A paradeigma is a mythological example (cf. our word 'paradigm'), introduced by a speaker to increase the persuasiveness of his words (by pointing to occasions in legend where a well-known figure behaved the way the speaker would like his interlocutor to behave). Characteristically, the paradeigma is constructed according to the principle of 'ring composition' (see schema of Achilles's 'Niobe' paradeigma, below). In Homer, such 'examples' are often doctored (by the inclusion of blatantly invented details) in order to make them fit the "real-life" situation better.
The story of Niobe that Achilles tells (XXIV: 599-620) is a particularly good example of such 'doctoring.' Structurally, it may be schematized as follows:
a : 599-601 : In the morning you may take your son
b : 601 : Now let us eat.
c : 602-3 : For even Niobe ate.
d : 603-6 : Her children were killed.
e : 607-8 : Niobe's offense...
d' : 609-12 : Her children were buried.
c' : 613 : Niobe ate.
b' : 618-19 : So let us eat.
a' : 620 : Then you may take your son back.
(FYI, lines 614-617--missing from the schema above--are thought by many scholars to be a post-Homeric addition.)
Information in this window has been
adapted from Malcolm Willcock,
A Companion to the Iliad (University of Chicago Press, 1976), pp. 9 and 272-3.