Concepts of the hero CLAS E-116

Florine Cleary February 22, 2007

Please do a two or three (Maximum) page Close Reading of any METAPHOR of your own choice. Prefix your essay with a brief sentence, so indicating the term which You intend to focus upon. This metaphor must be drawn from Iliad. …he (Nestor) grasped his redoubtable bronze shod spear, and as soon as he was outside saw the disastrous rout of the Achaeans who, now that their wall was overthrown, were fleeing pell-mell before the Trojans. As when there is a heavy swell upon the sea, but the waves are dumb – they keep their eyes on the watch for quarter whence the fierce winds may spring upon them, but they stay where they are and set neither this way nor that, till some particular winds sweeps down from heaven to determine (krino) them – even so did the old man ponder whether to make for the crowd of Danaans, or go in search of Agamemnon. Throughout the Iliad there is the theme of outside forces directly or indirectly shaping and influencing the characters and through them the outcome of events. The characters find their telos in the acts they are moved to perform, but this telos is unknown or they are unable to act effectually towards it “till some particular winds sweeps down from heaven to determine (krino) them”1. The metaphor of Nestor and the Achaeans being in tumult and each man like a wave waiting for what will establish their direction and their end hinges upon the term “krino”. Here krino is used to mean “determine” but elsewhere in the Iliad it is used as “divide2”, “marshaled3”, “read4” and “selected5” but krino can also mean to prefer, to set apart, to evaluate, to decree, to resolve, to judge and to govern. It is from krino that we get such words critic, hypocrisy, criteria and crisis. The poetic use of krino in this metaphor is made richer by understanding the other meanings it would invoke in
1 2

XIV, 15 (page 158) 360 (page 29) 3 445 (page 31) 4 145 (page 58) The use of “read” is as applies to Eurydamas interpreting dreams, I’m taking this to be like discerning the meaning of them and discern from the Latin cerno taken from the Greek krino. 5 185 (page 74)

someone well versed in Greek6. In all uses there is an element of something being chosen for some reason and at a decisive point. Up until this passage it is men who practice krino but in the above mentioned use it is ambiguous as to who is to determine Nestor’s actions and by extension that of the Achaeans. That it requires a wind from heaven for the waves to no longer be stricken dumb and in a state of chaos where “they stay where they are and set neither this way nor that” applies well to the Achaeans who Zeus-abandoned and somewhat stunned are trying to endure while being attacked by Gods (the “fierce winds”) and men during the battle (the “heavy swell”). The tide as it were of the battle has changed such that this is their moment of crisis. Just as in the previous uses of krino someone must evaluate and pick whether to esteem the Achaeans above the Trojans and so govern them to victory or allow them to be completely destroyed for this is the decisive point for them.


When Odysseus rebukes Agamemnon for decideing that they cannot be judged ill of for fleeing since it must be the decree of Zeus that they lose he does so by citeing that this is their allotted fate that Zeus has set the Achaean warriors apart for a “life of hard fighting from youth to old age, till every one of us perish” we can see again the interplay of various meanings of krino.