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Horn, Fabian (2018): Dying is Hard to Describe. Metonymies and Metaphors of Death in the Iliad. In: Classical Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 2: pp. 359-383
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Abstract

Homer's Iliad is an epic poem full of war and battles, but scholars have noted that ‘[t]he Homeric poems are interested in death far more than they are in fighting’. Even though long passages of the poem, particularly the so-called ‘battle books’ (Il. Books 5–8, 11–17, 20–2), consist of little other than fighting, individual battles are often very short with hardly ever a longer exchange of blows. Usually, one strike is all it takes for the superior warrior to dispatch his opponent, and death occurs swiftly. The prominence of death in Homeric battle scenes raises the question of how and in which terms dying in battle is being depicted in the Iliad: for while fighting can be described in a straightforward fashion, death is an abstract concept and therefore difficult to grasp. Recent developments in cognitive linguistics have ascertained that, when coping with difficult and abstract concepts, such as emotions, the human mind is likely to resort to figurative language and particularly to metaphors.