18 November 2016
Iliad: Honey as a Defining Symbol and Anaphora
According to Greek Mythology, honey defines as the sustenance of the gods. Homer’s Iliad strongly centralizes the gods, as the characters in the text demonstrate obedience, worship, spirituality, and idolatry towards them. By appearing in various contexts in the work, honey as a symbol and anaphora strongly influences and emphasizes the formation of the gods’ centrality.
Honey is frequently demonstrated to be in certain drinks within Iliad. For instance, in Book IV, honey is shown to be in wine; “ye glad to eat roast meat and drink cups of honey-sweet wine as long as ye will…” (Homer). Given the symbolic meaning of honey, the connection between “honey” and “sweet” displays that, as honey is sweet and satisfying, so is worshiping the gods. As the characters in the text live by the word of the Greek gods, they too live by what they intake. That being said, honey symbolically centralizes a human drinking wine to emulate the gods. The symbolism is again shown in Book XXIV when proclaimed, “Hecabe, her heart sore stricken, bearing in her right hand honey-hearted wine in a cup of gold…” (Homer). In addition to the wine, the symbol of honey is associated with the type of cup it is in; a golden cup also resembles the gods, further establishing the fact that humans surround their lives around the gods. In another case, this act of drinking the honey-sweet wine goes in direct contact with a god in Book X; “And from the full-mixing bowl they drew off honey-sweet wine and made libation to Athene” (Homer). With the honey symbol, this quote further demonstrates the centrality between humans and the gods; as the humans offer the wine as a tribute to Athene, the clarification of honey as a symbolic food of the gods is confirmed. Not only is honey inputted in drink, it is also prevalent in food.
The centrality of the gods is further demonstrated through the symbolic connection between honey and food. For example, in Book VIII, honey and food create a greater symbolism; “Andromache, daughter of great-hearted Eetion, set before you honey-hearted wheat, and mingled wine for you to drink…” (Homer). As food is an important part of human survival, so is honey in relation to wheat in this context. That being said, since honey is considered to be the food of the gods, the gods are central to human life. In addition, this connection between the heart and honey suggests that, since the heart is crucial to human life, as is honey. Thus, the connection between the gods and humans strengthens, and the centrality becomes more clarified through the symbolism of honey. Another example can be found in book XVIII; “And the maidens and youths in childish glee were bearing the honey-sweet fruit in wicker baskets” (Homer). Again, the connection between the children and women and honey-sweet fruit being carried by them symbolizes their worship to the gods, further centralizing the importance of the Greek gods in human life.
Lastly, the honey symbol is integrated with the actual human life and activity. For instance, in Book I, the way Pylians speaks is described as godlike when claimed, “From whose tongue flowed speech sweeter than honey” (Homer). This is a very symbolic moment in the text, as honey is describing the way Pylians speaks. Demonstrating his speech, the honey in this context insinuates that the gods are a part of him, almost as if they are controlling him. Thus, the centrality of the gods in the text is further emphasized. Another example of this context is in Book XVII; “I cast and smite thee, and rob thee of honey-sweet life” (Homer). The rhetoric of “honey” and “life” speaks to the reader to say that, without honey, otherwise known as the gods, life is not a concept. In other words, in order for one to live a “honey-sweet life”, the gods need to be present. Thus, the centrality of the gods is established through the symbolism of honey.
The symbolism and anaphora of honey in Homer’s Iliad thoroughly contributes to and greatly affects the text; acting as a figure for the Greek gods, it gives the theme of centrality between the gods and human life as well as survival a more established concept. Although it is subtle, Homer frequently inputs the symbolism of honey in order to demonstrate how important and crucial the gods are to human life.