Lion Similes In The Iliad

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The warriors of The Iliad are famed for their capacity for violence and fury; the poem often reading as a cascade of bloodshed, page after page narrating the countless deaths in the slaughter outside the walls of Troy. The rage of these warriors, and of course most of all Achilleus, seems insurmountable—who could possibly match their anger and strength? However, within the poem itself one creature finds itself at the forefront; its ferocity something beyond the heroes of the epic. This is the lion. Its fury is unmatched: devouring, ravaging, killing mercilessly, “rip[ing] out soft heart[s]” (11.115) and “gulp[ing] down…blood” (11.176). The most intensely violent acts of the poem are almost always presented in tandem with similes making the …show more content…
They’re common in the ariestias of the warriors, and we see them used several times in Agamemnon’s. As the morning comes he leads the Achian force back into battle, killing Trojans mercilessly: “…as a lion seizes the innocent young of the running deer, and easily crunches and breaks them caught in the strong teeth…” (11.113-15). Homer’s choice to describe the men he kills as “innocent young” is striking—are they not also armed and ferocious to claim their own victims? What this suggests is that Agamemnon’s power has become so great that the fight is no longer fair. In comparison to his massive strength the Trojans are akin to the young innocent fawns a mother deer looks after. Another marked use of lion similes comes in a battle scene with the two Aiantes. After being described as lions and killing the Trojan Imbrios they “…hewed away his head from the soft neck and threw it spinning like a ball through the throng of fighters…” (13.203-4). The head lands at the feet of Hektor, and one can imagine him locking eyes in horror with those of the disembodied head. Despite being done in the heat of battle, this is a heartless and inhumane act. The tradition is to take the armor of a man slain; taking his head and throwing to his commander is something above and beyond the expected practices …show more content…
He’s obviously the most fearsome of the Achian warriors and even earns the ephithet “lion-hearted”. Out of all the Achians, Achilleus slays the most men, even earning the wrath of Apollo and the river Xanthos for his heartless slaughter. Complaining to Zeus of Achilleus’ excessive killings Apollo describes him as, “…Achilleus within whose breast there are no feelings of justice…but his purposes are fierce, like a lion…” (24.39-41). Here again we see the pairing of a lack of morals, or in this case justice, with the simile of a lion—but it also shows just how well established Achilleus’ connection to being a lion is: that even the gods speak of it. If any hero demonstrates the rage and power of the lion most clearly it is Achilleus, but in his final scenes with Priam he certainly returns to humanity. Just as the poem itself ends with the laments of the women over Hektor’s death, Achilleus’ story ends in the sharing of grief with his enemy. Welcoming the father of a man killed, and whose son slew a close friend, that is not the act of a ruthless killer—it’s entirely human, putting aside rage to recognize the sorrow of another. This grief is the repercussion of the lion-like state; Achilleus’ journey and the poem both ending in the small reconciliation possible with a force so

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