Trojan gods), see Neal 2006:152–167.
[ back ] 14. Iliad V 864–865.
[ back ] 15. Purves 2010a:45.
[ back ] 16. On Zielinski’s “moving landscape,” see the discussion by Purves 2010a:41–45.
[ back ] 17. 1901:409.
[ back ] 18. See bT scholia on Iliad V 866–867: γραφικῶς ἔχει Διομήδης τὴν ἄνοδον θεώμενος Ἄρεος (“Diomedes is imaginative in his perception of Ares going upwards”); see de Jong 1987a:135.
[ back ] 19. Purves 2010a:45.
[ back ] 20. On ancient evidence concerning memory and recall, see Blum 1969:41–46. For a discussion of the role of literacy in the “art of memory,” see Small 1997.
[ back ] 21. See Yates 1966:18; Whitehead 2009:31.
[ back ] 22. Bahrick 1974; Bellezza 1983; Rubin 1995:51.
[ back ] 23. See Bahrick 1974; Bellezza 1983; Rubin 1995:51.
[ back ] 24. Minchin 2001:138–139.
[ back ] 25. Scott 2009:19.
[ back ] 26. In similes, the storyteller’s mind works with nonverbal collections of elements. By using the simileme, that is, the most basic system of features that make up a traditional simile family, he is able to create brief visual snapshots consisting of flexible and variable visual units.
[ back ] 27. See Foley 1991:7, 22–29; Scott 2009:20.
[ back ] 28. See Appendix 2.
[ back ] 29. See Whitehead 2009:30.
[ back ] 30. On similes in Iliadic speeches, see Appendix 2. The speeches, with the exception of those containing extended embedded narratives (e.g. by Phoinix in Iliad IX and Nestor in Iliad XI) virtually lack a place system, since they do not indicate nor are they accompanied by a change of location.
[ back ] 31. This observation is implicitly supported by the fact that in the Odyssey, which unlike the Iliad takes place in multiple locations, the distribution of similes between the main narrative and the speeches is almost even: of 136 similes and comparisons, 69 occur in narrator text and 67 in speech; see de Jong 2001:105 ad Odyssey iv 333–340.
[ back ] 32. Contrast what happens in the main narrative: at certain narrative junctures there is almost a “need” for similes; see Scott 2009:22, 31.
[ back ] 33. In Appendix 1 below, I offer charts with an equivalent analysis of the entire Iliad.
[ back ] 34. In what follows, the abbreviation N is used for narrative space, S for simile space. Numbers refer to the particular narrative or simile space. When the narrative or its corresponding simile context contain a movement from one place to another, this is indicated by the symbol >. Commas and dashes separate multiple smaller spaces within the same narrative or simile context. I have not included the space of similes attested in speeches, because there the focalization is that of the particular character delivering the actual speech and not that of the narrator. Moreover, a number of common themes and features shared by narrative and similes (motion, entering the battle, pursuit, death, attitudes and emotions, and avoidance of abstract thought), but not by speeches, indicate that the speeches should be treated separately; see Hogan 1966:202.
[ back ] 35. The overall number of similes (brief and extended) in Iliad II is twenty. I discuss only the extended ones that are relevant to my investigation.
[ back ] 36. Here I have replaced Lattimore’s “upon the great beach,” reading μεγάλῳ as μεγάλα in accordance with West’s edition of the Iliad.
[ back ] 37. See Scott 2009:46.
[ back ] 38. 2009:48.
[ back ] 39. Scott (2009:48) argues that “in the simile there is no word for sound,” although ἰάχει is easily understood from the preceding ἴαχον in the narrative.
[ back ] 40. Scott 2009:48.
[ back ] 41. In the manner of Iliad II 207–210.
[ back ] 42. This is a good illustration of the fact that, as Minchin (2001:29) has put it, “professional storytellers work not so much from memory, but with memory.”
[ back ] 43. Note e.g. how this last simile of visual unit 1 ends with the expression ὅτ’ ἂν ἔνθ’ ἠ’ ἔνθα γένωνται (397), which builds on a visual frame first encountered in the initial simile of the same visual unit: αἳ μέν τ’ ἔνθα ἅλις πεποτήαται, αἳ δέ τε ἔνθα (90). The spatial vista of the first simile is still “in effect” until the very end of the last simile of the same visual unit, because the space, a powerful cue to recall, has not changed.
[ back ] 44. “Hauptpunkten der Handlung”; see Schadewaldt 1975:84.
[ back ] 45. Attempts to link simile clustering with Iliadic book divisions and trace a certain pattern followed by the narrator are on the wrong track, since the question concerning the antiquity and origin of the division of the Iliad (and Odyssey) into twenty-four ῥαψῳδίαι is one of the thorniest in Homeric research. Even a cursory look at the debate presented in Symbolae Osloenses 1999, vol. 74 (where all the relevant bibliography can be found) in reaction to Minna Skafte Jensen’s suggestions shows how contentious this issue is.
[ back ] 46. 2009:49.
[ back ] 47. This point was made convincingly by Scott 2009:49–57.
[ back ] 48. On the transitional aspect of similes, see Martin 1997:146; Clay 2011:21, 65.
[ back ] 49. “They took position in the blossoming meadow of Skamandros, / thousands of them, as leaves and flowers appear in their season.”
[ back ] 50. “… and among them powerful Agamemnon, / with eyes and head like Zeus who delights in thunder, / like Ares for girth, and with the chest of Poseidon …”
[ back ] 51. The storyteller can employ epiphanic conventions to create not only intratextual (as here), but also intertextual associations; see Pucci 1998:81–96.
[ back ] 52. Cf. the simile in Iliad XI 155–159, where fire is presented as a threat. This point is strongly made by Scott 2009:49–50.
[ back ] 53. Scott 2009:102–112.
[ back ] 54. On the epic law of concentration on a “leading character,” see Olrik 1992:48.
[ back ] 55. See Rubin 1995:53.
[ back ] 56. On the standard structure of scenes describing a warrior’s entry into battle, see Fenik 1968:22–23. On the use of similes (both long and short) to describe a character’s entrance in the narrative, see Scott 1974:38–41.
[ back ] 57. The use of the pattern of three entrances on the battlefield abides by the epic law of “the three,” which according to Olrik (1992:52) is typical of oral narratives. The first time, the hero is one among a group of Achaean warriors depicted slaying their Trojan opponents; his second entrance is particularized and singled out, as he is presented as the opponent of the Lycian archer Pandaros; the third time, his ἀνδροκτασία is presented on its own, rather than making him one of a list of Achaean leaders.
[ back ] 58. From the standpoint of mnemonic recall and image processing, the visual frame of the ocean may (at least partly) have triggered the water imagery of the river that appears in the second simile. Pictorial association of this sort is typical in oral storytelling.
[ back ] 59. Cf. Scott 2009:229n58: “The wound increases the lion’s wrath, and the shepherd no longer defends the sheep, but he (the shepherd) lurks around the sheep pens and fears the open areas. The sheep are heaped upon one another in piles, but the lion in his fury leaps out of the high enclosure. This version has the advantage of emphasizing the broader passage, both the lion and the shepherd; this double focus reflects the return of Diomedes as well as Pandaros, who is conscious of his failure.” See also Kirk 1990:70–72.
[ back ] 60. It is understood that the plural ἵππων ‘horses’ (Iliad V 163) refers to the chariot as a whole.
[ back ] 61. See Moulton 1977:61.
[ back ] 62. On imagery as a type of organizing material in oral traditions, see Rubin 1995:52–54 with bibliography.
[ back ] 63. On high and low imagery, see Marschark and Paivio 1977; Marschark 1979.
[ back ] 64. The other main Trojan figure of this section is Pandaros. The chief pro-Trojan deity of this part of Iliad V is Aphrodite.
[ back ] 65. See Scott 1974:62–66; Moulton 1977:60–63.
[ back ] 66. Purves 2010b:325.
[ back ] 67. On this point, see the observations of Scott 2009:108.
[ back ] 68. See Tsagalis 2008b:272–285.
[ back ] 69. Iliad V 9 ἀφνειὸς ἀμύμων, 544 ἀφνειὸς βιότοιο.
[ back ] 70. Iliad V 11 = V 549 μάχης εὖ εἰδότε πάσης.
[ back ] 71. At the completion of the simile the narrator appends a short comparison of the falling warriors to fallen fir trees. For tree similes describing fallen warriors, see Iliad IV 482, XIII 178, XIII 389–390 (= XVI 482–483), XIV 414, and XVII 53. There are important observations in Fenik 1968:58; Scott 1974:70–71; Lonsdale 1990:55; and Scott 2009:108 and 229–230n67. On brief necrological vignettes of second-rank heroes such as the sons of Diokles, see Tsagalis 2004:179–192.
[ back ] 72. Iliad V 88–90.
[ back ] 73. I have changed Lattimore’s “eyrie” to “lookout,” since the word σκοπιή does not indicate an eagle’s nest or any other bird’s nest.
[ back ] 74. See Scott 1974:20, who observes that poets measured space by employing the principle: “Use approximate measurements when the use of precise figures does not serve a poetic purpose and will merely bore or distract the audience.” Scott distinguishes between two types of similes indicating measurement: those suggesting “meaningful approximation” and those expressing the notion of “infinite extent” (24). The simile in Iliad V 770–772 belongs to the second type: “Since no hearer could make a meaningful approximation of such a measure, Homer merely means that the horses bounded an unimaginable distance, an idea well suited to divine horses.”
[ back ] 75. See W. Kullmann 1956:91.
[ back ] 76. Mortals are also healed in the Iliad, but never swiftly or easily.
[ back ] 77. Seen from a different angle, the poet is able to adopt a truly eusynoptic view of the narrative space of such a very long book as Iliad V. On the eusynoptic aspect of Iliadic space and Aristotle’s observations, see Purves 2010a:24–64.
[ back ] 78. Iliad V 5–6.
[ back ] 79. Scott 2009:78.
[ back ] 80. Fenik 1986:21.
[ back ] 81. On the role of Iliad XI in the overall structure of the Iliad, see Schadewaldt 1966.
[ back ] 82. See Scott 2009:80–81.
[ back ] 83. I.e. the star that leads the sheep and cattle to their pens or folds. For Αὔλιος instead of the reading οὔλιος, see the critical apparatus in West 1998–2000 on Iliad XI 62 and West 2001:211.
[ back ] 84. See Fenik 1968:80: “It is a regular function of the simile to describe masses of men, or armies … and a simile also frequently describes two armies marching against each other.”
[ back ] 85. On this simile, the ancient grammarian Trypho observed that action (fighting) is paired with action (reapers facing each other); see On Tropes (ed. L. Spengel) 3.201.15–26.
[ back ] 86. See Moulton 1977:98.
[ back ] 87. It is a typical feature of an ἀριστεία to present a hero’s military exploits through his killing (or facing) of a series of opponents fighting in pairs. See Fenik 1968:82 and chapter 1 above. Cf. also Iliad V 10, 144, 148, 152, 159, and 239, where Diomedes does the same thing in his own ἀριστεία.
[ back ] 88. If pressed a bit more, the mention of the lair where the doe’s newly born young are attacked by the lion may be pointing to the helplessness of Priam’s sons; see D. Lee 1964:23.
[ back ] 89. Lion similes are in general the standard type for presenting the movement and mood of a single warrior, whereas the wind and wave similes seem more visually appropriate for group scenes. See Scott 1974:65.
[ back ] 90. On the problems of authenticity of Iliad X, see two contrasting views in Danek 1988 and Dué and Ebbott 2010.
[ back ] 91. Iliad XI 104–106 ὥ ποτ’ Ἀχιλλεύς / Ἴδης ἐν κνημοῖσι δίδη μόσχοισι λύγοισιν, / ποιμαίνοντ’ ἐπ’ ὄεσσι λαβών, καὶ ἔλυσεν ἀποίνων (“Before this Achilleus / had caught these two at the knees of Ida, and bound them in pliant / willows as they watched by their sheep, and released them for ransom.”
[ back ] 92. Likewise, Agamemnon will attack and eventually kill, for all their pleas, the sons of Antimakhos, Peisandros and Hippolokhos (Iliad XI 122–147). Associative composition is also at work here, for the narrator carefully notes that—as with Isos and Antiphos—Antimakhos has been bribed by Alexandros to oppose the return of Helen to Menelaos. This apparently trivial point is nicely made: Agamemnon successively kills pairs of brothers whose brief stories remind the audience of his role as the rival of Achilles and avenger of the wrong done to his brother Menelaos; see Strasburger 1954:70; Fenik 1968:84.
[ back ] 93. Partly reminiscent of another simile used for the Achaean army as a whole in II 455–458; see Moulton 1977:97. Fire similes are used for gleaming objects, warriors in battle, and anger. With respect to heroes, only the preeminent ones are given such similes (Agamemnon and Idomeneus in Iliad XI, Hektor in Iliad XI and XV, Achilles in Iliad XX and XXI). See Scott 1974:66–68.
[ back ] 94. See Scott 2009:147, who points to a possible connection with the atrocity of Hippolokhos’ decapitation (Iliad XI 146–147).
[ back ] 95. Notice the use of repetitive language before and after the similes in Iliad XI 155–159 (153–154 ἀτὰρ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων / αἰὲν ἀποκτείνων ἕπετ’ Ἀργείοισι κελεύων; 165 Ἀτρείδης δ’ ἕπετο σφεδανὸν Δαναοῖσι κελεύων) and XI 172–178 (168–169 ὃ δὲ κεκληγὼς ἕπετ’ αἰεί / Ἀτρείδης· λύθρῳ δὲ παλάσσετο χεῖρας ἀάπτους; 177–178 ὣς τοὺς Ἀτρείδης ἔφεπε κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων / αἰὲν ἀποκτείνων τὸν ὀπίστατον). See Schadewaldt 1966:52, who calls this repetition a Kehrreim ‘refrain’. See also Fenik, who is able to discern the following pattern (observable also in Iliad XX 455–489) that is, interestingly and perhaps tellingly, applied to both Agamemnon and Achilles: “(1) aristeia with quick and grisly slaughter of many Trojans; (2) unhindered pursuit of the Trojans described by a fire simile; (3) further description of the charging Greek, plus another simile, and the descriptive detail of the bloodstained hands; (4) return to the account of the slaughter” (1968:84–85).
[ back ] 96. Iliad XI 166–168 οἳ δὲ παρ’ Ἴλου σῆμα παλαιοῦ Δαρδανίδαο / μέσσον κὰπ πεδίον παρ’ ἐρινεὸν ἐσσεύοντο / ἱέμενοι πόλιος. On the tomb of Ilos as a “site of memory,” see Grethlein 2008.
[ back ] 97. On the function of the wild fig tree and the oak tree in the Iliad, see “Protection and danger: the oak tree of Zeus and the fig tree,” chapter 1 above.
[ back ] 98. See Moulton 1977:96–99.
[ back ] 99. For the reading ὀξεῖ’ ὀδύνη δῦνεν, see West 1998–2000 on Iliad XI 272 and West 2011:211–212.
[ back ] 100. On sound as a form of organization that cues recall and constitutes one of the three main classes of constraints in oral traditions (alongside imagery and meaning), see Rubin 1995:65–89.
[ back ] 101. Cf. Iliad XI 253 ἀντικρὺ δὲ διέσχε φαεινοῦ δουρὸς ἀκωκή.
[ back ] 102. See Fenik 1968:86, who shows how Agamemnon’s charge in Iliad XI 148–162 and 166–180 (both containing similes) alternates with Zeus’ drawing Hektor out of the battle in two phases. This, as Fenik notes, is a stylistic feature of Homeric epic, according to which “an event which receives its full development at one point is first stated briefly, then dropped, only to return again where it is treated in full.” In this perspective, similes may enhance the storyteller’s ability to organize his material in the way described above; see also Scott 1974:41–42.
[ back ] 103. See Scott 1974:41, who shows that the Iliad regularly uses similes for “people who have been absent from the narrative, because hindered, and now return.”
[ back ] 104. 1968:58.
[ back ] 105. Iliad XI 297–298.
[ back ] 106. Iliad XI 297.
[ back ] 107. Although wind and wave similes (on which see Scott 1974:62–66) emphasize the movement of groups of people, they are rarely used for a single warrior, like Hektor when he enters the battlefield after Agamemnon is wounded and withdraws (XI 296).
[ back ] 108. See W.-H. Friedrich 1956:62, who argues that there is nothing abnormal or colossal in the remarkable performance of Agamemnon, and later those of Diomedes and Odysseus. The small list of Agamemnon’s victims will be “counterbalanced” by his future wounding and retreat from the battlefield.
[ back ] 109. Boars and lions are often “interchangeable” within the lion simile family, which is the largest in both the Iliad and the Odyssey; on lion similes that occur very often in fighting contexts, see Scott 1974:58–62. On patterns of interchangeability with respect to boars and lions, see the incisive observations of Muellner 1990:63–64. There are cases, though, in which lions and boars are not interchangeable, since the former are presented as aggressive predators, while the latter are depicted as aggressive defenders; see Scott 1974:58–60.
[ back ] 110. The specific place where this event occurs is expressed in the simile not verbatim, but by means of traditional referentiality and experience listeners can easily fill in the spatial framework and localize the action. The storyteller refrains from offering any such reference here, because the stress is on the two boars’ turning around and counterattacking the hounds who pursue them (325 θηρευτῇσι). It is the sudden change of direction in the mental picturing of this simile (from the hounds to the boars) that is the key factor.
[ back ] 111. Moulton 1977:46–48.
[ back ] 112. Scott 2009:86.
[ back ] 113. Moulton 1977:46.
[ back ] 114. 1977:47.
[ back ] 115. 2009:87.
[ back ] 116. Moulton 1974:386–387; 1977:48–49. See also Fenik 1968:110.
[ back ] 117. “… turning on his way, shifting knee past knee only a little …”
[ back ] 118. “And now Aias would remember again his furious valour / and turn upon them, and beat back the battalions of Trojans, / breakers of horses, and then again would turn and run from them.”
[ back ] 119. On Zenodotus’ omission of the lion simile and a defence of the succession of similes, see Fenik 1968:110–111 and Hainsworth 1993:283 on Iliad XI 548–557.
[ back ] 120. Fenik 1968:110; Hainsworth 1993:284 on Iliad XI 558–562.
[ back ] 121. See Lakoff and Turner 1989:91; Minchin 2001:145.
[ back ] 122. See Edwards 1987:104.
[ back ] 123. See Scott 2009:89.
[ back ] 124. The only exception is visual unit 1.
[ back ] 125. See Whitman 1958:279; cf. Webster 1958:236 and Scott 1974:130–131.
[ back ] 126. On the function of the conventional context of similes that have certain features in common, see Muellner 1990.
[ back ] 127. See Dué 2010:291, who argues that the spring simile in Iliad IX 14–16 “recalls the iconic lamenter of Greek myth, Niobe, whose example is invoked by Achilles as he and Priam mourn for fathers and sons in the lament-filled Iliad 24. Niobe in her grief for her twelve children was transformed into just such a weeping rock.”
[ back ] 128. Scott 1974:74.
[ back ] 129. Scott 1974:104.
[ back ] 130. These should in no way be exaggerated or used to suggest an innuendo of homosexual activity; see Monsacré 1984:91–92; Crotty 1994:55n13; Scott 2009:241n83.
[ back ] 131. I am skeptical of the argument put forward by Schoeck (1961:89), who suggests that since Achilles will be—like his mother Thetis in the *Memnonis—a helpless spectator of the death of Patroklos, his assuming the role of his mother in the simile is quite effective. Even if we were to accept the debatable possibility that the simile’s subject matter was chosen on the basis of the role Achilles’ mother played in another epic poem or tradition, his rebuking tone can stand on its own.
[ back ] 132. See J. Armstrong 1958; Scott 2009:158–159. See also scholia (B[BCE3E4]T) on Iliad XVI 7–10.
[ back ] 133. See Scott 1974:38. The visual interplay between Patroklos and the troops is rewarding, for the storyteller will soon capitalize on their interaction during the actual fighting. Simile space allows the narrator to enhance memorability, and thereby create dramatic effects.
[ back ] 134. The main “problems” with respect to this simile are two: Aristophanes of Byzantium’s and Aristarchus’ athetesis of Iliad XVI 261 on the grounds that κερτομεῖν (261 κερτομέοντες) is employed for words and not deeds (as here), and the “parallel” similes of Iliad XVI 259 + 260–262 and 259 + 263–265. See Ameis-Hentze 1908:21 on Iliad XVI 259–262; Wilamowitz 1920:127n1; Fränkel 1921:72; von der Mühll 1952:245n25; Jachmann 1958:329 and n112. With respect to the first objection, Janko’s suggestions (1992:353 on Iliad XVI 261) that Iliad XVI 261 “explains in chiastic order the rare words ἔθω, ‘be wont’ (9.540, cf. εἴωθα), ἐριδμαίνω (next in Hellenistic verse, cf. Risch, Wortbildung 290) and εἰνόδιος (Cat. 23.26, cf. 6.15)” and that κερτομεῖν can mean “tease non-verbally, e.g. Eur. Helen 619 (J. Jackson, Marginalia Scaenica, Oxford 1955, 26)” are persuasive. On Homer’s tendency to explain compound words, see Rank 1951:74–84 (and add to the example noted by Janko Iliad XVIII 54, which is explained in XVIII 55–60). As far as the “parallel” similes are concerned, the authenticity of our text has been strongly defended by Marcovich 1962:290 and J. Kakridis 1971:138–140. Recent scholarship unhesitatingly favors retaining the text as we have it; see Janko 1992:352–353; Erbse 2000:266–268; Scott 1974:158–159 and 2009:160–161.
[ back ] 135. Spatial frames are of a different kind, for they constitute the most elementary subdivisions of the visual unit, that is, of the larger image collection that forms a coherent whole. Visual frames neither accentuate segmentation nor do they pertain to different spatial coordinates. On visual units and visual frames, see the discussion at the beginning of this chapter.
[ back ] 136. Pylyshyn 2007:172.
[ back ] 137. See Pylyshyn 2007:178.
[ back ] 138. On target space, see Pylyshyn 2007:182–191.
[ back ] 139. See Iliad XVI 156–166.
[ back ] 140. See Janko 1992:361–362 on Iliad XVI 352–355. Scott 2009:155 aptly describes the generalized tendency of Iliad XVI to create expectations that are violated and to impose on the audience sequences of events that are suddenly and violently overturned as “a house of mirrors,” where actions often have double images, one the reverse of the other.
[ back ] 141. See Janko 1992:364–365 on Iliad XVI 384–393 with all the relevant bibliography. I am following West 1998–2000 ad loc., who takes it as a proper name and prints it as Δίκην. See also his commentary (2011:320) on Iliad XVI 387–388.
[ back ] 142. For a discussion of the various problems of this simile, see Scott 1974:155–156; Moulton 1977:35–37; Janko 1992:364–365 on Iliad XVI 384–393; Scott 2009:160.
[ back ] 143. See Scott 1974:155.
[ back ] 144. See Spence and Driver 2004; Pylyshyn 2007:171.
[ back ] 145. Rhyming patterns observed at verse-ends (388 ἀλέγοντες/389 ῥέοντες; 391 ῥέουσαι/393 θέουσαι) and repetition of participles of the same verb again at verse-end (389 ῥέοντες/391 ῥέουσαι) are dictional traces indicating the completion of visual frames. See also Scott’s observations on the use of δέ, and his assertion that “when [the poet] was called upon to extend his simile beyond a few lines, the paratactic structure began to dominate and the unconnected nature of the poet’s thinking became more and more evident” (1974:155–156).
[ back ] 146. In visual unit 5, the noise of horses is compared to the sound of virtually the whole of nature: sky, rivers, glens, sea, and mountains participate in the making of a huge noise that creates a feeling of proximity to storyteller and audience. Sound is a powerful aspect of space, one that enhances participation by giving the impression of “being there.”
[ back ] 147. In Iliad XVI 409, I have chosen the unaugmented form ἕλκ’ that is offered by Aristarchus and some mss, instead of the augmented εἷλκ’ given by another group of mss. West (1998:xxvii) opts for the augmented form.
[ back ] 148. Ryan 2003:218.
[ back ] 149. See Baltes 1983:37–38; Scott 2009:162. See also the scholion (b[BCE3E4]T) on Iliad XVI 428: πρὸς τὸ ἰσοδυναμοῦν τῶν ἀντιμαχομένων τῇ εἰκόνι κέχρηται, ἐνδείξασθαι βουλόμενος ὅτι ὅμοιοι ἦσαν (“He has used this imagery to indicate the equal matching of the opponents, because he wanted to show that they were similar”).
[ back ] 150. This simile is identical to the one used in XIII 389–393, after Asios’ death at the hands of Idomeneus. This verbatim repetition strengthens the cognitive analysis presented above, for the narrator seems to be using standard techniques for the mental processing of images. On repeated similes in the Homeric epics, see Scott 1974:127–140.
[ back ] 151. On tree and lion similes, see Scott 1974:70–71 and 58–61 respectively.
[ back ] 152. Scott 2009:162. Minchin (2001:146–147), commenting on the identical simile employed for Asios’ death in Iliad XIII 389–393, suggests that one of the reasons the storyteller may have used the apparently irrelevant detail of the carpenters’ cutting the tree to make a ship’s timber is the contrast between the purposefulness of their act and the purposelessness of Asios’ death. This observation is also applicable to the simile in Iliad XVI 482–486.
[ back ] 153. Scott 2009:163.
[ back ] 154. See Scott 2009:162–163.
[ back ] 155. West brackets line 591 on the basis of the arguments of Leaf 1900–1902:197 on Iliad XVI 591; but see Janko 1992:388–389 on Iliad XVI 588–592.
[ back ] 156. See Fenik 1968: 206–207.
[ back ] 157. The mental image of Patroklos’ spear being cast far away is large, since storyteller and audience alike follow the entire course of the spear. Visualizing the space delineated by the distance covered by this moving object requires a significant mental input.
[ back ] 158. See Shepard 1978.
[ back ] 159. See Clay 2011:8n17: “Similarly, the mind of the poet can dart across time and space and, despite temporal and spatial distance, can convey his audience to the Trojan plain where his drama unfolds.”
[ back ] 160. On the “mirror design” of this thematic section of Iliad XVI, see Scott 2009:162–163.
[ back ] 161. Sheepfolds are typically placed in the mountains in Homeric epic. Traditional referentiality allows both narrator and audience to fill in the missing details even when they are not explicitly stated. Dictional ellipsis is often counterbalanced in traditional oral epic by the almost built-in pars pro toto thematic principle. To recall Nagy’s famous terminology, the reference to the mountains in the above similes is synchronically absent but diachronically present.
[ back ] 162. On the importance of sound as a spatial feature, see my discussion of the shield of Achilles in chapter 8 below.
[ back ] 163. There is, of course, no causal link between the mountains and the duel between Patroklos and Sarpedon. The storyteller repeatedly employs similes featuring action that occurs in the same place (mountains), in order to allow his audience to mentally anchor to it the uncharted spot on the battlefield where the fatal encounter between these two first-rank heroes will take place.
[ back ] 164. For other examples of cross-references between the similes in Iliad XVI, see Scott 2009:170.
[ back ] 165. On these terms with respect to memory and recall, see Aristotle Poetics 1450b34–1451a6; see also the analysis by Purves 2010a:46–49.
[ back ] 166. See Zielinski 1901:409; Rengakos 1995; Nünlist 1998; Scodel 2008; Clay 2011:30–36.
[ back ] 167. Rubin 1995:62.
[ back ] 168. Purves (2010a:31–32 and n16) draws attention to the astute observations of Aristotle, who insisted on seeing the plot as a whole (συνορᾶσθαι, εὐσύνοπτον); cf. Poetics1459b19–20.
[ back ] 169. Rubin 1995:62.