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Paperback The Iliad of Homer Book

ISBN: 0226469409

ISBN13: 9780226469409

The Iliad of Homer

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Book Overview

"The finest translation of Homer ever made into the English language."--William Arrowsmith "Certainly the best modern verse translation."--Gilbert Highet "This magnificent translation of Homer's epic poem . . . will appeal to admirers of Homer and the classics, and the multitude who always wanted to read the great Iliad but never got around to doing so."-- The American Book Collector "Perhaps closer to Homer in every way than any other version made...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

"The Iliad" Compared to "The Odyssey" and Other Translations

Any rating of "The Iliad" has to be primarily a rating of the translation, not of the work as such. Obviously "The Iliad" does not measure up to 21st-century expectations of riveting fiction, but then again, it was not written in the 21st century and it would be silly to expect anything of the sort. It was instead written in about 800 BCE and is *the* cornerstone of Western literature. Homer was for the Greeks what the Bible was for the Hebrews: The poems gave the loose Greek tribes a common identity in a semi-mythical history. Homer, in a way, gave *birth* to Greece, and Greece contributed significantly to the birth of Western culture. For this reason alone, anyone who lives in or identifies with the West should read "The Iliad." We wouldn't be here without it. Now as far as modern taste and entertainment value goes, "The Iliad" might conceivably be disappointing. It tells the war at Troy with its principle heroes Achilles and Hector, but the story ends anti-climactically with the burial of Hector. The Trojan Horse is not mentioned in it, nor is the city conquered. For the retrospective account of the Trojan Horse and the fall of Troy, one has to turn to "The Odyssey" - which is a more engrossing tale than "The Iliad" in terms of human interest, fantasy, and a satisfying ending. Now to this particular translation, made by English novelist Samuel Butler in 1898. I found it very clear and straightforward, but one has to realize that it turns Homer's poetry into prose, thereby losing much of its beauty. Furthermore, Butler uses the Roman names for the gods and other characters (e.g., Jove instead of Zeus), which I found unfortunate. For a prose translation that uses the Greek names, I recommend the one by W.H.D. Rouse (The Iliad (Signet Classics)). The advantage of the Butler translation, however, is that it is in the public domain, which means that you can get it as an e-text on the internet and also as a free audio book at www.librivox.org. Those who would like to appreciate "The Iliad" as poetry, may turn to the translation by George Chapman (The Odyssey (Wordsworth Classics)), though that one is quite a bit harder to understand than Butler's prose. Overall, the Butler translation is a good deal. If you are not sure, sample the text online first or listen to the free audio.

Great Epic

I absolutley adored this book. I am reading the Odyssey now. I recommend you read both. It adds depth to the whole tale.

Under Rated Translation

I don't think that this translation has been given the respect it deserves. It could be called low-brow or simplified, suitable only for children. I think such comments spring from snobbishness. The langauge is simple, but forceful. It moves at a short, brisk pace, suitable for a war story. It is meant to be read out loud. Readability is nothing to be ashamed of either. If you doubt that, try reading Lattimore's translation of the Iliad. I would probably choose Fagles over this translation, if I had to choose one, but I recommend taking a look at this.

The best Iliad for the general reader

The Iliad is one of the greatest treasures of Western Civilization-and not just because a teacher told you it was. On the surface, it offers raw emotions, visceral action sequences and colorful characters you admire and hate, often at the same time. But it is much, much deeper than that. The scene where Hector bids his young wife good-bye and holds up his infant son to the gods, praying that the boy will one day be a better man than ever he himself was, has never been equaled as a statement of what it means to be a man, husband or father. The debates about honor and duty are still the same we face every day. The humanity, insight and profound philosophy are remarkable-especially for a work now 3,000 years old. The problem? How do you convey all that power? How do you do so in a way that captures the feel of original? Iliad translations have started to come fast and furious, as every ten years or so someone tries to tackle the monumental task of bringing the poem to modern readers. The process isn't helped by the fact that the text was already 300 years old to the classical Greeks like Aristotle, Sophocles and Euripides-making it as vaguely old-fashioned as Shakespeare is to us. Should it sound antiquated to us, too? If you really want a line by line translation, one that has some kind of meter that approaches the Greek original, the obvious choice is Lattimore's classic translation. It has the side benefit now of being somewhat dated in its English usage too. That said, for just a good ol' read of the Iliad, Lattimore isn't even my third choice. For all its accuracy, I've always felt I was reading a textbook, written by a classics scholar rather than an honest-to-goodness writer. Lombardo, on the other hand, is my preferred translation for sitting back and reading what is still a rip-roaring adventure (with enough deep thoughts to give it extra weight). Lombardo confesses there really is no way to adequately convey the "musicality" of the original, and goes on to re-cast it in freer poetry, based on natural speech. He's built up his translation thru multiple performances of the poems, with drum accompaniment, in public places, and his Iliad is honed to a razor sharp edge. The musty old poem students rolled their eyes at becomes a terrifying, beautiful beast that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. It is so immediate, trilling and relevant. Lombardo's translation is an Iliad you will feel, not just respect. Pick up the Lombardo translation and you will understand immediately why this work is still called the cornerstone of Western culture.

Best first read

I am a retired high school and college instructor who taught the Iliad many times at both levels. The Rouse version was always my translation of choice, and it was enormously successful. The complaints (or halfhearted commendations here) miss the point. Most seem to think that Rouse's "plain English" version is a diminution of the original. All translations are! Rouse merely eliminated many epithets and repetitions (necessary in the meter of the poem and unnecessary in prose). But Rouse is extremely accurate within his chosen limits and the result is a brilliant achievement: a fast-moving text (as is the original) that is colloquial where appropriate, noble sithout being stuffy when nobility is called for; the result is an always ongoing, rapidly moving narrative told in vivid, sinewy prose that simply hurtles you along. It does not attempt to give the more complex reading experience that Fitzgerald and Lattimore and Fagles achieve in their superb verse translations; but these are best reserved for second . . .or 17th readings, once the complex story and relations between characters are mastered. And indeed, none of the more famous verse translations (Pope's is to be avoided: it's a beautiful Augustan poem, not Homer)--none come close to Rouse's focused and frightening rendering of Achilles' on the battlefield, once he goes into action. In short, Rouse is in spirit thoroughly "Homeric"--by turns racy and funny, savage, noble, ultimately tragic as, e.g., the dreadful Victorian versions of Butler and Lang, Leaf, & Myers are not and should be avoided). Even with the small point-size in which the text was set, Rouse's Homer is not just a bargain: it's a treasure bought at a small price.
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