A LIST OF HOMERIC (EPIC) SIMILES FROM THE ILIAD AND ODYSSEY

 

[This document, prepared by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, is in the public domain, released 2019. For questions and comments please contact Ian Johnston.]

 

Epic simile: an extended simile that is used typically in epic poetry to intensify the heroic stature of the subject. (Merriam)

 

A Homeric simile (also called an epic simile) is a formal extended comparison, usually introduced by “as,” “just as,” or “like” and almost invariably containing the phrase “that’s how” (or its grammatical equivalent) to indicate the second part of the comparison. The Homeric simile usually continues over several lines, making a direct and often detailed link between two different things. For example, the Homeric similes in the Iliad and Odyssey usually link the behaviour of a character or group in the narrative to some other phenomenon (often a natural event, like a storm or fire or wild beast). Typically, the comparison takes the form “Just as this happens now, that’s how those events back then happened.” Thus, the comparison typically involves bringing together an action in the distant past and a present phenomenon familiar to the audience listening to the poem.

What distinguishes the Homeric simile from an ordinary simile is it length, its detail, and often the energy of its impact, for the length and syntax of the trope (especially the longer versions) enable the lines to gather considerable momentum. Thus, it is relatively easy in most cases to distinguish it from a straightforward and relatively simple normal simile like “His eyes glared underneath his eyelids, like a fire—/ a terrifying light.”

There is no absolute criterion for determining whether or not a particular simile qualifies as a “Homeric” one (e.g., no set number of lines, no strict formulaic structure, no degree of complexity). In the list below, a number of the similes are quite short and relatively simple (three or four lines), and some commentators may feel that they should not be considered Homeric similes. However, I have included these shorter examples in the list.

In this list I have also included a few selections which are not, strictly speaking, formal Homeric similes, since the comparison is less explicit than in the others. The structure of the comparison, however, is very similar to the normal Homeric simile. These examples involve a description of distance (“as far as when . . .”) or time.

The following text lists the various Homeric similes in the Iliad and Odyssey (following the order in which they occur in each book). Each entry briefly identifies the context of the lines and quotes the comparison (using the translation of Ian Johnston); the entry offers two different line references for the passage, one (with the prefix IJ) for the text quoted from the Johnston translation and one (with the prefix Gk) for the Chicago Homer Greek text (available online here: Chicago Homer).

Where two different Homeric similes occur in very close proximity to each other (with a small gap between them), they are both included in the same entry, with a space between them (although I have assigned each a number). Where the text contains two or more consecutive similes without a break, I have included them in the same passage, as they appear in the original text, but treating each one as a separate simile in the numbering.

For a discussion of the important thematic effects of Homeric similes in the Iliad, please consult the following essay: Homer's Similes

 

 

EPIC SIMILES IN THE ILIAD

 

1. The Achaean troops move out to meet their leaders: IJ 2.105, Gk 2.87-93.

 

Just as dense clouds of bees pour out in endless swarms
from hollow rocks, in clusters flying to spring flowers,
charging off in all directions, so from ships and huts
the many clans rushed out to meet, group after group.

 

2. The Achaean troops rush to their ships, IJ 2.169-17, Gk 144-150.

 

Just like huge ocean waves on the Icarian Sea,
when East Wind and South Wind rush down together
from Father Zeus’s clouds to whip up the sea,
the whole assembly rippled, like a large grain field,
undulating under the fury of the storm,
as West Wind roars in with force, all ears of corn
ducking down under the power of the gusts—
that’s how the shouting men stampeded to their ships.

 

3. The Achaean troops respond to Agamemnon’s call to arms, IJ 2.469-472, Gk 2.394-397.

 

Argives answered Agamemnon with a mighty roar,
like waves by a steep cliff crashing on the rock face,
lashed by South Wind’s blasts, always foaming on the rock,
whipped on by every wind gusting here and there.

 

4. Odysseus urges the Achaeans to continue the war: IJ 2.386-390; Gk 2.326-329.

 

                                           Just as that snake
swallowed the sparrow’s brood, eight in all,
with the mother who bore them the ninth one killed,
so that’s how long we’ll fight them over there.
In the tenth year we’ll take Troy, wide streets and all.’

 

5. The Achaeans respond to Agamemnon's speech urging them to battle: IJ 2.469-472; Gk 2.394-397.

 

Argives answered Agamemnon with a mighty roar,
like waves by a steep cliff crashing on the rock face,
lashed by South Wind’s blasts, always foaming on the rock,
whipped on by every wind gusting here and there.

 

6, 7, 8, and 9. The Achaean troops march out for war, IJ 2.534-543, Gk 2.455-466; IJ 2.548-554, Gk 2.469-473.

 

Just as an all-consuming fire burns through huge forests
on a mountain top, and men far off can see its light,
so, as soldiers marched out, their glittering bronze
blazed through the sky to heaven, an amazing sight.
As many birds in flight—geese, cranes, and long-necked swans—
in an Asian meadow by the flowing river Caystrios,
fly here and there, proud of their strong wings, and call,
as they settle, the meadow resounding with the noise,
so the many groups of soldiers moved out then
from ships and huts onto Scamander’s plain.

Like flies swarming around shepherds’ pens in spring,
when pails fill up with milk, so the Achaeans,
a huge long-haired host, marched out onto that plain
against the Trojans, eager to destroy them.
Just as goatherds sort out with ease the wandering beasts,
all mixed up in the pasture, so through all the army,
the leaders organized the troops for battle.

 

10. Agamemnon’s presence among the Achaean warriors, IJ 2.558-561, Gk 2.480-483.

 

Just as in cattle herds the bull stands out above the rest,
by far the most conspicuous amid the cows,
so on that day Zeus made Agamemnon stand
pre-eminent among the troops, first of heroes.

 

11. The noise of the Achaean army on display: IJ 2.862-866, Gk 2.781-784.

 

Earth groaned under them, just as it does
when Zeus, who loves thunder, in his anger lashes
the land around Typhoeus, among the Arimi,
where people say Typhoeus has his lair.
That’s how the earth groaned loudly under marching feet.

 

12 and 13. The armies march out against each other, IJ 3.1-12, Gk 1-14.

 

Once troops had formed in ranks under their own leaders,
Trojans marched out, clamouring like birds, like cranes  
screeching overhead, when winter’s harsh storms drive them off,
screaming as they move over the flowing Ocean,
bearing death and destruction to the Pygmies,
launching their savage attack on them at dawn.
Achaeans came on in silence, breathing ferocity,
determined to stand by each other in the fight.
Just as South Wind spreads mist around the mountain peak,
something shepherds hate, but thieves prefer to night,
for one can see only a stone’s throw up ahead,
so, as men marched, dense dust clouds rose from underfoot.

 

14. Menelaus reacts to the sight of Paris in the opposing army, IJ 3.19-26, Gk 3.23-28.

 

                                       War-loving Menelaus
noticed Alexander striding there, his troops
bunched up in ranks behind him, and he rejoiced,
like a famished lion finding a large carcass—
antlered stag or wild goat—and devouring it at once,
though fierce young hunters and swift dogs attack
So Menelaus was pleased to see Paris there,
right before his eyes.

 

15. Paris reacts to Menelaus facing him in battle: IJ 3.33-36, Gk 3.33-37.

 

                                         Just as a man stumbles on a snake
in some mountainous ravine and gives way, jumping back,
his limbs trembling, his cheeks pale, so godlike Paris,
afraid of Atreus’s son, slid back into proud Trojan ranks.

 

16. Paris praises Hector's resolution: IJ 3.66-69; Gk 3.59-63.

 

Your heart is tireless, like a wood-chopping axe
wielded by a craftsman cutting timber for a ship.
The axe makes his force stronger. Your mind’s like that—
the spirit in your chest is fearless.

 

17. Athena moves from Olympus down to the armies, IJ 4.89-94, Gk 4.73-79.

 

She darted from Olympus summit, sped off,
like a comet sent by crooked-minded Cronos’ son,
a beacon for sailors and the wide race of men, 
showering sparks behind her as she flew—
that’s how Pallas Athena shot to earth, then dropped
right down into the middle of the soldiers.

 

18. Menelaus is wounded from an arrow shot by Pandarus, IJ 4.166-172, Gk 4.141-145.

 

Just as when some woman of Meonia or Caria
stains white ivory with purple dye, making a cheek piece 
for a horse, and leaves it in her room—an object
many riders covet for themselves, a king’s treasure
with double value—horse’s ornament and rider’s glory—
that’s how, Menelaus, your strong thighs, shins, and ankles
were stained with your own blood below the wound.

 

19. Agamemnon urges on reluctant Achaean troops: IJ 4.283-287; Gk 4.243-246.

 

What are you doing just standing here,
like dazed fawns exhausted after running
over a large plain, now motionless,
hearts drained of spirit—that’s how you stand,
in a trance, not marching up to battle.

 

20. The troops around the two Ajaxes prepare for battle, 4.325-332, Gk 4.275-282.

 

Just as a goatherd high on a lookout sees a cloud 
coming down across the sea, driven by West Wind’s force—
something which at a distance seems pitch black 
as it moves across the sea, driving a huge storm,
and, shuddering at the sight, he takes his flocks
into a cave—that’s how the dense ranks of young men,
gods’ favourites, marched around both Ajaxes,
ready for war, all dressed in black, with shields and spears.

 

21. The Achaean forces advance to battle, IJ 4.494-499, Gk 4.422-429.

 

Just as thundering ocean surf crashes on the sand, 
wave after wave, driven by the West Wind’s power, 
one wave rising at sea, then booming down on shore,
arching in crests and crashing down among the rocks, 
spewing salt foam, so then Danaan ranks, 
row after row, moved out, spirits firmly set on war.

 

22. The Trojans move forward into battle, 4.505-509, Gk 4.433-436.

 

As for the Trojans, they were like thousands of ewes 
standing in a rich man’s farm, bleating constantly,
waiting for someone to come and collect white milk,
as they hear lambs call. Just like that, the din rose up 
throughout the widespread Trojan force.

 

23. The battle starts, IJ 4.524-529, Gk 4.452-456.

 

Just as streams swollen with melting snows pour out, 
flow downhill into a pool, and meet some torrent
from a great spring in a hollow gully there,
and the shepherd in the distant hills hears the roar—
so the shouts and turmoil resounded then from warriors,
as they collided.

 

24. Simoeisius is killed in battle: IJ 4.560-567, Gk 4.482-489.

 

He collapsed in the dust, like a poplar tree,
one growing in a large well-watered meadow, 
from whose smooth trunk the branches grow up to the top,
until a chariot builder’s bright axe topples it, 
bends the wood, to make wheel rims for a splendid chariot,
letting the wood season by the riverbank.
That’s how godlike Ajax chopped down Simoeisius, 
son of Anthemion.

 

25, 26, and 27. Diomedes attacks the Trojans, IJ 5.98-105, Gk 5.87-92; IJ 5.155-164, Gk 5.136-143; IJ 5.184-188, Gk 5.161-165.

 

For he rushed across the plain like a swollen river,
like a swift winter torrent bursting dikes—
no dam put in its way can hold it back,
no barrier of fruitful vineyards check its current,
as all at once it floods when storms from Zeus roar down.
It knocks aside all fine things built by farmers,
hard-working men. That’s how the son of Tydeus
drove the dense ranks of Trojans into mass confusion.

                                                              He was like a lion
slightly hurt by a shepherd guarding his sheep flock
out in the wilds, when it jumps the wall into the pen.
But he’s not killed it. The wound rouses the beast’s strength.
The shepherd can’t keep the charging lion from his sheep,
who, left unguarded, panic. Huddled in a mass,
they crowd in on one another. So the lion,
in his hot rage, leaps over the wide sheep-fold wall.
That’s how strong Diomedes went to fight the Trojans
in his angry fury.

                                                           Just as a lion
leaps onto cattle and snaps necks on the cows,
some heifer grazing in the bushes, so Tydeus’s son
knocked them out of their chariot viciously,
against their will.

 

28. Dust covers the Achaean troops on the battlefield: IJ 5.591-596, Gk 5.499-505.

 

As on the sacred threshing floor wind blows the chaff,
while men stand winnowing the crop, when Demeter,
with her golden hair, separates the grain from chaff
in the rushing breeze, and piles of chaff grow whiter,
so then Achaean troops grew white, covered with dust
stirred up by horses’ hooves. It coloured the sky bronze.

 

29. The Danaans hold their ground against the Trojans: IJ 5.616-623, Gk 5.522-527.

 

They did not fear the Trojans’ powerful attack
and stood their ground like clouds set in place by Zeus,
son of Cronos, above a range of mountain peaks
on a windless day, quite motionless, while the force
of North Wind and other raging blasts is sound asleep.
When these storm winds blow, they scatter shadowy clouds.
That’s the way Danaans held their positions then,
without flinching, without fear.

 

30. Crethon and Orsilochus are killed by Aeneas: IJ 5.651-656, Gk 5.554-560.

 

                                                            As two lions,
cared for by their mother in a deep thick forest
on a mountain peak, steal stout sheep and cattle
and plunder people’s farmsteads, until they perish,
killed by sharp bronze in the hands of men, so these two died,
cut down by Aeneas. They fell like lofty pines.

 

31. Diomedes backs away from Ares on the battlefield: IJ 5.700-704, Gk 5.596-600.

 

When Diomedes, skilled in war cries, noticed Ares,
he shuddered—just a man crossing a large plain
stops at a raging river rushing to the sea,
looks helplessly at swirling foam, and moves away—
so Tydeus’s son backed off then. . .

 

32. Hera's horses move swiftly towards the battlefield: IJ 5.882-884; Gk 5.770-772.

 

As far as a man on a height can see in the distant haze
as he looks out across the wine-dark sea, that’s how far
gods’ snorting horses vault in just one stride.

 

33 and 34. Ares leaves the battlefield wounded: IJ 5.983-992, Gk 5.859-867.

 

                                                        Brazen Ares roared
as loud as the screams of nine or ten thousand men
when they clash in war. Fear seized Achaeans—Trojans, too.
They shuddered. That’s how strong that cry sounded
as it came from Ares, insatiable for war.
Just as a dark mist moves upward from the clouds,

when in hot weather a strong wind arises,
so brazen Ares looked to Tydeus’ son, Diomedes, 
as the god at once soared up into the clouds,
ascending to wide heaven.

 

35. Ares receives treatment for his battle wound: IJ 5.1033-1035; Gk 5.902-904.

 

                                                    Just as fig juice
added quickly to white milk clots it at once,
as it’s stirred, that’s how fast headstrong Ares healed.

 

36. Glaucus talks to Diomedes about his family: IJ 6.181-185, Gk 6.146-150.

 

Generations of men are like the leaves.
In winter, winds blow them down to earth,
but then, when spring season comes again,
the budding wood grows more. And so with men—
one generation grows, another dies away.

 

37. Paris set off to the battle lines: IJ 6.617-626, Gk 6.506-514.

 

Just as some stalled stallion, well fed in the barn,
breaks his restraints, then gallops at top speed
across the plain, off to bathe in a fair-flowing river,
something he does habitually, proud of his strength,
holding his head high, mane streaming on his shoulders,
legs carrying him swiftly to the grazing mares—
that’s how Paris, son of Priam, hurried then,
rushing down from the heights of Pergamus,
gleaming like a ray of sunshine in his armour,
laughing with joy as his feet carried him so fast.

 

38. The Trojans welcome Hector and Paris back to the fighting: IJ 7.4-7, Gk 7.4-7.

 

Just as some god sends a breeze to sailors in distress,
when they work themselves too hard rowing out at sea,
bodies broken with fatigue at their polished oars—
that’s how these two looked to the long-suffering Trojans.

 

39. Trojan and Achaean armies momentarily pause to listen to Hector: IJ 7.72-75, Gk 7.63-66.

 

                    As West Wind, when it starts to blow,
ruffles the sea, and waters under it grow black—
that’s what ranks of Trojans and Achaeans looked like
out there on the plain.

 

40. Ajax, fully armed, moves out to fact Hector in single combat: IJ 7.246-253; Gk 7.207-213.

 

When all his armour was in place around his body,
he moved forward, like some gigantic Ares
when he sets off to battle among warriors
whom Zeus, son of Cronos, has stirred up for war,
to fight with that war frenzy which consumes men’s hearts.
That’s how huge Ajax, bulwark of Achaeans,
came up then, a grim smile on his face, moving his feet
with giant strides.

 

41. Gorgythion dies from an arrow: IJ 8.357-359, Gk 8.306-308.

 

Just as the head on a garden poppy leans aslant,
loaded down with heavy seed and spring rain showers,
so Gorgythion’s head sagged under his helmet’s weight.

 

42. Hector attacks the Trojans: IJ 8.394-398, Gk 8.338-342.

 

Just as some hunting dog in a swift-footed chase
gets a grip on a wild boar or lion from the back,
on the flank or rump, and watches that beast’s every move,
that’s how Hector harried the long-haired Achaeans,
always killing off the stragglers as they fled.

 

43. Trojan camp fires shine on the plain at night: IJ 8.651-658, Gk 8.555-561.

 

Just like those times when the stars shine bright in heaven,
clustered around the glowing moon, with no wind at all,
and every peak and jutting headland, every forest glade
is clearly visible, when every star shines out,
and the shepherd’s heart rejoices—that’s the way
the many Trojan fires looked, as they burned there
in front of Ilion, between the river Xanthus
and the ships, a thousand fires burning on the plain.

 

44. The Achaeans are filled with a sense of foreboding: IJ 9.4-8; Gk 9.4-8.

 

Just like those times two winds blow in from Thrace—
North Wind and West Wind suddenly spring up
and lash the fish-filled seas—black waves at once rise up,
then fling seaweed in piles along the shoreline—
so spirits in Achaean chests were now cast down.

 

45. Achilles complains that he does not receive sufficient recognition in the war: IJ 9.403-408; Gk 9.323-327.

 

                                                      Just as a bird
takes scraps of food, whatever she can find,
to her fledglings, but herself eats little,
so have I lain without sleep many nights,
persevered through bloody days of fighting,
in battling men in wars about their wives.

 

46. Agamemnon feels grim about the military situation: IJ 10.6-12, Gk 6.5-10.

 

Just as when Zeus, husband of fair-haired Hera,
flashes lightning to announce a massive rain storm,
an immense downpour of hail or snow, when fields
are sprinkled white, or to foretell some bitter warfare,
the gaping jaws of battle—in just that way then 
the groans reverberated in Agamemnon’s chest,
deep in his heart, making his whole body tremble.

 

47. Achaeans remain on watch during the night: 10.220-226, Gk 10.183-189.

 

Just as dogs maintain a tired watch over their sheep
in some farm yard, when they hear a savage beast,
who’s just moved down from wooded hills, men and dogs
raising a din around it, so those dogs get no rest,
that’s how sweet sleep had left those sentries’ eyelids,
as they kept guard that wretched night, always turning
towards the plain, in case they heard the Trojans coming.

 

48. Odysseus and Diomedes chase Dolon: IJ 10.428-433, Gk 10.360-364.

 

                                                                 Just as when two dogs,
skilled hunting hounds with sharp fangs, harass some doe
or hare relentlessly across a wooded country,
the prey screaming as it runs, that’s how Tydeus’ son
and Odysseus, destroyer of cities, pursued him,
keeping Dolon from his people with their constant chase.

 

49. Diomedes kills the sleeping Thracian soldiers: IJ 10.581-585, Gk 10.485-488.

 

                                                                     Just as a lion
comes across an unguarded flock of sheep or goats
and leaps on them, heart thirsting for the kill,
so Tydeus’s son went at those Thracian soldiers,
until he’d slaughtered twelve.

 

50 and 51. Hector on the battlefield; the armies continue to fight: IJ 11.65-75, Gk 11.62-71.

 

As some ominous star now suddenly appears,
shining through the clouds, and then disappears again
into the cloud cover, that’s how Hector looked,
as he showed up in front, then in the rear,
issuing orders. All in shining bronze, he flashed
like lightning from Father Zeus, who holds the aegis.

Then, just as reapers work in some rich man’s fields,
arranged in rows facing each other, cutting the crop,
wheat or barley, scything handfuls thick and fast,
that’s how Trojans and Achaeans went at each other, 
slicing men down.

 

52. After fighting all day, the Achaeans break through: IJ 11.93-98; Gk 11.86-91.

 

But at the hour a woodcutter prepares his meal
in some mountain glade, when his arms are tired
cutting big trees, when weariness comes in his heart
and sweet appetite for food overtakes his mind,
that’s when Danaans, calling to each other in the ranks,
courageously broke through.

 

53. Agamemnon kills Isus and Antiphus: IJ 11.125-133, Gk 11.113-121.

 

Just as a lion chews up with ease the tender offspring
of some nimble deer, when he comes in their den—
his strong teeth seize them and rip out their tender life—
and the mother, even close by, cannot help them,
for a fearful trembling panic seizes her, so she runs fast,
bolting in a lather through dense foliage and trees,
from that mighty beast’s attack—in just that way,
no Trojan then could save these two from slaughter,
for they were running off in flight from Argives.

 

54. Trojan soldiers run away from Agamemnon: IJ 11.176-181, Gk 11.155-159.

 

Just as destructive fire strikes thick woodland scrub,
driven in all directions by the swirling wind,
burning thickets to their roots, so they disappear,
swallowed up in the inferno’s fiery rush,
that’s how the heads of Trojans fell, as they ran off,  
brought down by Agamemnon, son of Atreus.

 

55. Agamemnon continues to kill the fleeing Trojans: IJ 11.196-204, Gk 11.172-178.

 

But they were still in flight across the middle of the plain,
like cows scattered by a lion coming at them
in the dead of night—a general stampede,
but clearly grim destruction for one of them,
whose neck the lion first seizes in strong teeth,
breaks it, then gorges on the blood and all the innards—
that’s how mighty Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
harassed Trojans, always killing off the stragglers,
as they fled back.

 

56. Agamemnon is wounded and begins to feel the pain IJ 11.307-310, Gk 11.269-272.

 

Just as a sharp spasm seizes women giving birth,
a piercing labour pain sent by the Eilithyiae,
Hera’s daughters, who control keen pangs of childbirth,
that’s how sharp pain sapped Agamemnon’s fighting strength.

 

57. Hector rallies the Trojans: IJ 11.332-335, Gk 11.292-295.

 

Just as a hunter urges on his white-fanged hounds,
to chase a lion or wild boar, that’s how Hector,
son of Priam, like that man-destroyer Ares,
urged his great-hearted Trojans on against Achaeans.

 

58. Hector kills many Achaeans in his attack: IJ 11.345-350, Gk 11.304-309.

 

                                                        Like West Wind,
when it demolishes white South Wind’s clouds,
striking them with heavy squalls, while many waves roll on,
massive and swollen, scattering spray high in the air,
under the howling of the veering wind storm—
that’s how thick and fast Hector destroyed those men.

 

59. Odysseus and Diomedes help defend the Achaeans from Hector: IJ 11.369-372, Gk 11.324-326.

 

                                 Just as two furious wild boars
fall on the dogs chasing after them, that’s how 
Diomedes and Odysseus turned back again
to slaughter Trojans.

 

60. Trojan soldiers attack Odysseus, who has become isolated: IJ 11.473-479, Gk 11.413-420.

 

As when young men and hunting dogs harass a boar,
the beast charges from dense foliage on every side,
whetting white teeth on its curving jaws, and they dodge
all round it, to the sound of champing tusks,
hunters and dogs standing firm, for all their fear—
that’s how Trojans then kept going at Odysseus,
whom Zeus loved.

 

61. Menelaus and Ajax find Odysseus surrounded by Trojans: IJ 11.535-545, Gk 11.473-483.

 

              They found Odysseus, whom Zeus loved,
encircled by Trojans, like red mountain jackals
surrounding a horned stag wounded by an arrow
from some man’s bow—its legs enable it to flee,
for while its warm blood flows, its limbs have power—
but as soon as that sharp arrow’s drained its strength,
in some forest shade, wild mountain carnivores attack,
but should some god then lead a hungry lion there,
the jackals scatter, and the lion eats the stag—
that’s the way resourceful fierce Odysseus was attacked
by many daring Trojans.

 

62. Ajax attacks the Trojans: IJ 11.554-560, Gk 11.492-497.

 

                                                                      As some river,
a mountain torrent in full winter flood, crashes down
onto the plain, gaining its power from Zeus’s storms,
sweeping up many withered oaks and pine trees,
throwing piles of mud into the sea—that’s how
glorious Ajax then charged out onto the plain,
creating havoc, slaughtering men and horses.

 

63 and 64. Ajax retreats from the Trojans: IJ 11.619-629, Gk 11.548-557; IJ 11.631-639, Gk 11.557-565.

 

                                        Just as a tawny lion
is driven from a farmyard holding cattle  
by dogs and farmers, who keep watch all night long
to stop it tearing some well-fed cow to pieces,
but the beast, ravenous for meat, keeps charging in,
without success, for a storm of spears rains down on him,
thrown by eager hands, followed then by burning sticks,
which, for all his fierce desire, make him afraid,
so, at dawn, he slinks away in bitter disappointment—
that’s how Ajax most unwillingly retreated then,
away from Trojans, his spirit in distress.

Just as when some donkey taken past a cornfield—
a stubborn beast on whose sides many sticks are broken—
bolts from boys tending it and goes to munch deep corn,
while boys beat it with sticks—although their strength is small,
at last they drive it out, once it’s had its fill—
that’s how proud Trojans and allies from many lands
then pushed back great Ajax, son of Telamon,
their spears always jabbing at the centre of his shield.

 

65. Hector attacks the Achaean wall: IJ: 12.42-51, Gk. 12.41-50.

 

                                                        Just as some wild boar
or lion faced with dogs and huntsmen keeps turning,
confident of his strength, and men form in a line,
preparing to go against the beast, hurling spears
in volleys from their hands—still it doesn’t tremble,
show any fear in its brave heart, but its courage
kills the beast—repeatedly it whirls itself around,
threatening the ranks of men—that’s how Hector then
moved through the troops, urging men to attack the ditch
and charge across it.

 

66 and 67. Polypoetes and Leonteus defend the Achaean gate in the wall: IJ 12.137-142, Gk 12.131-136; IJ 12.152-158; Gk 12.146-152.

 

These two made their stand before the lofty gate,
like two high-topped mountain oak trees which defy
wind and rain each and every day, anchored there
by huge extensive roots—just like that, these two men,
trusting the power in their arms, held their position,
as great Asius approached.

 

Like wild mountain boars taking on a confused mob
of men and dogs attacking them—the beasts charge sideways,
shattering trees around them, ripping out the roots,
gnashing their teeth noisily, till someone
hits them with his spear and takes away their lives—
that’s how the shining bronze sounded on these two,
as they moved out against the flying weapons.

 

68. Achaeans on the wall throw rocks at the advancing Trojans: IJ 12.163-166, Gk:12.156-160.

 

Stones fell to earth like snowflakes which some strong wind
pushing shadowy clouds drives downward in a storm,
so they strike the fertile earth, that’s how thick and fast
flying weapons rained down then from Trojans and Achaeans.

 

69. Asius complains to Zeus about the Achaeans defending the wall against his attack: IJ 12.171-179, Gk 12.165-172.

 

I did not think these warrior Achaeans
could withstand the force of our all-powerful hands.
But they’re like yellow-banded wasps or bees
who’ve made their home by some rough road
and won’t leave their hollow house, but stay there,
guarding their offspring from the hunting men.
That’s how these men refuse to yield the gate,
though there’s just two of them, until they kill us
or are killed themselves.

 

70. Achaeans and Trojans continue to hurl spears and rocks at each other:  IJ 12.301-311, Gk: 12.278-289.

 

As snowflakes on a winter’s day fall thick and fast,
when Counsellor Zeus begins to snow, to demonstrate
to men his weapons—first he calms the winds,
then snows steadily, till he’s completely covered
high mountain peaks, jutting headlands, grassy meadows,
fertile farms of men, shedding snow on harbours,
inlets of the blue-grey sea, where waves roll in
to push back snow, while, from above, all the rest
is covered over, when Zeus storms with heavy snow—
that’s how thick the stones fell then on both sides,
some thrown on Trojans, some from Trojans on Achaeans.

 

71. Sarpedon attacks the Achaean rampart: IJ 12.321-331, Gk 12.298-308.

 

Holding this shield before him, brandishing two spears,
he hurried forward like a mountain lion
long ravenous for meat, whose bold spirit pushes him
to go even into the protected sheep fold
to attack the flock, and even if he comes across
herdsmen with dogs and spears guarding sheep inside,
he won’t leave that fold without making an attempt,
so he springs on one, seizes it, or is hit himself
in the first rush, by a spear from some swift hand—
that’s how godlike Sarpedon’s spirit drove him then
to assault the wall, break down the parapets.

 

72 and 73. Lycian and Achaeans fight on the rampart: IJ 12.465-468, Gk 12.421-424; IJ 12.478-484, Gk: 12.432-438.

 

                             As two men with measuring rods
quarrel over survey markers in a common field,
striving for a fair division in some narrow place,
that’s how the parapet kept these troops apart.

Just as an industrious and honest woman
holds her scales, a weight on one side, wool on the other,
until they balance, so she can glean a pittance
for her children, that’s how evenly the battle raged,
until Zeus gave glory above all other men
to Hector, son of Priam, who was the first man
to jump inside that wall of the Achaeans.

 

74. Hector picks up a huge rock to smash the gates: IJ 12.497-502, Gk 12.451-454.

 

Just as a shepherd has no trouble carrying
a ram’s fleece in one hand, hardly noticing the weight,
so Hector lifted up that rock, then carried it
straight to the doors guarding the strongly fitted gates,
high double doors with two cross pieces holding them inside
secured with a single bolt.

 

75. Poseidon leaves the two Ajaxes on the battlefield: IJ 13.69-72, Gk 13.62-64.

 

                                               Just as a swift-winged hawk
takes off while hovering above some high sheer rock,
swooping down over the plain to hunt another bird—
that how Earthshaker Poseidon went off then.

 

76. Poseidon encourages Achaean troops by demeaning Trojans: IJ 13.112-118, Gk 13.99-104.

 

Alas! What my eyes witness here astounds me,
a dreadful thing I never thought would happen—
Trojans moving up to our own ships,
men who previously were shy, like deer,
which in the woods are prey to jackals,
wolves, and leopards, as they wander round,
alone and frightened, with no will to fight.

 

77. Hector advances to the Achaean ships: IJ 13.160-169, Gk 13.136-143.

 

The Trojans came on in a mass, led by Hector,
always charging forward, like a rolling boulder,
which some river in a winter flood dislodges
from a cliff beside its banks, its great flood eroding
what supports that lethal stone. In its fall, it bounces—
woods crash underneath it, as it accelerates
in a straight line, unimpeded—then it hits the plain,
where, for all its impetus, its motion stops.
That’s how Hector threatened then to smash his way
with ease down to the sea, to Achaea’s huts and ships.

 

78. Imbrius is killed by Teucer: IJ 13.209-213, Gk 13.178-182.

 

Just as an ash tree growing on a mountain top,
visible from every side, is chopped down by bronze,
its foliage crashing to the ground—that’s how he fell.
His armour, finely decorated bronze, rang out,
reverberating round him.

 

79. The two Ajaxes haul off the corpse of Imbrius: IJ 13.233-236, Gk 13.198-202.

 

As two lions snatch a goat from sharp-toothed hounds,
then take it in their jaws off through thick underbrush,
holding it well off the ground, that’s how both Ajaxes
held Imbrius up. They stripped off his armour.

 

80. Idomeneus prepares to return to battle: IJ 13.280-286, Gk 13.240-245.

 

                                                                    Idomeneus
went into his well-made hut, strapped fine armour
round his body, took two spears and then strode out,

looking like a lightning bolt which Cronos’ son
grips in his hand and hurls down from bright Olympus,
revealing in its dazzling flash a sign for mortal men,
that’s how, as he moved, bronze glinted on his chest.

 

81. Idomeneus and Meriones return to the battlefield: IJ 13.351-360, Gk 13.298-305.

 

Just as man-killing Ares sets off to battle
accompanied by his son Terror, just as strong,
as fearless, who makes any man afraid,
no matter how courageous he may be—the two of them
setting out from Thrace, having armed themselves to fight
Ephyreans or brave Phlegyans, giving glory
to one of them, without listening to either side—
that’s how Meriones and Idomeneus,
leaders of men, set off to battle, fully armed
in glittering bronze.

 

82. The two sides fight by the Achaean ships: IJ 13.396-399, Gk 13.334-337.

 

Just as keen winds sometimes whip up gusts of air,
when dirt lies heavy on the roads, and stir up
all the dust into huge clouds—that’s how this fight
gathered momentum then.

 

83. Asius is killed by Idomeneus: IJ 13.465-469, Gk 13.389-393.

 

Just as a mountain oak, poplar, or tall pine falls,
cut down by working men with freshly sharpened axes,
to make timbers for some ship, that how Asius lay,
stretched out there before his chariot and horses,
gagging, his fingers clawing at the bloody dust.

 

84. Idomeneus stands his ground to face Aeneas: IJ 13.556-63, Gk 13.471-477.

 

                                            Just as a wild mountain boar,
trusting its own strength, stands firm against a mob,
a crowd of men who chase it in some lonely place,
with hair bristling along its back, its eyes lit up,
like fire, gnashing its teeth ferociously, eager
to toss dogs and men aside—that’s just the way
the famous spearman Idomeneus stood then,
without backing off, as swift Aeneas came at him.

 

85. Trojan troop come to reinforce Aeneas: IJ 13.583-587, Gk 13.492-494.

 

                                        Just as a flock of sheep
follows the ram from pasture to their water,
filling the shepherd’s heart with joy, so Aeneas
was happy in his chest to see that band of soldiers
standing there around him.

 

86. Adamas is killed by a spear in the groin: IJ 13.671-676, Gk 13.570-573.

 

When that spear struck Adamas, he doubled up,
bent down over the spear, writhing like a bull
which farmers in the mountains bind with willow shoots
and drag along by force, against the creature’s will.
That’s how Adamas, once hit, twitched there for a while,
but not for long.

 

87. An arrow from Helenus fails to pierce Menelaus’s armour: IJ 13.691-695, Gk 13.588-592.

 

                                      Just as black beans or peas
fly off a broad shovel on large threshing floors,
driven by the sharp wind or winnower’s strength—
that’s how the arrow point glanced off the breast plate,
then flew aside, away from glorious Menelaus.

 

88. The two Ajaxes fight alongside each other: IJ 13.829-835, Gk 13.703-708.

 

Just as in a meadow a pair of wine-dark oxen
strain with the same heart to pull a jointed plough,
beads of sweat running from the bottom of their horns,
with nothing but a well-polished yoke between them,
as they labour down the furrows, till the plough
slices through the edges of the field—that’s the way
the two Ajaxes stood together then, side by side.

 

89. Hector leads the Trojans against the ships: IJ 13.932-939, Gk 13.795-801.

 

                              Just like blasts of storming winds
striking the earth under Father Zeus’s thunder,
then with a roar slicing into the sea, whipping up
a crowd of surging waves across a booming ocean,
with lines of arching foam, one following another—
that is how Trojans marched behind their leaders,
in a tight formation, one behind the other,
glittering in bronze.

 

90. Nestor is uncertain what to do as the Achaeans fall back: IJ 14.17-22, Gk 14.16-20.

 

Just as the great sea heaves with a sullen purple swell,
anticipating the swift passage of sharp winds—
but uncertainly—so its waves have no direction,
until some steady storm blows down from Zeus—that’s how
the old man was lost in thought, his heart divided
between two courses.

 

91. Poseidon shouts encouragement to the Achaeans: IJ 14.178-185, Gk 14.147-152.

 

                                                       Poseidon said these words,
then, as he raced off to the plain, let out a mighty roar—
as loud as the din from nine or ten thousand men
when on a battleground they first clash with Ares.
That’s how loud the sound was which came out then
from powerful Earthshaker’s chest, infusing
great strength in each man’s heart to keep on going,
to fight on there and not to pause for rest.

 

92. The Trojan and Achaean armies collide by the ships: IJ 14.461-470, Gk 14.394-401.

 

The sea surged up to the Achaean huts and ships,
as the two sides met with a tremendous noise,
louder than ocean surf booming on shore, driven there
from the depths by the harsh North Wind, louder, too,
than roaring fire as it jumps to burn the trees
in some mountain clearing, louder than the wind
which howls through the highest branches of some oak tree,
a wind which at its worst makes the most piercing noise—
that’s how loud the shouting came from Trojans and Achaeans,
terrifying screams, as they went at each other.

 

93. Hector is hit by a rock thrown by Ajax and falls down: IJ 14.485-490, Gk 14.414-420.

 

                                     Just like those times Father Zeus
uproots some oak tree with a lightning bolt—it falls,
with an awful smell of sulphur spreading from it,
which no one close by can look at without fear,
for Zeus’s lighting bolts fill men with terror—
that’s how mighty Hector fell down in the dust.

 

94. Hera rushes away from Zeus to carry out his instructions: IJ 15.97-101, Gk 15.80-83.

 

                                                      Just as the mind
races in a man who has voyaged to many lands,
when in his fertile head he recalls everything,
and thinks “I wish I were here! I wish I were there!”—
that’s how fast queen Hera hurried in her eagerness.

 

95. Iris hurries away from Ida with Zeus’s messages: IJ 15.202-204, Gk 15.170-172.

 

Just as snow or icy hail flies down from clouds, swept on
by gales from North Wind, child of the upper sky,
that’s how quickly swift and eager Iris moved.

 

96. Apollo helps Hector regain his strength: IJ 15.316-326, Gk 15.263-270.

 

                                                     Just as some horse in a stall
who at the manger has eaten well, then breaks his halter
and runs off across the plain at a thundering gallop,
eager for its usual bath in the flowing river,
exulting as it goes, with head held high, its mane
flowing across its shoulders, fully confident
of its own splendour, limbs carrying it lightly
to places where the mares are in the pasture,
that’s how quickly Hector moved his feet and limbs,
as he urged on his charioteers, once he’d heard
Apollo’s voice.

 

97. The Achaeans stand up to Hector at first: IJ 15.326-333, Gk 15.271-277.

 

                                 Just as dogs and country farmers
chase a horned stag or wild goat, but the creature
saves itself in a sheer rock face or dark underbrush,
and men have no luck finding it, but their shouts
attract a bearded lion to their path, who scatters them,
despite their eagerness—that’s how Danaans
for a while continued to press on in groups,
thrusting away with swords and double-bladed spears.

 

98. The Achaeans run away from Apollo and Hector: IJ 15.383-386, Gk 15.323-326.

 

Just as two wild beasts stampede a herd of cattle
or large flock of sheep, coming suddenly in dark night,
with no herdsman present, that’s how Achaeans,
in their weakness, were then put to flight.

 

99. Apollo destroys the Achaean wall: IJ 15.436-432, Gk 15.360-366.

 

                                                          The Achaean wall
he easily demolished, as a child will scatter sand—
in a childish game beside the sea he builds a sand wall,
then with his hands and feet flattens it for fun.
That’s how you, archer Phoebus, at that time knocked down
what the Achaeans had built with so much effort,
such hard work.

 

100. The Trojans are re-energized and attack the Achaean wall: IJ 15.450-456, Gk 15.381-385.

 

                                    Just as a great wave crashes
from the wide sea onto the planking of a ship,
driven by forceful winds whipping up the waves—
that’s how Trojans, with tremendous shouts, came down,
through the wall, driving their chariots to the fighting,
the hand-to-hand combat with double bladed spears
by the ships’ sterns.

 

101. The Trojans cannot break the Achaean battle line: IJ 15.481-484, Gk 15.410-413.

 

Just as a carpenter’s line makes ship’s timber straight,
when a craftsman’s hand applies it, a skilled expert
in all facets of his trade, inspired by Athena—
that’s how tensely poised the fighting in that battle stood.

 

102. Antilochus chases after Melanippus: IJ 15.768-682, Gk 15.579-581.

 

                                                                     Then Antilochus
pounced on him, like a dog leaping on a wounded fawn,
which some hunter hits as it rushes from its den,
loosening its limbs. That how bold Antilochus
went after you, Melanippus, to strip your armour.

 

103. Antilochus moves away from Hector in the battle: IJ 15.686-689, Gk 15.585-588.

 

He ran back, like some wild beast intent on mischief,
one that’s killed a dog or herder with the cattle,
and scampers off before a crowd of people gather.
That’s how Nestor’s son scurried back.

 

104. The Achaeans hold their line by the ships: IJ 15.722-726, Gk 15.618-621.

 

                                                  Just as a huge stone cliff
by the blue-grey sea stands firm against the wind 
howling straight at it or the surging surf which pounds it—
that’s how Danaans stood up to the Trojans then,
firmly with no falling back.

 

105 and 106. Hector charges the Achaean forces at the ships: IJ 15.726-743, Gk 15.623-637.

 

                                                             But then Hector,
blazing all over like some fire, charged the throng,
falling on them as a fierce wave whipped up by a storm
crashes against a ship, which gets hidden in the foam,
blasts of wind shrieking past the sail, and sailors’ hearts
tremble with fear as they are carried off from death
inch by inch—that’s how hearts in those Achaean chests
were cracking. Hector charged them like a vicious lion
going at cattle grazing in huge numbers
in the bottom wetlands of a spacious meadow,
guarded by a herdsman who still lacks the skills
to fight a wild beast for the mangled carcass
of some short-horn heifer—with the herd he goes
always beside the first or last ones of the group,
but the lion leaps into the middle and devours a cow,
as all the others scatter—that’s how Achaeans then
were all driven back in awe-struck terror by Hector
and Father Zeus.

 

107. Ajax defends the Achaean ships: IJ 15.788-798, Gk 15.679-686.

 

Just as a man well skilled in guiding horses
harnesses together four chosen out of many,
then drives them at a gallop from the plain
to some large city on a public highway,
while many men and women look at him amazed,
as he keeps leaping from one horse to another,
landing firmly, never slipping as they race ahead—
that’s how Ajax, with huge strides, kept on moving
over many decks on those swift ships, shouting
so his voice reached heaven, telling Danaans
in fearsome yells to defend their ships and huts.

 

108. Hector moves against Ajax at the ships: IJ 15.799-803, Gk 15.690-694.

 

Hector did not stay in the well-armed Trojan group,
but, like an eagle swooping down upon some flock
of winged birds feeding by a river bank—
wild geese or cranes or long-necked swans—he rushed
straight at the dark-prowed ships to take on Ajax.

 

109. Achilles chides Patroclus for his grief: IJ 16.7-13, Gk 16.6-11.

 

“Why are you crying, Patroclus, like some girl,
an infant walking beside her mother,
asking to be picked up. She pulls the robe
and stops her mother strolling on ahead,
looking up at her in tears, until the mother
lifts her up. You’re crying just like that girl,
Patroclus.”

 

110. The Myrmidons prepare to go to battle: IJ 16.190-201, Gk 16.156-167.

 

They rushed out, like flesh-eating wolves, hearts full
of unspeakable fury, beasts which in the mountains
have caught and ripped apart some huge antlered stag.
Then in a pack they charge off, jaws all dripping blood,
to lap black surface water with their slender tongues
in some dark spring, vomiting up clots of blood
from their crammed bellies, while in their chests their hearts
are resolute. That’s how the leaders and commanders
of the Myrmidons rushed around brave Patroclus,
comrade of swift Achilles, Aeacus’s descendant,
who stood among them there, urging on the horses
and the warriors carrying their shields.

 

111. The Myrmidons gather in a close formation: IJ 16.255-259, Gk 16.212-215.

 

Just as a man constructs a wall for some high house,
using well-fitted stones to keep out forceful winds,
that’s how close their helmets and bossed shields lined up,
shield pressing against shield, helmet against helmet,
man against man.

 

112. The Myrmidons attack the Trojans by the ships: IJ 16.308-318, Gk 16.259-267.

 

The armed warriors who went with brave Patroclus
marched out in formation, until, with daring hearts,
they charged the Trojans, immediately swarming out,
like wasps beside a road, which young lads love to torment,
constantly disturbing them in their roadside nests—
those fools make mischief for all sorts of people.
If some man going past along the road upsets them
by accident, they all swarm out with fearless hearts
to guard their young—with that same heart and spirit
the Myrmidons then poured out from their ships
with a ceaseless roar.

 

113. The Achaeans save the ships from burning: IJ 16.351-357, Gk 16.297-302.

 

Just as from a high peak of some massive mountain,
Zeus, who gathers lightning, shifts a bulky cloud,
once more revealing all the peaks, high headlands,
and mountain glades, while from heaven the huge bright sky
breaks open—that’s how Danaans saved their ships
from fire and could rest, if only for a moment,
since the fighting was not over yet.

 

114. The Achaeans slaughter many Trojans: IJ 16.411-418, Gk 16.352-357.

 

Just as ravenous mountain wolves suddenly attack
young goats or lambs and seize them from the flock,
when in the mountains an inattentive shepherd
lets them wander off—once the wolves see them,
they attack at once, for those young lack the heart to fight—
that’s how Danaans then went after Trojans,
whose minds now turned to shameful flight, for they had lost
their will to battle on.

 

115. The Trojans run back from the Achaean charge: IJ 16.425-429, Gk 16.364-367.

 

Just as those times a cloud comes from Olympus,
moving from the upper air across the sky,
when Zeus brings on a rain storm—that’s how Trojans
fled yelling from the ships, crossing the ditch again
in complete disorder.

 

116. The Trojan horses panic and scream: IJ 16.449-458, Gk 16.384-393.

 

Just as in late summer rainstorms, the dark earth
is all beaten down, when Zeus pours out his waters
with utmost violence, when he’s enraged with men
who have provoked him with their crooked judgments,
corrupting their assemblies and driving justice out,
not thinking of gods’ vengeance, so all the rivers
crest in flood, their torrents carving many hillsides,
as they roar down from the mountains in a headlong rush
toward the purple sea, destroying the works of men—
that’s how, as they sped on, the Trojan horses screamed.

 

117. Patroclus kills Thestor: IJ 16.474-479, Gk 16.406-410.

 

                                                                    Just as a man
sitting on a rocky point hauls up a monstrous fish
out of the sea, using a line and bright bronze hook—
that’s how Patroclus dragged Thestor from his chariot,
mouth skewered on the shining spear. He threw him down,
face first.

 

118 and 119. Sarpedon is struck by Patroclus’s spear: IJ 16.563-572, Gk 16.482-491.

 

Sarpedon toppled over, as an oak tree falls,
or poplar or tall mountain pine which craftsmen cut
with sharpened axes, to harvest timber for a ship—
that’s how he lay there stretched out before his chariot
and horses, groaning and clawing at the bloody dust.
Just as a lion moves into a herd, then kills a bull,
a sleek great-hearted steer among the shambling cattle,
which bellows as it dies right in the lion’s jaws—
that’s how Sarpedon, leader of the Lycian spearmen,
struggled as he died . . .

 

120. Patroclus rushes at the Trojans to avenge Epeigeus: IJ 16.679-683; Gk 16.582-585.

 

                  He moved through those fighting in the front,
like a swift hawk swooping down on daws or starlings.
That’s how fast, Patroclus, master horseman, you charged
the Lycians and Trojans then, with anger in your heart
for your companion.

 

121. Hector and the Trojans move back from Patroclus: IJ 16.685-690; Gk 16.589-592.

 

                           Those fighting in the ranks in front,
including glorious Hector, moved back somewhat,
as far as a long javelin flies when it is thrown
by a man in competition showing off his strength,
or in a battle with a murderous enemy—
that’s how far Achaeans forced the Trojans to move back.

 

122. The noise of the battle rises from the earth: IJ 16.739-744, Gk 16.633-637.

 

                                                          Then the turmoil started—
just like the din woodcutters make in mountain forests,
a noise heard far away—that’s how it sounded then,
the clamour rising from the widely travelled earth,
a clash of bronze and leather, well-made ox-hide shields,
as they fought there with two-edged spears and swords.

 

123. Achaeans and Trojans fight around the body of Sarpedon: 16.748-751, Gk 16. 639-643.

 

For men were swarming round the corpse like farmyard flies
clustering by buckets full of milk in springtime,
when milk overflows the pails—that how those warriors
buzzed around Sarpedon then.

 

124. Patroclus rushes to the corpse of Cebriones: IJ 16.876-880, Gk 16.751-754.

 

This said, Patroclus rushed at warrior Cebriones,
moving like a lion who, while savaging some farm,
is hit in the chest, so his own courage kills him.
That’s how you, Patroclus, rushed at Cebriones,
in your killing frenzy.

 

125. Patroclus and Hector fight over the body of Cebriones: IJ 16.881-888, Gk 16.756-761.

 

                                                   The two men
then battled over Cebriones, like two lions
struggling on a mountain peak over a slaughtered deer,
both ravenous, both filled with fighting fury—
that’s how those two masters of the war shout fought,
Patroclus, Menoetius’ son, and glorious Hector,
over Cebriones, both keen to slash each other’s flesh
with pitiless bronze.

 

126. Trojans and Achaeans fight by the corpse of Cebriones: IJ 16.892-897, Gk 16.765-771.

 

Just as East and South Winds challenge one another
in mountain forests, shaking up deep stands of oak,
ash, and tapering cornel trees, hurling slim branches
one against the other, with tremendous noise
as the branches snap—that’s how Trojans and Achaeans
collided with each other in that conflict.

 

127. Hector kills Patroclus: IJ 16.955-961, Gk 16.823-828.

 

                                               Just as a lion overcomes
a tireless wild boar in combat, when both beasts
fight bravely in the mountains over a small spring
where they both want to drink, and the lion’s strength
brings down the panting boar—that’s how Hector,
moving close in with his spear, destroyed the life
of Menoetius’ noble son, who’d killed so many men.

 

128. Menelaus stands over the body of Patroclus: IJ 17.3-8, Gk 17.3-6.

 

Dressed in gleaming armour, he strode through the ranks
of those fighting in the front, then made a stand
over the corpse, like a mother beside her calf,
lowing over her first born, with no experience
of giving birth till then. In just that way,
fair-haired Menelaus stood above Patroclus.

 

129. Menelaus kills Euphorbus: IJ 17.68-75, Gk 17.52-60.

 

Just as a man tends a flourishing olive shoot,
in some lonely place with a rich source of water,
a lovely vigorous sapling stirred with the motion
of every breeze, so it bursts out in white blossoms—
but then a sudden stormy wind arising rips it
from its trench and lays it out prone on the earth—
that’s how Menelaus, son of Atreus, cut down
Panthous’ son, Euphorbus of the fine ash spear.

 

130. The Trojans are afraid of Menelaus: IJ 17.77-86, Gk 17.61-69.

 

Just as a mountain lion, trusting its own strength,
snatches the finest heifer from a grazing herd,
seizing her first by the neck in its powerful jaws,
then breaks the neck and savagely rips that cow apart,
gorging itself on blood and all the entrails,
while around it dogs and herdsmen cry out in distress,
again and again, but at a distance, unwilling
to confront the beast, pale in the grip of fear—
in just that way, no Trojan’s heart was brave enough
to move up and fight against fine Menelaus.

 

131. Menelaus backs away from the corpse of Patroclus: IJ 17.139-144, Gk 17.108-113.

 

                                                   He kept looking round,
like a bearded lion which dogs and men chase off—
their spears and shouts drive it from the farm. The beast’s heart,
though brave, grows cold, moving from that farmyard
against its will—that’s how fair-haired Menelaus
backed off from Patroclus.

 

132. Ajax defends the body of Patroclus: IJ 17.169-175, Gk 17.132-137.

 

                                               Ajax then covered Menoetius’ son
with his broad shield and made his stand there, like a lion
over its cubs, a beast which hunters run across
in the forest as it leads its young along.
The lion shows off its power and contracts its brows
into fine slits which conceal its eyes—that’s how Ajax
defended warrior Patroclus.

 

133. The Trojans attack the Achaeans guarding the body of Patroclus: IJ 17.341-345, Gk 17.263-266.

 

Just as a huge wave roars into a flowing stream
at the mouth of a river fed from heaven,
with headlands on both sides of the shoreline
echoing the boom of salt water surf beyond—
that’s how Trojans roared as they came on in attack.

 

134. Ajax pushes the Trojans back: IJ 17.364-369, Gk 17.281-285.

 

                                                                    Ajax strode around
through those fighting in the front, like a mountain boar
who scatters dogs and strong young men with ease,
as it wheels through forest clearings—that’s how Ajax,
splendid son of noble Telamon, easily pushed back
the Trojan ranks, as he moved among them.

 

135. Trojans and Achaeans struggle over the body of Patroclus: IJ 17.489-498, Gk 17.389-397.

 

Just as a man gives his people a huge bull’s hide
to stretch, after soaking it in fat, and they stand,
once they’ve picked it up, in a circle pulling hard,
so the moisture quickly leaves the hide, as the fat
soaks in under the tension of so many hands
stretching the entire skin as far as it will go—
that’s how those men on both sides pulled at the corpse,
back and forth in a narrow space, hearts full of hope—
Trojans seeking to drag it back to Ilion,
Achaeans to their hollow ships.

 

136. Aretus is hit by a spear: IJ 17.639-643, Gk 17.520-524.

 

                                                                Just as a strong man
with a sharp axe strikes a farm ox right behind its horns,
slicing clean through sinews, so the ox stumbles forward
and falls down—that’s how Aretus jerked forward and then fell
onto his back.

 

137. Athena moves to encourage the Achaeans: IJ 17.669-674, Gk 17.547-552.

 

                                                       Just as for mortal men
Zeus bends his coloured rainbow down from heaven,
an omen prophesying war or some harsh storm,
upsetting flocks and stopping men from work
upon the earth—that’s how Athena then placed herself
in the Achaean throng, wrapped in a purple mist.

 

138. Menelaus moves away from the corpse of Patroclus: IJ 17.801-810, Gk 17.657-666.

 

He went off like some lion moving from a farm,
exhausted by his attacks on dogs and men,
who prevent it tearing flesh out of some cow,
keeping their watch all night—but ravenous for meat,
the beast keeps charging in without success, for spears
rain down, thrown by keen hands, then burning sticks,
which, for all his fierce desire, make him afraid,
so he slinks away at dawn in disappointment—
that’s how Menelaus, skilled at war cries,
left Patroclus, much against his will . . .

 

139. Menelaus looks for Antilochus: IJ 17.820-829, Gk 17.675-681.

 

With these words, fair-haired Menelaus went away,
glancing warily in all directions, like an eagle,
which, men say, has the sharpest sight of all the animals
flying in the sky—a bird which, while soaring high,
doesn’t miss the swiftly running hare crouched down
under a leafy bush, and, swooping low, seizes it
at once, and then tears out its life—that’s how, Menelaus,
raised by gods, your bright eyes kept searching all around
through groups of many comrades, seeking Nestor’s son,
to see if he was still alive.

 

140. Trojans chase Achaeans carrying Patroclus’s body away: IJ 17.885-590, Gk 17.725-731.

 

                                They went after them like hounds
charging ahead of youthful hunters, as they chase
some wounded wild boar, keen to rip it into pieces,
but once it wheels around on them, sure of its strength,
they run back in fear, scattering in all directions—
that’s how groups of Trojans kept following them . . .

 

141, 142, 143, and 144. The fighting continues as the Achaeans carry off the corpse of Patroclus: IJ 17.896-920, Gk. 17.737-759.

 

                                           . . .like some fire
suddenly rushing at a city full of people,
setting it alight, so houses fall among the flames,
as winds whip the inferno on. That’s how the din
of chariots and spearmen coming up against them
kept resounding as they moved along. But like mules
throwing their great strength into their work, as they haul
a beam or huge ship timber on an uneven path
down from the mountains, hearts worn out with the strain,
as they work on covered in sweat—that’s how these men
strove hard to carry off the corpse. Behind them,
both Ajaxes held off the enemy. Just as
a wooded ridge which cuts across a plain holds back
a flood, even the strong flow of some harsh rivers,
pushing their waters back to go across the plain,
for the strength of their current cannot rupture it—
that’s how both Ajaxes held back the Trojans then
in that fight. But Trojans kept up their pursuit,
especially two of them—Aeneas, Anchises’ son,
and glorious Hector. Just as a flock of daws or starlings
flies off in screaming fear, once they see a falcon
as it comes after them, bringing death to all small birds—
that’s how the young Achaean soldiers ran off then,
away from Hector and Aeneas, screaming in panic,
forgetting all their fierce desire for battle.

 

145. The Achaeans cannot drive Hector back from Sarpedon’s body: IJ 18.199-203, Gk 18.161-164.

 

                                                 Just as shepherds
are unable to drive off from their farmyard
a tawny ravenous lion by some carcass—
so the two warrior Ajaxes could not push Hector,
Priam’s son, back from that body.

 

146. Athena makes Achilles shine out to terrify the Trojans: IJ 18.257-266, Gk 18.205-214.

 

                       Just like those times when smoke
from a city stretches all the way to heaven,
rising in the distance from an island under siege
by an enemy, where men fight all day long
in Ares’ hateful war, struggling for their city—
then at sunset, they light fires one by one,
beacons flaming upwards to attract attention
from those on near-by islands, so their ships will come
to save them from destruction—that’s how the light
blazed then from Achilles’ head right up to heaven.

 

147. Achilles shouts at the Trojans: IJ 18.273-276, Gk 18.219-221.

 

                               As thrilling as a trumpet’s note
when it rings clearly, when rapacious enemies
besiege a city—that’s how sharp and piercing
Achilles’ voice was then.

 

148. Achilles laments over the body of Patroclus: IJ 18.397-403, Gk 18.318-323.

 

                                                   . . . like a bearded lion,
when a deer hunter in dense forest steals its cubs—
the lion comes back later, then sick at heart
roams through the many clearings in the forest,
tracking the man’s footprints, in hopes of finding him,
as bitter anger overwhelms the beast—just like that
Achilles, amid his groans, addressed his Myrmidons . . .

 

149. Hephaestus depicts dancers on Achilles’s shield: IJ 18.731-733, Gk 18.599-601.

 

They turned with such a graceful ease on skilful feet,
just as a potter sits with a wheel between his hands,
testing it, to make sure that it runs smoothly.

 

150. The Achaeans move out from their ships: IJ 19.434-439, Gk 19.357-361.

 

Just as freezing snowflakes fall thick and fast from Zeus,
driven by the raging sky-born North Wind—that’s how
crowds of them streamed out then, pouring from the ships—
brightly gleaming helmets, strong-plated body armour,
ash spears and embossed shields—the glitter of it all
flashed up to heaven.

 

151. Achilles’s new shield dazzles in the light. IJ 19.452-457; Gk 19.375-380.

 

Just like the blazing light that sailors glimpse at sea
from a fire burning in some isolated farm,
high in the mountains, as winds blow them further out,
taking them against their will over the fish-filled seas
away from loved ones—that’s how Achilles’ shield,
so finely crafted, burned out far into the sky.

 

152. Achilles moves out to confront Aeneas in battle: IJ 20.197-209, Gk 20.163-175.

 

The son of Peleus, from the other side,
charged up against him like a murderous lion
which a whole community is keen to slaughter—
At first, the beast moves on and leaves the group alone, 
but when some quick young hunter hits it with a spear,
the lion gathers itself, opens its jaws wide,
foaming at the mouth, as its brave heart roars inside.
Its tail twitches to and fro against its ribs and flanks.
Then it drives itself to fight, charging straight ahead
with furiously glaring eyes to kill someone
or die there in the first attack. That’s how Achilles,
driven by his furious proud heart, came on then
against the brave Aeneas.

 

153. Aeneas tells Achilles they should stop trading insults: IJ 20.301-309, Gk 20.251-255.

 

                                        Why should the two of us
be squabbling here and fight by trading insults
back and forth, like two irritated women,
who, in some heart-wrenching raging spat,
go in the street to scream at one another
with facts and lies, each one gripped by anger.
I want to fight—your words won’t send me off,
not before we’ve fought it out with bronze,
man to man.

 

154. Hippodamas screams as he dies: IJ 20.482-488, Gk 20.403-406.

 

                                                                               As he died,
panting his life away, he screamed—just as a bull roars,
when it’s pulled around the altar of Poseidon,
lord of Helice, the Earthshaker, who delights
in those young lads who drag the beast—in just that way
Hippodamas bellowed then, as his noble spirit
slipped out from his bones.

 

155 and 156. Achilles kills and tramples many Trojans: IJ 20.588-598, Gk 20.490-499.

 

Just as a terrifying fire rages through deep woods 
on a parched mountain, burning dense stands of trees,
as the driving wind blows flames to every spot,
that how Achilles, like a god, raged with his spear,
attacking and killing men all through the fight.
The dark earth ran with blood. Just as a man yokes oxen,
big bulls, wide in the shoulder, to grind barley
on a well-built threshing floor, and lowing oxen
quickly flatten all the grain, that how brave Achilles
drove his sure-footed horses to trample on the dead
and on their shields as well.

 

157. The fleeing Trojans are caught in the river: IJ 21.14-19, Gk 21.12-16.

 

Just as fire drives flights of locusts to seek refuge
in some river, when the tireless flames attack them
in a sudden onrush and they sink below the water—
that’s how, faced with Achilles’ attacking charge,
a confused mass of chariots and men filled up
the deep and swirling waters of the river Xanthus.

 

158. The Trojans try to hide in the river banks: IJ 21.26-30, Gk 21.22-26.

 

Just as other fish swim off from a huge dolphin
filling safe corners of some sheltered harbour,
fearful because the beast eats all it captures—
that’s how Trojans huddled then, under hanging banks,
all along the stream edge of that murderous river.

 

159. Achilles runs from the attacking river: IJ 21.303-306, Gk 21.251-253.

 

Peleus’ son ran off as far as one spear throw,
moving as fast as a black eagle plummets,
the hunting bird which is the strongest and the fastest
of all flying things—that’s how Achilles ran.

 

160. The river god chases Achilles: IJ 21.311-318, Gk 21.257-264.

 

Just as a man laying out a ditch from a dark spring
to his plants and gardens digs a water channel,
mattock in hand, removing what obstructs the flow,
and the water, as it starts to run, pushes aside
the pebbles, and then, gaining momentum, flows down
and overtakes the man who’s guiding it—
that’s how the flooding wave kept clutching at Achilles
for all his speed, since gods have much more strength than men.

 

161. Hephaestus’s fire dries out the river plain: IJ 21.416-419, Gk 21.346-349.

 

Just as at harvest time North Wind quickly dries
well-watered orchards, to the farmer’s great delight,
that’s how the whole plain then grew dry, as Hephaestus
burned up the dead.

 

162. The fire continues to burn the river: IJ 21.434-438, Gk 21.362-365.

 

                                                       Just as a cauldron
with hot flames heating it boils inside and melts
the fat from off a well-fed hog, bubbling over,
once dry split wood is set down under it—that’s how
the fire burned that lovely stream.

 

163. Apollo declines to fight with Poseidon: IJ 21.556-560, Gk 21.462-466.

 

“Earthshaker, you’d never call me prudent,
if I fought with you over human beings—
those pitiful creatures are like the leaves,
now full of blazing life, eating nourishment
the earth provides, then fading into death.”

 

164. Artemis runs away from Hera: IJ 21.594-598, Gk 21.493-496.

 

The swift arrows tumbled out. Artemis ran off,
crying like a pigeon speeding from a hawk,
flying to some hollow cleft among the rocks,
for she’s not fated to be caught—that’s how Artemis
escaped, in tears, leaving her bow lying there.

 

165. Achilles continues to kill Trojans: IJ 21.630-632, Gk 21.522-525.

 

Just as smoke rises up, reaching spacious heaven,
when a city burns from fires set by wrathful gods—
that’s how Achilles brought Trojans death and danger.

 

166. Agenor confronts Achilles: IJ 21.690-697, Gk 21.573-580.

 

Just as a leopard emerges from thick undergrowth,
to face a hunter, with no fear in its heart,
no hint of flight when it hears the baying hounds—
even if the hunter first hits it with his spear,
the wounded beast will not lose its fighting spirit,
until it closes with him or is killed itself—
that’s how godlike Agenor, noble Antenor’s son,
refused to run before fighting Achilles. 

 

167. Achilles runs towards the city: IJ 22.28-32, Gk 22.21-24.

 

With these words, Achilles set off towards the city,
his heart full, charging on like a prize-winning horse
pulling a chariot at full speed across the plain
with little effort—that’s how fast Achilles ran,
sprinting with his legs and feet.

 

168. Achilles shines like a star as he runs towards Troy: IJ 22.32-41, Gk 22.25-32.

 

                                                       Meanwhile, old Priam
was the first to catch sight of Achilles, as he dashed
across the plain, blazing like that star which comes
at harvest time—its light shines out more brightly
than any of the countless lights in night’s dark sky.
People call this star by the name Orion’s Dog.
It’s the brightest of the stars, but an unwelcome sign,
for it brings wretched mortals many fevers.
The bronze on Achilles’ chest glittered like that star, 
as he ran forward.

 

169. Hector waits for Achilles outside Troy’s walls: IJ 22.115-119, Gk 22.93-96.

 

                                           Just as a mountain snake
waits for some man right by its lair, after eating
poison herbs so that a savage anger grips him,
as he coils beside his den with a fearful glare—
that’s how Hector’s dauntless heart would not retreat.

 

170. Achilles chases Hector around the walls: IJ 22.175-180, Gk 139-143.

 

Just as a mountain falcon, the fastest creature
of all the ones which fly, swoops down easily
on a trembling pigeon as it darts off in fear,  
the hawk speeding after it with piercing cries,
heart driving it to seize the prey—in just that way
Achilles in his fury raced ahead.

 

171. Achilles and Hector race around the walls of Troy: IJ 22.199-204, Gk 22.162-166.

 

                                                            Just as some horses,
sure-footed, prize-winning creatures, make the turn
around the post and race quickly as they strive to win
some splendid prize—a tripod or a woman
honouring a man that’s died—that’s how these two men raced,
going three times round Priam’s city on their sprinting feet.

 

172. Hector cannot escape from Achilles: IJ 22.234-240, Gk 22.188-193.

 

                                              Just as in the mountains
a hound startles from its cover some young deer,
then goes after it through glens and valley gorges—
and even if the fawn evades it for a while,
cowering in some thicket, the dog tracks it down,
always running till he finds it—that’s how Hector
could not shake off the swift-footed son of Peleus.

 

173. The race around Troy is like an endless dream: IJ 22.247-251, Gk 22.199-201.

 

Like a dream in which a man cannot catch someone
who’s running off and the other can’t escape,
just as the first man can’t catch up—that’s how
Achilles, for all his speed, could not reach Hector,
while Hector was unable to evade Achilles.

 

174. Achilles refuses to enter into an agreement with Hector: IJ 22.327-334, Gk 22.262-267.

 

                                                     Wolves and lambs
don’t share a common heart—they always sense
a mutual hatred for each other.
In just that way, it’s not possible for us,
for you and me, to be friends, or, indeed,
for there to be sworn oaths between us,
till one or other of us falls, glutting Ares,
warrior with the bull’s hide shield, on blood.

 

175. Hector charges at Achilles: IJ 22.387-392, Gk 22.306-311.

 

                                           He pulled out his sharp sword,
that strong and massive weapon hanging on his thigh,
gathered himself, then swooped like some high-flying eagle
plummeting to the plains down through the murky clouds
to seize a tender lamb or cowering rabbit—
that’s how Hector charged, brandishing his sharp sword.

 

176. Achilles’s spear tip glitters as he charges as Hector: IJ 22.397-401, Gk 22.317-320.

 

                                                     Just like that star
which stands out the loveliest among all those
in the heavenly night sky—the star of evening—
that’s how the sharp point then glittered on the spear
Achilles hefted in his right hand.

 

177. Achilles mourns as the body of Patroclus burns: IJ 23.265-269, Gk 23.221-225.

 

Just as a father mourns his son, when he burns his bones,
his newly married son, whose death brings parents
dreadful sorrow—that’s how Achilles kept crying then,
as he burned his companion’s bones, dragging himself
round and round the pyre, lamenting endlessly.

 

178. Menelaus comes in very close to Antilochus in the chariot race: IJ 23.631-637, Gk 23.517-523.

 

                                    The space between the two
was as far as a horse is from the chariot wheel,
when it strains to pull its master fast across the plain—
its tail ends touch the spinning wheels behind it—
there’s not much space between them, as they move
at top speed on the plain—that’s about how far
Menelaus lagged behind noble Antilochus.

 

179. Menelaus forgives Antilochus for his actions in the chariot race: IJ 23.732-736, Gk 23.597-600.

 

He led out the horse, then placed it in the hands
of Menelaus, whose heart melted like the dew
on ripening ears of corn, when fields are bristling
with the crop—that’s how, Menelaus, your heart
softened in your chest.

 

180. Euryalus is hit by Epeius in the boxing match: IJ 23.854-858, Gk 23.692-694.

 

His splendid limbs collapsed there on the spot—
as a fish jumps through the rippling surface water
in a forceful North Wind breeze near a weed-filled shore,
before a black wave hides it—that how Euryalus
jerked up as he was hit.

 

181. Ajax and Odysseus wrestle for a prize: IJ 23.877-880, Gk 23.710-713.

 

They strapped on their belts and strode out to the crowd,
then, with their powerful hands gripped each other’s elbows—
locked together like rafters on some lofty house,
fitted by skilled craftsmen to keep out blasts of wind.

 

182. Odysseus races behind Oïlean Ajax: IJ 23.935-942, Gk 23.759-764.

 

The son of Oïleus quickly raced in front,
with godlike Odysseus really close behind,
as close as the weaving bar comes to the breast
of a well-dressed woman when she deftly pulls it
in her hands to pass the weaving spool through thread,
keeping the rod against her chest—that’s how close
Odysseus ran behind, his feet hitting Ajax’s footprints
before the dust could settle there.

 

183. Polypetes throws the iron further than anyone else: IJ 23.1039-1043, Gk 23.844-847.

 

But then that strong warrior Polypoetes
picked up the weight and threw it even further
than all those in the contest, by the same distance
a herdsman throws his staff, so it flies spinning
in among his cattle herd.

 


184. Apollo complains about Achilles's treatment of Hector's body: IJ 24.46-51, Gk 24.39-45.

 

                                                            Like some lion,
he thinks savage thoughts, a beast which follows
only its own power, its own proud heart,
as it goes out against men’s flocks, seeking
a feast of cattle—that’s how Achilles  
destroys compassion.
 

185. Iris plunges into the sea to find Thetis: IJ 23.100-103, Gk 24.80-82.

 

As waters roared above her, she sank way down, 
just as a plummet sinks when fastened to a lure,
one fashioned out of horn from some farmyard ox
to bring death to hungry fish.

 

186. Zeus sends an eagle as an omen to Priam: IJ 24.392-398, Gk 24.315-319.

 

                                       At once he sent an eagle,
of all flying things the surest omen, a dark one,
which people call black eagle, with wings as wide
as doors on some rich man’s vaulted store house,
one fitted well with bolts—that’s how wide this eagle
spread its wings on either side, appearing on the right,
speeding across the city.

 

187. Achilles is amazed to see Priam in his hut: IJ 24.590-594, Gk 24.480-484.

 

Just as sheer folly grips a man who in his own land 
kills someone, then runs off to a land of strangers,
to the home of some rich man, so those who see him
are seized with wonder—that’s how Achilles then
looked on godlike Priam in astonishment.

 

 

HOMERIC SIMILES IN THE ODYSSEY

 

1. Menelaus predicts Odysseus will punish the suitors: IJ 4.444-453, Gk 4.335-340.

 

                                        “It’s disgraceful
how despicable cowards want to lie
in that brave warrior’s bed, as if a deer
had lulled her new-born suckling fawns to sleep
in a lion’s den and then gone roaming
through mountain fields and grassy valleys
in search of forage—then the lion comes 
back to his lair and brings to both of them
a shameful death. That just how Odysseus
will bring those suitors their disgraceful doom.”

 

2. Penelope worries about Telemachus’s safety: IJ 4.1069-1072, Gk 4.791-793.

 

Just as a lion grows tense, overcome with fear,
when encircled by a crowd of crafty hunters, 
that’s how her mind was working then, as sweet sleep
came over her.

 

3. Hermes rushes to Calypso’s island: IJ 5.66-69, Gk 5.50-54.

 

Across the waves he raced, just like a cormorant,
a bird which hunts for fish down in the perilous gulfs
below the restless sea, soaking his thick plumage
in the brine—that how Hermes rode the crowded waves.

 

4. Odysseus’s raft is tossed around by the sea: IJ 5.405-408, Gk 5.328-330.

 

Just as in autumn North Wind sweeps the thistledown
along the plain, and the tufts bunch up together,
that’s how the winds then blasted his raft to and fro
across the stormy sea.

 

5. A huge wave shatters Odysseus’s raft: IJ 5.454-456, Gk 5.368-370.

 

Just as a storm wind scatters dry straw in a heap,
blowing pieces here and there in all directions—
that’s how that huge wave split the long planks on the raft.

 

6. Odysseus is overjoyed to see Phaeacia: IJ 5.481-487, Gk 5.394-399.

 

                                     Just as young children
rejoice to see life in a father who lies sick,
in savage pain through a lengthy wasting illness,
with a malicious god afflicting him, and then,
to their delight, the gods release him from disease,
that is how Odysseus rejoiced when he could see
the land and forests.

 

7. Odysseus is scraped by the rocks on the shore: IJ 5.526-530, Gk 5.432-435.

 

                                                                             Just as
an octopus is dragged out from its den, its suckers
full of clinging pebbles, that’s how his skin was scraped
from his strong hands against the rocks, as that great wave
engulfed him.

 

8. Odysseus covers himself with leaves: IJ 5.594-598, Gk 5.488-491.

 

Just as someone on a farm without a neighbour
hides a torch beneath black embers, and in this way
saves a spark of fire and does not need to kindle it
from somewhere else, that is how he spread out the leaves
on top of him.

 

9. Nausicaa and her attendants play beside the sea: IJ 6.127-137, Gk 6.102-109.

 

                                    Just as when archer Artemis
moves across the mountains, along lofty ridges
of Erymanthus or Taygetus, full of joy,
while she pursues wild boars and swiftly running deer,
with nymphs attending on her, daughters of great Zeus,
who bears the aegis, taking pleasure in the hunt,
and Leto’s heart is filled with joy, while Artemis
stands with her head and eyebrows high above them all,
so recognizing her is easy, though all of them
are beautiful—that’s how that young unmarried girl
stood out from her attendants.

 

10. Odysseus emerges naked from the bushes: IJ 6.161-169, Gk 6.130-136.

 

                               Then he emerged, moving just like
a mountain lion which relies on its own strength—
though hammered by the rain and wind, it creeps ahead,
its two eyes burning, coming in among the herd
of sheep or cattle, or else stalking a wild deer—
his belly tells him to move in against the flocks,
even within a well-built farm—that’s how Odysseus
was making his way out out to face those fair-haired girls,
although he was stark naked.

 

11. Athena transforms Odysseus’s appearance: IJ 6.297-301, Gk 6.232-235.

 

Just as a skilful workman sets a layer of gold
on top of silver, a craftsman who has been taught
various arts by Athena and Hephaestus,
and his creations are all truly beautiful,
that’s how the goddess transformed his head and shoulders. 

 

12. Odysseus weeps as he listens to Demodocus’s song: IJ 8.657-669, Gk 8.523-531.

 

                                                       Just as a woman cries,
when she prostrates herself on her beloved husband
who has just been killed in front of his own city
and his people, trying to defend his children
and the citizens from the day they meet their doom—
as he lies dying, she sees him gasping his last breath,
and holds him in her arms, screaming her cries of grief,
while at her back her enemies keep beating her,
spears raining down across her spine and shoulders,
then lead her away, cheeks ravaged by her sorrow,
into a life of bondage, misery, and pain—
that’s how Odysseus then let tears of pity fall
down from his eyes.

 

13. Polyphemus’s club is lying in his cave: IJ 9.423-427, Gk 9.321-324.

 

To human eyes it seemed just like the mast
on a black merchant ship with twenty oars,
a broad-beamed vessel which can move across
the mighty ocean—that’s how long and wide
that huge club looked.

 

14 and 15. Odysseus and his men burn Polyphemus’s eye: IJ 9.510-523, Gk 9.384-395.

 

                                           . . . just as a shipwright 
bores a timber with a drill, while those below
make it rotate by pulling on a strap
at either end, so the drill keeps moving—
that’s how we held the red-hot pointed stake
twisting it inside the socket of his eye.
Blood poured out through the heat—around his eye,
lids and brows were singed, as his eyeball burned—
roots crackling in the fire. When a blacksmith
thrusts an axe or adze in frigid water
with a loud hissing sound, to temper it 
and make the iron strong—that’s how his eye
sizzled around the stake of olive wood.
His horrific cries echoed through the rock.

 

16. Wild beasts around Circe’s home fawn on Odysseus’s men: IJ 10.279-284; Gk 10.216-219.

 

                                         Just as dogs will beg
around their master coming from a feast,
for he keeps bringing scraps to please their hearts—
that’s how the wolves and sharp-clawed lions there
kept fawning round those men, who were afraid
just looking at those terrifying beasts.

 

17. Odysseus’s shipmates are happy to see him return from Circe’s home: IJ 10.532-539, Gk 10.410-416.

 

Just as on a farm calves frisk around the herd
when cows, having had their fill of grazing,
return back to the yard—they skip ahead,
and pens no longer hold them, as they run, 
mooing in a crowd around their mothers,
that’s how my companions, once they saw me,
thronged around, in tears—in their hearts it felt
as if they they’d just sailed back to their own land . . .

 

18. Scylla snatches men out of Odysseus’s boat: IJ 12.325-330, Gk 12.251-255.

 

                           Just as an angler on a jutting rock
casts out some bait with his long pole to snare
small fish and lets the horn from some field ox
sink down in the sea, then, when he snags one,
throws it quivering on shore, that’s how those men
wriggled as they were raised towards the rocks.

 

19. Charybdis spews out timbers from a ship: IJ 12.573-579, Gk 12.439-441.

 

                                             And to my joy
at last they surfaced—at the very hour
a man gets up for dinner from assembly,
one who adjudicates the bitter quarrels
young men have, who then request his judgment,
that’s when those timbers first came into view
out from Charybdis.

 

20. Odysseus is keen to start his journey home from Phaeacia: IJ 13.39-44, Gk 13.31-35.

 

Just as a man longs for supper, when all day long
a pair of wine-dark oxen pull a well-made plough
through fallow land for him, and as the sun goes down,
the sight delights him—now he can prepare a meal,
for both his knees are weary when he moves—that’s how
Odysseus rejoiced to see the sunlight disappear.

 

20. The Phaeacian ship sails quickly towards Ithaca: IJ 13.98-104, Gk 13.81-85.

 

Just as four stallions yoked together charge ahead
across the plain, all running underneath the lash,
and jump high as they gallop quickly on their way,
that’s how the stern part of that ship leapt up on high,
while in her wake the dark waves of the roaring sea
were churned to a great foam, as she sped on her path,
safe and secure.

 

21. Helen interprets a bird omen: IJ 15.232-237, Gk 15.174-177.

 

                                        Just as this eagle came here
from mountains where it and its young were born
and snatched up this goose bred in the household,
that’s how Odysseus, after all his toil
and many hardships, will be coming back
and take revenge.

 

22. Eumaeus greets Telemachus in his hut: IJ 16.16-21, Gk 16.17-21.

 

                                                   Just as a loving father
welcomes his dear son after a nine-year absence,
returning from a foreign land, an only son, 
his favourite, for whom he’s undergone much grief,
that’s how the loyal swineherd hugged Telemachus
and kissed him often, as if he’d escaped his death.

 

23. Telemachus and Odysseus both weep as they are reunited: IJ 16.269-274, Gk 16.215-219.

 

A desire to lament arose in both of them—
they both wailed aloud, as insistently as birds,
like two sea eagles or hawks with curving talons
whose young chicks have been carried off by country folk
before being fully fledged. That’s how those two men
let tears of sorrow fall from underneath their eyes.

 

24. Telemachus describes to Penelope his reception by Nestor: IJ 17.138-144; Gk 17.110-113.

 

                         He welcomed us
into his home with hospitality
and kindness, like a father for a son 
who has just returned from far-off places
after many years—that’s how lord Nestor
looked after me, helped by his splendid sons,
with loving care.

 

25.Telemachus repeats to Penelope what Menelaus said to him: IJ 17.156-165, Gk 17.124-131.

 

                       They want to lie down
in the bed of a courageous warrior,
when they themselves are cowards—just as if
a doe has put two new-born suckling fawns
in a lion’s thicket, so they can sleep, 
and roams mountain slopes and grassy valleys 
seeking pasture, and then the lion comes
back to that lair and brings a dismal fate
for both those fawns—that is how Odysseus
will bring those men to their disastrous end.

 

26. Eumaeus praises Odysseus the beggar as a story teller: IJ 17.664-669, Gk 17.518-521.

 

                                               Just as any man
hears a minstrel who sings enticing songs
to mortal men, ones the gods have taught him,
and there’s no end to his desire for more,
no matter what he sings, that’s how this man
enchanted me, as he sat in my home.

 

27. Telemachus wishes the suitors could be overcome: IJ 18.299-308, Gk 18.235-242.

 

By Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo,
I wish these suitors now inside our home
could be defeated, just as Irus was,
their heads drooping down inside the courtyard
and inside the hall, each man’s arms and legs
gone limp—that’s how Irus is now sitting
beside the courtyard gate, nodding his head,
like some drunken fool. He can’t stand upright
or wander home, wherever his home is,
because his precious limbs have all gone slack.

 

28. Penelope weeps while listening to the disguised Odysseus: IJ 19.269-274, Gk 19.205-209.

 

Her flesh melted—just as up on high mountain peaks
snow drifts melt away beneath West Wind’s warm thaw,
once East Wind starts to blow them down, and, as they melt,
the flowing rivers fill—that’s how her lovely cheeks
melted then, as she kept weeping for her husband,
he man sitting there beside her.

 

29. Penelope describes the anxiety she feels each night: IJ 19.652-660, Gk 19.518-524.

 

                                       Just as Pandareus’s child,
the nightingale of the green woods, sings out
her lovely song when early spring arrives,
perched in thick foliage of the forest,
pouring forth her richly modulating voice
in wailing for her dear child Itylus, 
Zethus’ son, whom with a sword one day
she’d killed unwittingly—that’s how my heart
moves back and forth in its uncertainty.

 

30. Odysseus feels anger at the behaviour of the household servant girls: IJ 20.14-18; Gk 20.14-16.

 

                             Just as a bitch stands snarling
above her tender pups when she sees anyone
she does not recognize and is prepared to fight,
that’s how, in his anger, the heart within him growled
at their shameless acts.

 

31. Odysseus keeps trying to think of ways to deal with the suitors: IJ 20.27-32, Gk 20.25-29.

 

                                                                    Just as a man
eager to roast a stomach stuffed with fat and blood
turns it quickly round and round on a blazing fire,
that how lord Odysseus tossed and turned, wondering
how he might get the haughty suitors in his grip,
one man against so many.

 

32. Penelope opens the door to the storage room: IJ 21.56-58, Gk 21.48-50.

 

Just as a bull grunts when it grazes in a field,
that how the door creaked as she pushed it with the key,
and it quickly swung ajar.

 

33. Odysseus strings his bow: IJ 21.514-518, Gk 21.06-409.

 

                              . . . just as someone really skilled
at playing the lyre and singing has no trouble
when he loops a taut string around a brand-new peg,
tying the twisted sheep’s gut down at either end—
that’s how easily lord Odysseus strung that bow.

 

34 and 35. In the fight the suitors panic: IJ 22.374-384, Gk 22.299-308

 

                                       The suitors’ minds panicked,
and they fled through the hall, like a herd of cattle
when a vicious gadfly goads them to stampede, 
once spring season starts and days begin to lengthen.
Just as falcons with hooked talons and curving beaks
fly down from the mountains, chasing birds, driving them
well below the clouds, as they swoop along the plain,
then pounce on them and kill, for there is no defence,
no flying away, while men get pleasure from the chase,
that’s how Odysseus and his men pursued the suitors
and struck them down, one by one, all through the hall.

 

36. Odysseus looks at the corpses of the suitors: IJ 22.478-484, Gk 22.383-389.

 

                                              But every man he looked at—
and there were many—had fallen in blood and dust,
like fish which, in the meshes of a net, sailors
have pulled from the gray sea up on the curving beach,
lying piled up on the sand, longing for sea waves,
while the bright sun drains away their life—that is how
the suitors were heaped up, piled on one another.

 

37. Eurycleia sees Odysseus covered in blood: IJ 22.499-504, Gk 22.401-406.

 

There she found Odysseus with the bodies of the dead,
spattered with gore and blood, like a lion moving on
from gorging on a farmyard ox, his entire chest
and both sides of his muzzle caked with fresh-spilt blood,
a terrifying sight, that’s how Odysseus looked,
with bloodstained feet and upper arms.

 

38. Telemachus executes the disloyal servant women: IJ 22.579-584, Gk 22.468-472.

 

                      Just as doves or long-winged thrushes
charge into a snare set in a thicket, as they seek
their roosting place, only to find they have been welcomed
by a dreadful bed, that is how those women stood
all in a row, with nooses fixed around their necks,
so they might have a pitiful death.

 

39. Athena transforms Odysseus’s appearance: IJ 23.200-205, Gk 23.159-162.

 

Just as a man sets a layer of gold on silver,
a skilful artisan whom Pallas Athena 
and Hephaestus have taught all sorts of crafts,
so he produces splendid work, that’s how Athena
poured grace onto his head and shoulders, as he came
out of his bath, looking like the immortal gods.

 

40. Penelope is overjoyed to be reunited with Odysseus: IJ 23.302-309, Gk 23.233-239.

 

                                          Just as swimmers are overjoyed
to catch a glimpse of land, sailors whose sturdy ship 
Poseidon has demolished out at sea, as winds
and surging waves were driving it, and a few men
have escaped the grey sea by swimming to the shore,
their bodies thickly caked with brine, and they are glad
to clamber up on land, evading a disaster,
that how Penelope rejoiced to see her husband.

 

41. The spirits of the dead suitors squeak as they are led to Hades: IJ 24.7-11, Gk 24.6-9.

 

Just as inside the corners of a monstrous cave
bats flit around and cry when one of them falls down
out of the cluster on the rock face where they cling
to one another, that is how these spirits shrieked
as they moved on together.

 

 

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