Open House | Similes and Storytelling in Homer’s Iliad, with Deborah Beck

We were pleased to welcome Professor Deborah Beck of the University of Texas for an Open House discussion on “Similes and Storytelling in Homer’s Iliad.” You can watch the recording down below or on our YouTube channel.

Deborah Beck shared these two focus passages:

Homer Iliad 16.482–492 (translation by R. Lattimore)

Two similes describe the Trojan fighter Sarpedon as he falls at the hands of Achilles’ companion Patroklos:

[Sarpedon] fell, as when an oak goes down or a white poplar,
or like a towering pine tree which in the mountains the carpenters
have hewn down with their whetted axes to make a ship-timber.
So he lay there felled in front of his horses and chariots (485)
roaring, and clawed with his hands at the bloody dust; or as
a blazing and haughty bull in a huddle of shambling cattle
when a lion has come among the herd and destroys him
dies bellowing under the hooked claws of the lion, so now
before Patroklos the lord of the shield-armoured Lykians (490)
died raging, and called aloud to his beloved companion:
“Dear Glaucus…”

Homer Iliad 16.751–761

Patroklos and the Trojan hero Hector struggle to claim the corpse of Kebriones, Hector’s charioteer

[Patroklos] spoke so, and strode against the hero Kebriones
with the spring of a lion, who as he ravages the pastures [stathmous]
has been hit in the chest, and his own courage [alkē] destroys him.
So in your fury you pounced, Patroklos, above Kebriones.
On the other side Hektor sprang to the ground from his chariot, (755)
and the two [] fought it out over Kebriones, like lions
who in the high places of a mountain, both in huge courage
and both hungry, fight together over a killed deer.
So above Kebriones these two, urgent for battle,
Patroklos, son of Menoitios, and glorious Hektor, (760)
were straining with the pitiless bronze to tear at each other.

To prepare for the event, you may like to read Iliad 16 with the special focus on similes.

Mentioned in the discussion: the terms tenor and vehicle, of I. A. Richards.

Members can start and continue the discussion in this forum thread.

For further videos please visit the Watch page.

Deborah Beck

Deborah Beck

Deborah Beck is an Associate Professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include formulas and oral aesthetics in early Greek poetry; cognitive theories of reading and image processing, especially in relation to epic similes; and speech and speech representation in Homeric epic. She has authored two books related to Homeric studies: Speech Presentation in the Homeric Epics (University of Texas Press, 2012), which has a companion database [], and Homeric Conversation (Harvard University Press, 2005 [Hellenic Studies 14]). She is the author of several recent articles on similes in Apollonius’ Argonautica and in Vergil’s Aeneid. Her current work includes studies of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon; formulas in Homeric epic, especially Iliad 16; and similes in classical epic poetry.