Snow on the Battlefield

Snow on the Battlefield

By Cate Simons


Iliad XII.278-289

τῶν δ’, ὥς τε νιφάδες χιόνος πίπτωσι θαμειαὶ

ἤματι χειμερίῳ, ὅτε τ’ ὤρετο μητίετα Ζεὺς

νιφέμεν ἀνθρώποισι πιφαυσκόμενος τὰ ἃ κῆλα:

κοιμήσας δ’ ἀνέμους χέει ἔμπεδον, ὄφρα καλύψῃ

ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων κορυφὰς καὶ πρώονας ἄκρους

καὶ πεδία λωτοῦντα καὶ ἀνδρῶν πίονα ἔργα,

καί τ’ ἐφ’ ἁλὸς πολιῆς κέχυται λιμέσιν τε καὶ ἀκταῖς,

κῦμα δέ μιν προσπλάζον ἐρύκεται: ἄλλά τε πάντα

εἴλυται καθύπερθ’, ὅτ’ ἐπιβρίσῃ Διὸς ὄμβρος:

ὣς τῶν ἀμφοτέρωσε λίθοι πωτῶντο θαμειαί,

αἱ μὲν ἄρ’ ἐς Τρῶας, αἱ δ’ ἐκ Τρώων ἐς Ἀχαιούς

βαλλομένων: τὸ δὲ τεῖχος ὕπερ πᾶν δοῦπος ὀρώρει.


As flakes of snow whirl fast and thick

On chilled and wintry days,

And mighty Zeus the counselor

Is stirred to fashion snow

And dazzles men by granting them a glimpse of thunderbolts,

He calms the winds, and pours

The snowflakes on the soil

Til he has clothed the mountain peaks,

The rolling hills,

The fields engulfed in lotus blooms,

The fertile farms,

And mantled all in snow.

And still the sovereign ruler spills

Yet more reserves of snow

On ports and coastal plains

And gray, salt-speckled waves.

The beating wave resists the snow,

But earth herself accepts her shroud

When Zeus decants his storm.

On each partitioned side

The stones flew fast and thick

And landed some on Trojan, some

From Trojan onto Greek,

And past the lofty ramparts rose

The sullen din of war.


Author’s Statement

In this translation piece, I created a lyric poem based on a simile from Homer’s Iliad. In his epic, Homer uses this simile to compare Zeus’ snowfall to stones careening on the battlefield; Zeus’ blizzard highlights the terrible expansion of the Trojan War. In my piece, I wanted to emphasize the contrast between the snowstorm’s silence and the clamor of battle.


Cate Simons (College ’21) is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Classical Studies (Languages and Literature) and minoring in Fine Arts.