Vol.4, No.1 | [Articles] Homer as a Point of Departure: Epic Similes in The Divine Comedy




Contrary to the view-current among certain critics-that it is only decorative, the epic simile, starting from Homer and carried on by Virgil and Milton, performs many functions, functions that help to make an epic what it is. In the development of the epic in general and of the epic simile in particular, Homer, Virgil, and Milton, three mainstream epic poets, were linked by a similar tradition and shared close affinities in the way they employed this rhetorical device. While drawing on the Homer-Virgil tradition, using the epic simile as Homer, Virgil, and Milton did, Dante in The Divine Comedy took Homer as a point of departure. This paper discusses what functions Dante’s epic similes perform, how they differ from those of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, and how they scale new heights, heights which are beyond the epic similes of the mainstream epic poets, attaining, as Eliot put it, to “the highest point poetry has ever reached or ever can reach.”

Keywords : epic simile, the Iliad, the Odyssey, Paradise Lost, The Divine Comedy, slow-motion sequence, bulk, sublimity, anthropomorphic, ineffable