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The Imagery/Symbolism of The Iliad:
The imagery of the poem is closely related to the natural elements with which the Greeks were so familiar. By far, the most frequently used image in The Iliad, appearing in connection with both the individual hero and the combined host, is the animal image. For example, the host assembled in Book II is likened to a swarm of bees bursting from the hollow of a rock. The furious fight for a body in Book IV is described in terms of a wolf pack and its prey. In individual similes Hector comes at Patroclos like a lion after a boar. Menelaos, in Book III, charges at Paris like a hungry lion, which has sighted a carcass. Thus the noble characteristics of the hero are projected through his animal counterpart, as a man becomes as strong as a lion or as swift as a deer.
The second major group of images includes the more ominous and frightful aspects of nature's elements. An assembly of mortals is shaken like the waves of the sea whipped by wind. The shouts of warriors sound like the crashing surf. A battle is described as two rivers hurling their waters together and as screeching winds. Zeus, of course, is always thundering in the background. All of these images represent the powerful, unknown, and uncontrollable elements of the universe.
The Language of Homer
It is helpful to have some rudimentary knowledge of the structure of the Greek language to understand how Homer's language works. Greek is an inflected language so that the forms of nouns and adjectives change according to the particular case in question, whether nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, or dative. Homer uses a number of adjectives to describe Achilles, the hero of The Iliad; although he seems to choose his adjective because of metrical consideration, he also changes the adjective according to case. In the nominative case, when he is the subject of a sentence, Achilles is usually described as swift-footed. In the accusative case, he is usually said to be illustrious. In the genitive case, when he is possession something, Achilles is always referred to as the son of Peleus. In the dative case, when someone is giving him something, he is the shepherd of his people or a sacker of cities.
Homer's language is filled with flowery phrases, such as "the wine-dark sea", "rosy-fingered dawn," and "winged words". He also repeats words and phrases for emphasis, especially when he is describing often-repeated actions, such as arming for battle, preparing a meal, or making a sacrifice. In addition, about one third of the lines in The Iliad are repeated wholly or in part in the course of the poem.