Are features of literary language that have been extensively discussed by theorists and critics since antiquity. The first purposeful investigations are Aristotle's. By the time of Quintilian metaphor (implicit comparison) and simile (explicit comparison) have a place in an elaborate apparatus of ‘tropes’ and ‘figures’, with metaphor classed among the tropes, and simile generally associated with the figures. Figures comprise a variety of supposedly special ‘conformations’, from homoeoteleuton (see assonance, Latin) to rhetorical question. Tropes comprise all deliberate deviations from established usage, including in particular (a) deviations based on contiguity or association, in modern analysis generally grouped together as ‘metonymy’ (‘arma virumque cano’, ‘arms and the man I sing’, Virgil, Aeneid 1. 1, where arms implies war) and (b) metaphor, a deviation based on similarity or analogy (a swarm of bees ‘swims through the summer air’, Virgil, Georgics. 4. 59).
Metaphor proper differs from dead metaphor or cliché. Homer's ‘shepherd of the people’ may ‘sound metaphorical’ in translation, but in Homeric Greek is an established usage. Acc. to Quintilian, metaphor is the most important of the tropes, but not detached from them. Modern analysts of metaphor distinguish the vehicle (deviant element) from the tenor (non‐deviant element) and both from the image as a whole, and likewise with the corresponding elements of similes.
In much Greek and Latin literature metaphor and allied figures occur sporadically. Representative are the short explanatory comparisons that crop up in technical prose (‘in tetanus the jaws set hard like wood’) and the orator's isolated and often half‐familiar metaphors, commended by generations of rhetoricians (‘the insurrection awoke Italy’). The intensive or intense use of imagery is in poetry and poetic prose. With the antiphonal epic simile, use is restricted: ‘And as when a man packs the wall of a high house tight with stones…, even so packed were their helmets and bossed shields.’ This is nevertheless much the most important mode of imagery in Homer, from whom it is transmitted as part of the epic repertoire to Apollonius Rhodius, Virgil, and beyond.
The main functions of metaphor and simile in ancient poetry are:
Subjects: Classical Studies.