One of the many stretch metaphors used by Homer. When you see a comma followed by ‘as …’ it can be a signal to take a good intake of breath to carry you through to the end of the image. Here it is feisty bees and quick-bending wasps who convey the unbending bravery of Greek warriors who would rather be destroyed than retreat.
See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson’s magnificent Why Homer Matters, and Christopher Logue’s War Music, a muscular rendition of several books of the Iliad.
‘For I never thought the fighting Achaians
would be able to hold our strength and our hands invincible.
But they, as wasps quick-bending in the middle, or as bees
will make their homes at the side of a rocky way, and will not
abandon the hollow house they have made, but stand up to
men who come to destroy them, and fight for the sake of their children,
so these, though they are only two, are unwilling to give back
from the gates, until they have killed their men, or are taken.’
Source: Homer, The Iliad of Homer, trans. Richmond Lattimore (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1961 (1951)), book XII, p. 262