Ineke Sluiter
  • The Classical Quarterly, November 2014, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/s000983881400041x

What is it about?

Homer is famous for his 'similes', extended comparisons between what is going on in the story and the outside world. As the story progresses, some of these similes recur and thereby support the main line of the story. One important storyline is how Odysseus is transformed from a miserable shipwrecked sufferer to the avenging King of the house after his return to Ithaca. This paper shows how a particular simile supports that story line: some of his companions die when the monster Scylla fishes them out of Odysseus' boat: the men die like writhing and flailing fishes. Odysseus is a helpless bystander and cannot do anything to prevent their deaths. However, when Odysseus finally takes revenge on the suitors who have been beleaguering his wife he himself becomes the 'fisherman', who struts around in the midst of his catch to make sure all the fishes are dead.

Why is it important?

Homer's narrative techniques have been much studied, but classicists are still discovering new and subtle features that help us understand the construction of the story. This is one such discovery.


Ineke Sluiter

Working on Homer is always wonderful. Finding something new in his epic poetry is what makes many classicists tick. I'm one of them.

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