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"Patroclos and Achilles complement each other in character; each releases the hidden qualities of the other" Do you agree with this statement?


Discuss Homer's use of similes in the Iliad.

1. Format of similes: short comparisons "like raging fire". short stories (the lion similes)
Subject matter of similes: from natural world and everyday experience such as audience was used to facing
(eg. storms; flies round milk-pail) - something in common with people of the story?

2. Purpose of simile: direct comparison (plus decoration) - heroes as predators or shepherds, relief from violent action, variety in the "fighting books (similes frequent there) highlight crucial "twists" in the action as in bks 16 and 22.
Hint at character eg. similes at start of bk 3; Dog star simile bk 22.

3. Similes occur in action books, not in dialogue or debate (note book 9); they are unusual in type in bk 24 where there is more visual description than elsewhere - is this significant?

4. Some recurring themes: lions on rampage; weather; fire and flood; does this suggest basic pattern with variants?

5.Thus we can see:

(i) they are not introduced either haphazardly or systematically eg. a simile every 100 lines!
(ii) they form neat little blocks of description, varying from cliche lions to special singer with lyre
(iii) they vary in appropriateness.
(iv)they highlight certain events and characters but no general inference can be drawn.
(v) they do not interrupt dialogue, but form a background to action

So can we conclude that:

(i) the rhapsode found them a convenient way of providing a bit of variety for the battle scenes
(ii) he had a selection at his disposal and introduced them when he wanted a rest from story telling for himself and his audience.
(iii) they bring the epic legend down to earth, as it were, rather as the pictures on the shield of Achilles do.
 (iv) they were part of the epic tradition like stock epithets and stock descriptions of feasts and sacrifices - ie. the audience expected them (and perhaps amused themselves listening for points of comparison as we do when we read the lliad)
(v) they add life to the story,  provide a respite for the rhapsode,  give the audience a break from narrative and a pause for mental breath.


"Patroclos and Achilles complement each other in character; each releases the hidden qualities of the other" Do you agree with this statement?

Patroclos: at first gives appearance of stereotype of gentle man:

Similarly Achilles gives appearance of stereotype of the proud and angry man:

Early impressions suggest that Patroclos is the restraining influence on Achilles: that he is Achilles' minder. It is only later that we are reminded of a less familiar part of the story - that Patroclos too has a history of violence.

Nestor reminisces in bk 11 and they produce some drastic changes in Patroclos:

Patroclos' pleas to Achilles (and his death later on)  bring about changes in Achilles:

Eventually he takes a further step to civilised behaviour when he shows pity and understanding for a father who though an enemy is mourning the son he loved. So we might argue that the actions of Achilles bring out the beast in the gentle Patroclos and the death of Patroclos brings out the humane in the violent Achilles. But Nestor, the elder statesman, is surely the catalyst? Or are the characters developed to keep in step with the plot and the action, and the "switch" is purely coincidental? ie. once Achilles' anger is diverted from Agamemnon to Hector, from injured pride to vengeance for a loved companion, his character has to change?