Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 July 2015
At Iliad 13.751-3, Hector heeds Polydamas' advice to rally the Trojans by gathering their best fighters together and debating their next move (13.736-47). The speech is followed by a simile that has puzzled some commentators, in which Hector is compared to a snowy mountain as he moves through the Trojan ranks. The passage runs as follows:
‘Polydamas, hold all the best men here, while I go there and face the battle. I shall swiftly come back again, when I have given my orders to the men.’ He spoke and rushed off appearing like a snowy mountain, crying out, and flew through the ranks of the Trojans and their allies, and they all rushed to the kindly-minded Polydamas, Panthoos’ son, when they heard Hector's voice.
I would like to thank Katherine Backler, Armand D'Angour, Adrian Kelly, Emily Miller and the journal's anonymous referee for their comments. The translations are my own.
1 Cf. Bradley, E., ‘Hector and the simile of the snowy mountain’, TAPhA 98 (1967), 37–41 Google Scholar, at 37; C. Michel, Erläuterungen zum N der Ilias (Heidelberg, 1971), 128. For criticisms of the simile cf. W. Leaf, The Iliad, vol. 2 (London, 1902), 56, and further references at Bradley (n. 1), 38 n. 7.
2 At Od. 9.190–2 Polyphemus is compared to a wooded mountain (καὶ γὰρ θαῦμ’ ἐτέτυκτο πελώριον, οὐδὲ ἐῴκει | ἀνδρί γε σιτοφάγῳ, ἀλλὰ ῥίῳ ὑλήεντι | ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων, ὅ τε φαίνεται οἶον ἀπ’ ἄλλων), while at Od. 10.113 a similar description is applied to the Queen of the Laestrygonians (εὗρον ὅσην τ’ ὄρεος κορυφήν). In each case the similes are accompanied by references to the characters' size (Od. 9.187, 190; 10.120). Cf. Bradley (n. 1), 37–8.
3 R. Janko, The Iliad: A Commentary, Vol. IV: Books 13–16 (Cambridge, 1994), 140.
4 LfGrE s.v. νιφόεις questions whether the simile is apposite; M.L. West, The Making of the Iliad (Oxford, 2011), 286 calls it ‘odd’.
5 Bradley (n. 1), 40.
6 See e.g. J.L. Ready, Character, Narrator, and Simile in the Iliad (Cambridge, 2011), 221, 247–8 for a definition of multiple comparisons and an exploration of the terms. The argument for a single point of comparison has recently been put again by Erbse, H., ‘Beobachtungen über die Gleichnisse der Ilias Homers’, Hermes 128 (2000), 251–74Google Scholar.
7 The closest comparison to Bradley's understanding of the present passage is Iris' descent from Olympus at Il. 15.170–1 (ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἐκ νεφέων πτῆται νιφὰς ἠὲ χάλαζα | ψυχρὴ ὑπὸ ῥιπῆς αἰθρηγενέος Βορέαο). Cf. the use of νιφάς in the plural at 3.222 to describe Odysseus’ words (καὶ ἔπεα νιφάδεσσιν ἐοικότα χειμερίῃσιν), at 12.156 to describe the Greeks and the Trojans pelting each other with stones (νιφάδες δ’ ὡς πῖπτον ἔραζε), and also 12.278, 19.357. Cf. also Hes. Op. 535 (τῷ ἴκελοι φοιτῶσιν, ἀλευόμενοι νίφα λευκήν), where the snow's movement is also implied.
8 Thus LfGrE s.v. νιφόεις, which is distinguished from νιφετός (‘snow fall’) and χιών (‘fallen snow’). It should be noted that νιφόεις is the only Homeric adjective which has the neutral sense ‘snowy’; ἀγάννιφος means literally ‘much snowed on’ (cf. LfGrE s.v.). Given that snow on mountains is not always in motion, it seems reasonable to suppose that the semantic range of νιφόεις encompassed moving and fallen snow.
9 Janko (n. 3), 140.
10 The ὄρεα σκιόεντα which Odysseus sees at Od. 5.279 and 7.268, for example, appear at moments of relief and are a welcome sign of land, as marked by Odysseus’ reaction in the latter passage ὀκτωκαιδεκάτῃ δ’ ἐφάνη ὄρεα σκιόεντα | γαίης ὑμετέρης, γήθησε δέ μοι φίλον ἦτορ. Cf. P. Mazon, Homère: Iliade 3 (Paris, 1946), 32 for an approbation of the scholiast's view.
11 For a somewhat different view see H. Fränkel, Die homerischen Gleichnisse (Göttingen, 1921), 21; Janko (n. 3), 140. When reflected at its brightest, light appears white regardless of the reflective surface; snow is thus an apt comparandum for the visual impression given by Hector's helmet glinting in the sun.
12 See e.g. LfGrE s.v. 1c, LSJ s.v. 1 for examples. Murray's rendering in the old Loeb (‘in semblance like a snowy mountain’) captures the sense.
13 For the visual aspect of Virgil's simile cf. R. Tarrant, Virgil Aeneid 12 (Cambridge, 2012), 270.
14 For his position cf. Janko (n. 3), 131–2. For a similar reading cf. Michel (n. 1), 128: ‘[w]ie der Schneegipfel weithin leuchtet … von weither sichtbar und daher auch eine Orientierungshilfe, so ragt Hektor unter den Troern hervor, allen sicht- und vernehmbar und Anweisungen gebend, so dass die verstreute Menge nun wieder weiss, was zu tun ist.’
15 Noted by e.g. West (n. 4), 286, who comments that it is ‘not clarified by development’.
16 See e.g. Il. 12.451–2 and Porter, D., ‘Violent juxtaposition in the similes of the Iliad ’, CJ 68 (1972–3), 11–21 Google Scholar for more examples. S. Nannini, Analogia e polarità in similitudine: paragoni iliadici e odissiaci a confronto (Amsterdam, 2003), 49–91 gives a detailed treatment of ‘antithetical’ similes, and sees them as evidence of a particular mode of explanation.
17 Other examples might include Il. 4.130–1, where Athena, protecting Menelaus from Pandarus' arrow, is compared to a mother warding a fly away from a sleeping child: similarity and contrast, marked in particular by the child's ‘sweet sleep’ (ὅθ’ ἡδέϊ λέξεται ὕπνῳ, 131), combine to convey Menelaus’ vulnerability and Athena's power; Il. 11.269–71 (Agamemnon's pain at his wound compared to the pains of childbirth, where a contrast of situation emphasizes Agamemnon's suffering; cf. B. Hainsworth, The Iliad: A Commentary, Vol. III: Books 9-12 [Cambridge, 1993], 254–5), and Il. 12.421–4, where the Greeks and the Lycians fighting at the wall are compared to two men disputing a boundary stone.
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