The Sosias Painter, "Achilles tending the wounded Patroklos," late archaic period. Berlin, Antikenmuseen

Earlier on in the epic the action unfolds in mostly naturalist terms, as C.S. Lewis emphasizes in his discussion of Homer’s style. In the later parts of the poem, elements of pure fantasy start to appear, as in this section where men are killed solely by the wrath in Achilles’ scream. Sarah Eisen argues here that the presence of a complex simile in this passage marks it as a crucial turning point in the plot. Iliad 18.217-238, discussed, translated, and read in Greek by Sarah Eisen.

Standing there he shouted, and Pallas Athena shouted clearly from afar, and incited unspeakably great uproar in the Trojans.

It was like the brilliant peel of a trumpet, when it is blasted by the life-destroying enemies who surround the city, thus was at this time the remarkable cry of Achilles. But when they certainly perceived the blasting voice of Achilles, the souls in all of them were stirred. Even the fair-maned horses turned back the chariots, for in their hearts they forebode pain. Charioteers were astounded, when they saw the tireless and terrible fire blazing above the head of the greathearted Achilles. For the grey-eyed goddess Athena kindled the fire.

Thrice godlike Achilles bellowed greatly over the trench, thrice were the famous Trojans and allies panic-stricken. Then and there 12 great men were destroyed amidst their own chariots and spears. But gladly the Achaeans placed Patroclus on the bier, dragging him from the arrows. His companions stood around him, grieving. After them swift-footed Achilles followed, crying hot tears, when he saw his trusted comrade lying on the bier, he whom Achilles sent to war with his horses and chariot, but would not again be received going home.

ἔνθα στὰς ἤϋσ’, ἀπάτερθε δὲ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη
φθέγξατ’: ἀτὰρ Τρώεσσιν ἐν ἄσπετον ὦρσε κυδοιμόν.
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἀριζήλη φωνή, ὅτε τ’ ἴαχε σάλπιγξ
ἄστυ περιπλομένων δηί̈ων ὕπο θυμοραϊστέων, 220
ὣς τότ’ ἀριζήλη φωνὴ γένετ’ Αἰακίδαο.
οἳ δ’ ὡς οὖν ἄϊον ὄπα χάλκεον Αἰακίδαο,
πᾶσιν ὀρίνθη θυμός: ἀτὰρ καλλίτριχες ἵπποι
ἂψ ὄχεα τρόπεον: ὄσσοντο γὰρ ἄλγεα θυμῷ.
ἡνίοχοι δ’ ἔκπληγεν, ἐπεὶ ἴδον ἀκάματον πῦρ 225
δεινὸν ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς μεγαθύμου Πηλεί̈ωνος
δαιόμενον: τὸ δὲ δαῖε θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη.
τρὶς μὲν ὑπὲρ τάφρου μεγάλ’ ἴαχε δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
τρὶς δὲ κυκήθησαν Τρῶες κλειτοί τ’ ἐπίκουροι.
ἔνθα δὲ καὶ τότ’ ὄλοντο δυώδεκα φῶτες ἄριστοι 230
ἀμφὶ σφοῖς ὀχέεσσι καὶ ἔγχεσιν. αὐτὰρ Ἀχαιοὶ
ἀσπασίως Πάτροκλον ὑπ’ ἐκ βελέων ἐρύσαντες
κάτθεσαν ἐν λεχέεσσι: φίλοι δ’ ἀμφέσταν ἑταῖροι
μυρόμενοι: μετὰ δέ σφι ποδώκης εἵπετ’ Ἀχιλλεὺς
δάκρυα θερμὰ χέων, ἐπεὶ εἴσιδε πιστὸν ἑταῖρον 235
κείμενον ἐν φέρτρῳ δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
τόν ῥ’ ἤτοι μὲν ἔπεμπε σὺν ἵπποισιν καὶ ὄχεσφιν
ἐς πόλεμον, οὐδ’ αὖτις ἐδέξατο νοστήσαντα.

Image: The Sosias Painter, “Achilles tending the wounded Patroklos,” late archaic period. Berlin, Antikenmuseen.

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