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Analysis

The Iliad Writing Style

Clear, Poetic

Both these descriptions ("clear, poetic") of the Iliad's style might seem kind of weird. For many readers, the language of the Iliad seems weird or formal – at any rate, far from clear. And yet, you have to look at Homeric language as more like a foreign language, or learning a new dialect. Once you get the hang of his usual way of saying things, you'll realize that he's almost never being complicated for its own sake. Actually, he's almost never being complicated. He just says things in a very clear and direct way, in his own distinctive language. As for calling it poetic, this might just seem redundant. It is a poem after all. Well, that's true, and because of that, it's important to be aware of the distinctive features of Homer's poetic style.

Probably the most famous of these is the so-called "Homeric simile." The first of these similes comes in Book 2, at lines 87-92. (You can look them up here.) They have the three ingredients of any Homeric simile: (1) saying what the thing you're talking about is like (in this case, the army is like bees); (2) describing the thing you're comparing it to (bees); and (3) reminding the audience of what you were originally talking about (the army). The third step is necessary because sometimes the description in part (2) can get extremely long. Keep an eye out for these similes; some of them are very beautiful (and famous).

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