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Homeric Similes and Nature's Wonders II

Homer's Similes: Human Beings and Nature's Analogies


I suspect we have all been feeling a little deluged by events over the past few years. Once again, I turn to a Homeric simile which so powerfully captures this feeling.


Homer is describing the clash of armies on the battlefield through the vehicle of the following simile:


'a mass of dust and screaming wind, heaping and indiscriminate.' (Iliad 13.334-7)


However, the application of the image goes beyond the immediate scene of action. The unstoppable power of the dust storm conveys the tremendous might of the armies and the destruction they are bringing. The gathering strength of the storm (‘heaping’) shows how the conflict is gaining momentum. Lastly, its destruction is indiscriminate. It is not just the soldiers affected by the fatal storm of war. Whether one thinks of COVID, the wars tearing apart areas of the world, upon reading this simile, one should realise that the ripple effect, the chain reaction of human conduct spreads far and wide. And I would like to end with a question. The Greeks and Trojans could have stayed their hands and laid down their weapons. But, like the dust storm, can what humans have set in motion become unstoppable? Once again, Homeric comparison between the natural world and human beings invites us to reflect and critique ourselves.

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