15 Top Homeric Simile Examples

An epic or Homeric simile is a comparison between two unlike things that develops gradually and reveals their meaning as the lines proceed. This comparison usually expresses itself with words like, that’s how, or as. The word Homeric comes from the Greek poet Homer. He used this prolonged comparison in his writings to enhance the character or idea more perfectly. Epic simile also helps the writer to paint a vivid picture in the reader’s head so that he or she can understand the same perception that the writer had imagined while creating the characters and the scenarios. Usually, it’s a comparison between a character or action to a natural affair or occurrence. A few examples are given below.

Examples of Epic or Homeric Similes

Example #1

Paradise Lost By John Milton

His legions—angel forms, who lay entranc’d
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th’ Etrurian shades
High over-arch’d embow’r; or scatter’d sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm’d
Hath vex’d the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o’erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursu’d
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carkases
And broken chariot-wheels: so thick bestrown,
Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.

Here Milton is laying the similarity between Satan’s army to scattered Autumn leaves. The epic or Homeric simile starts from the phrase ‘Thick as autumn leaves’ and continues in several lines below. The words ‘A float’, ‘scattered’ and ‘floating’ reflect the comparison between the Satan and autumn leaves.

Example #2

The Iliad By Homer

Rank and file
streamed behind and rushed like swarms of bees
pouring out of a rocky hollow, burst on endless burst,
bunched in clusters seething over the first spring blooms,
dark hordes swirling into the air, this way, that way—
so the many armed platoons from the ships and tents
came marching on. close-file. along the deep wide beach
to crowd the meeting grounds, and Rurnor. Zeus’s crier,
like wildfire blazing among them, whipped them on.
The troops assembled. The meeting grounds shook.
The earth groaned and rumbled under the huge weight
as soldiers took positions-the whole place in uproar.
Nine heralds shouted out, trying to keep some order,
“Quiet, battalions;silence! Hear your royal kings!”
The men were forced to their seats, marshaled into ranks,
the shouting died away … silence

In this example, the epic or Homer simile is quite evident and strong in its expression. For instance, the marching of men toward Troy is compared to the swarm of bees. This simile reflects the very atmosphere and number and strengthens its idea of the strong army as the lines proceed.

Example #3

The Odyssey By Homer

During this meditation a heavy surge
was taking him, in fact, straight on the rocks.
He had been flayed there, and his bones broken,
had not grey-eyed Athena instructed him:
he gripped a rock-ledge with both hands in passing
and held on, groaning, as the surge went by,
to keep clear of its breaking. Then the backwash
hit him, ripping him under and far out.
An octopus, when you drag one from his chamber,
comes up with suckers full of tiny stones:
Odysseus left the skin of his great hands
torn on that rock-ledge as the wave submerged him.

The above example of a Homeric simile here describes the journey of Odysseus toward home after the Trojan War. The comparison is perfect when Odysseus is considered an Octopus that might be pulled down from the rock.

Example #4

Aeneid By Virgil

Like bees in spring across the blossoming land,
Busy beneath the sun, leading their offspring,
Full grown now, from the hive, or loading cells
Until they swell with honey and sweet nectar,

These lines describe the scene when Aeneas is traveling to Italy and is stunned by its beauty. The epic simile enhances the character and situation, and the great city of Carthage and its fashionable lifestyle are well compared to busy bees during spring.

Example #5

The Odyssey By Homer

So we seized our stake with its fiery tip
and bored it round and round in the giant’s eye
till blood came boiling up around that smoking haft . . .
. . . its crackling roots blazed and hissed—
as a blacksmith plunges a glowing ax or adze
in an ice-cold bath and the metal screeches steam
and its temper hardens—that’s the iron’s strength—
so the eye of the Cyclops sizzled round that stake!

In the example, the writer compares the hissing sound to the hot ax sound when the blacksmith dips it in cold water.

Example #6

London By William Wordsworth

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

These lines are written by William Wordsworth for John Milton, who was also a poet from the 17th century. He calls Milton for the restoration of London. He epically uses the simile by comparing him to stars, sea, and heavens. These similes become more powerful as the lines proceed as he requests Milton, compared to a god, to save London after the Civil War with his virtues and religious values.

Example #7

Inferno By Dante

In that season of the youthful year
when the sun cools his locks beneath Aquarius
and the dark already nears but half the day,
and when the hoarfrost copies out upon the fields
the very image of her snowy sister –
although her pen-point is not sharp for long –
the peasant, short of fodder, rises,
looks out, and sees the countryside
turned white, at which he slaps his thigh,
goes back indoors, grumbling here and there
like a wretch who knows not what to do,
then goes outside again and is restored to hope,
seeing that the world has changed its face
in that brief time, and now picks up his crook
and drives his sheep to pasture.

In this example, the lines describe the character of Cerberus, who is hideous and a fierce mythical beast. He barks like a dog over the people with his three throats, flays them, and rends the spirits.

Example #8

Antigone By Sophocles

For a fight that Polyneices, haggling, picked.
And, like a screaming eagle,
He dropped on our land:
The shadow of his white-snow wing-
a multitude of armored men,
Helmets crested with horsehair.

These lines are from Chorus, and the epic simile is quite clear when he tells how a person from Argos arrived like an eagle coming down for its prey. Through epic similes, the lines become poetic and meaningful.

Example #9

The Odyssey By Homer

Her mind in torment, wheeling like some lion at bay, dreading the gangs of hunters closing their cunning ring around him for the finish.

In this example, Homer uses two-sided similes; physical and mental. The comparison is between Telemachus and the lion, surrounded by many hunters.

Example #10

The Odyssey By Homer

Pell-mell the rollers tossed her along down-current,
wild as the North Wind tossing thistle along the fields
at high harvest—dry stalks clutching each other tightly—
so the galewinds tumbled her down the sea, this way, that way,
now the South Wind flinging her over to North to sport with,
now the East Wind giving her up to West to harry on and on.

In the above example, the simile is in the tossing of Odysseus’s boat, which is compared to the wind blowing dry stalks.

Example #11

Paradise Lost By Milton

The broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon.

The stature of Satan and his shield is compared to the moon. The simile reflects the massive size of the shield that the poet wants the reader to imagine.

Example #12

Paradise Lost By Milton

Thus Satan talking to his nearest mate
With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large…
So stretcht out huge in length the arch-fiend lay
Chained on the burning lake.’

The prominence of Satan is described through simile where Satan is in waves with “head uplifted” and “sparkling eyes”. The words “extended long and large” are compared to the grand body of a Whale. That is often mistaken by the pilots as an island.

Example #13

The Iliad By Homer

Like a lion who has been wounded in the chest As he ravages a farmstead, and his own valor Destroys him.

In book XVI the simile of Thelion for Patroclus conveys his aggressive nature, pride, and vanity and the foreshadowing of death. He continues fighting, knowing he’s going to die with respect and pride like a lion.

Example #14

Inferno By Dante

Weeping and cursing they come for evermore,
and demon Charon with eyes like burning coals herds them in,
and with a whistling oar flails on the stragglers
to his wake of souls.’

The narrator is discussing his descent into hell, he notices people are crying and beaten by demons. These demons have eyes like coal. This simile helps the reader to imagine the darkness of their eyes, and compare it to a hot burning coal.

Example #15

Paradise Lost By John Milton

At one slight bound high overleaped all bound
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for pretty,
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve
Leaps over the fence with ease into the fold
Or as a theif bent to unheard the cash
Of some rich burgler…So clomb the first grand their into God’s fold (Milton IV181-92).

In this example, Satan is compared to a wolf, who is the strongest creature and yet terrified, when he leaps over the wall and sees paradise. The wolf is a cunning animal, and now the reader is ready to see that Satan waits to steal something from humanity out of a grudge.