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The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey (edition 1993)

by Homer, Samuel Butler (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
28,37123833 (4.04)5 / 701
Title:The Odyssey
Other authors:Samuel Butler (Translator)
Info:New York : Barnes & Noble, 1993.
Collections:Your library
Tags:Classical Studies, Greek Literature, Homer, Read in 2013

Work details

The Odyssey by Homer

  1. 202
    The Iliad by Homer (caflores)
  2. 172
    The Aeneid by Virgil (caflores)
  3. 132
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (alalba)
  4. 40
    Homer's Daughter by Robert Graves (MarcusBrutus)
    MarcusBrutus: Robert Graves took the story of "The Odyssey's" authorship and expounds on the theory that it was written by a woman. This is a novel based on that idea.
  5. 52
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous (chrisharpe)
  6. 42
    The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel by Nikos Kazantzakis (lilithcat)
    lilithcat: Only Greece's greatest modern writer would have the nerve and ability to send Odysseus back on his journeying.
  7. 86
    Ulysses by James Joyce (chrisharpe)
  8. 32
    The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson (chrisharpe)
  9. 33
    The Lost Books of The Odyssey: A Novel by Zachary Mason (slickdpdx)
  10. 77
    Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (BookWallah)
    BookWallah: Odysseus & Shackleton both had travails getting home from their epic voyages. Differences in their stories: The former’s took 17 years, lost all his men, & was told as epic poetry. The latter’s took 16 months, saved all his men, & is told as gripping biography.… (more)
  11. 37
    The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (Jitsusama)
    Jitsusama: An ancient classic revolving around Greek Myth. A great help to better understand the mythology of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
  12. 49
    Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence by Jeremy Wilson (KayCliff)

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English (208)  Spanish (8)  Dutch (6)  French (4)  Danish (3)  Italian (3)  Swedish (2)  Portuguese (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  German (1)  All languages (238)
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Read part of it in high school. Then the whole thing in college, and recently taught (parts of) it to my 9th graders.

The story is so great. I want to re-read! ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Read part of it in high school. Then the whole thing in college, and recently taught (parts of) it to my 9th graders.

The story is so great. I want to re-read! ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
One cannot read The Odyssey — or The Iliad for that matter — without facing the problem of translation. And it is a problem rather than merely an issue, mostly concerning meter and rhyme but also to some extent style.

Homer's poetic line in Greek is basically dactylic hexameter but with variations (which can be read about in detail elsewhere). This means six beats or feet made up of a long followed by two short syllables, DUH-da-da, which produces a sing-song effect in English. It is well-known that English falls easily into iambic pentameter, i.e., five beats per line. The metrical differences, which reveal contrasts in the natural cadences from one language to another, pose significant problems for someone trying to reproduce Homer line for line or maintain the poetic effects of the original Greek in English, although many have tried.

As to style, Homer is famous for his extended similes and for his epithets. I expected to see many examples of the similes, but it seems that Homer reserved them for highly dramatic situations. There is something about the build-up to a climactic event that lends itself to what would amount to literary excess in other settings. Remembering that The Odyssey came out of an oral tradition, we can begin to understand the reasoning behind the repetitious use of epithets to help both the listener and the reciter remember a character or a place: for example, rosy-fingered Dawn, red-haired Menelaus, wine-dark sea. Apparently they had a metrical use in the original Greek as well — not so much in English.

The translation I began with was by [[Robert Fitzgerald]] (1963). It is highly poetic but uses the Greek spelling of names which are not the most familiar to this reader anyway: Akhaians for Acheans, Meneláos for Menelaus, Telémakhos for Telemachus. There is no introduction or notes, but Fitzgerald includes a lengthy postscript which addresses some of the problems with translation and a few other matters of interest.

Also at hand was [[Samuel Butler]]'s 1900 prose translation, which I found easier to follow, frankly. It is crisp and clear and uses the Latinized version of proper names. This translation is available on line at Project Gutenberg. I highly recommend it for a first reading. After one gets a feel for the structure and flow of The Odyssey, it is much more satisfying to go back and read a translation in high poetry.

Many translations are available in English beginning with that of [[George Chapman]] in 1616, followed by [[Alexander Pope]]'s rhymed heroic couplets in 1725, and in the twentieth century, [[Richmond]] Lattimore (1967) and [[Robert Fagles]] (1996), both in blank verse. A comparison of the first five lines of ten different translations is available here:


The Iliad is famous for beginning in medias res, in the middle of things. The Odyssey, by contrast, begins toward the end of the hero's twenty-year sojourn, trying to make his way back home from the Trojan Wars, which consumed nine of those long years' absence. The story opens in Ithaca with wife Penelope being importuned by a hundred or so suitors who are literally eating her out of house and home, and son Telemachus being urged by the goddess Athena to embark on a voyage to see whether he can obtain news of his father. Eventually we find that Odysseus is being held captive by the goddess Calypso, and it is only through intervention of the goddess Athena that he is finally allowed to leave.

Eventually he washes up on the shores of a country governed by Alcinous, where he is given every blessing normally bestowed upon a stranger. Finally, in Book 9 of 24, Odysseus reveals himself to Alcinous and it is through flashback over this and the next three books, that we hear all about his famous adventures with the Cyclops, the lotus eaters, his visit to Circe, his voyage to Hades, his overcoming the sirens, Scylla and Charybdis and the misfortunes that befell when his crew feasted on the cattle of the Sun.

In Book 13 Odysseus finally gets back to Ithaca, where he finds the situation with the suitors has gotten so out-of-hand that his life will be in danger if he tries to go directly home. The remainder of The Odyssey concerns the various machinations involved in overcoming the arrogant suitors and reclaiming his house, his wife and his property.

The Odyssey is filled with a cast of thousands, many of whom became famous in the Trojan Wars and the mere mention of whose names would have been enough to conjure images in the minds of the Greek listeners, or for anyone today familiar with The Iliad. It is a thrilling tale that everyone should read at least once. But it is also a morality tale. In fact, Robert Fitzgerald in his "Postscript" explains it best:

. . . the universe of The Odyssey is subject to moral law, and in the first few lines briefly, or amply in the first few hundred, we are informed of this law, of how it may be violated, and how badly, sooner or later, the offenders come off. The poet was not [[Plato]], [[Augustine]] or [[Immanuel Kant]], and we need not bother to pick flaws in his thinking. He tells us that Odysseus' crew perished for their recklessness, and then Zeus remarks that Aigisthos in particular and mortals in general have aggravated their lot by the same misdemeanor. What is this misdemeanor? Presumption, impious and reckless: a folly of greed. It is more than taking what belongs to a vague "someone else"—for you are permitted some raids and wars of conquest; it is claiming and taking more than your share in your own commonwealth, without a decent respect for the views of heaven or the opinions of mankind. Wife-stealing and murder, usurpation and insolence: these are the crimes against private and public order that the Olympians meditate as the poem opens.

And against the backdrop of one of the world's greatest adventures, these values are always present. ( )
2 vote Poquette | Jul 7, 2014 |
I am finally reviewing this book - after reading it two or three months ago. Firstly, this book is very readable. The translator did an excellent job of making this book accessible to a general reader. I am sure there are translations that stay closer to the original - but.

This is a story of Odysseus and his journey to get home after a long war. Of course, the book was written around 3000 years ago, when literature was just starting. As a result, the story is quite simple. This isn't a detraction. It adds a sense of place to the story - setting it in a location and time that is very far away.

Odysseus is a very simple fellow - not stupid. He takes the most direct route, never lying, never cheating on his way to get home. Of course, there are parts that are truly strange, actions, words, beliefs. You can read this story without understanding the cultural references. But, for me, it was helpful to consult outside sources for a deeper understanding.

One last thing - I am currently reading the Aeneid by Virgil written 1500 years later. This also covers the Trojan War. I haven't finished it - but I am finding the difference in writing to be very interesting. The Aeneid is more sophisticated, characters are more complex. Its the difference between the start of a civilization compared to the end of a civilization (or maybe the middle of one, if you consider current civilization to be a continuation). Either way, it is an interesting comparison. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Jun 29, 2014 |
" ... the sublime measure of Homer ... " - Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 21 Mar. 1819

"I would advise you to undertake a regular course of history & poetry in both languages, in Greek, go first thro’ the Cyropaedia, and then read Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon’s Hellenies & Anabasis, Arrian’s Alexander, & Plutarch’s lives, for prose reading: Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey, Euripides, Sophocles in poetry ... " - Thomas Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 6 Oct. 1820
  ThomasJefferson | Jun 5, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (154 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Homerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aafjes, BertusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bendz, GerhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Björkeson, IngvarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boutens, P.C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckland-Wright, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burkert, WalterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Butcher, Samuel HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Butler, SamuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chapman, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christian, AntonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coornhert, Dierick Volckertsz.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cullen, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dimock, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Due, Otto SteenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eliot, Charles WilliamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagles, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagles, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flaxman, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuchs, J.W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Peter V.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Peter V.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirk, G. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, BernardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lagerlöf, ErlandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lang, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichmondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, T. E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linkomies, EdwinPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Loomis, Louise RopesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Louise Ropes LoomisEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lucas, F. L.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mandelbaum, AllenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manninen, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKellen, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKellen, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, Walter JamesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montbel, DugasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palmer, George HerbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pope, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, Howard N.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rees, EnnisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riba, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rieu, D. C. H.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rieu, Emile VictorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, Adamsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rouse, W. H. D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Samuel ButlerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Segalá y Estalella, LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shaw, T. E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shewring, WalterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stanford, William Bedell.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steinmann, KurtTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stolpe, JanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Svenbro, JesperForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Timmerman, Aegidius W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vosmaer, C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Voss, Johann HeinrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Way, Arthur S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific--and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise--
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

John Keats
for my sons and daughters - Translator's dedication (Fitzgerald, 1963)
For Lynne
su gar m'ebiôsao, kourê - Translator's dedication (Fagles, 1996)
First words
By now the other warriors, those that had escaped headlong ruin by sea or in battle, were safely home.
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.
Tell me Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven far journeys, after he had sacked Troy's sacred citadel.
(Lattimore translation}
Last words
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The Odyssey is the epic poem about the great adventurer Odysseus. After the great fall of Troy, Odysseus has some difficulties finding his way back to Ithaca. He encounters sirens, giants and many other mythical creatures and it takes him 10 years to find his way home. I enjoyed this book because it of the mythology and the adventure that it portrays and I think it is a good read.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140268863, Paperback)

Robert Fagles's translation is a jaw-droppingly beautiful rendering of Homer's Odyssey, the most accessible and enthralling epic of classical Greece. Fagles captures the rapid and direct language of the original Greek, while telling the story of Odysseus in lyrics that ring with a clear, energetic voice. The story itself has never seemed more dynamic, the action more compelling, nor the descriptions so brilliant in detail. It is often said that every age demands its own translation of the classics. Fagles's work is a triumph because he has not merely provided a contemporary version of Homer's classic poem, but has located the right language for the timeless character of this great tale. Fagles brings the Odyssey so near, one wonders if the Hollywood adaption can be far behind. This is a terrific book.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:16 -0400)

(see all 11 descriptions)

A new translation of the epic poem retells the story of Odysseus's ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 44 descriptions

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Eight editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140268863, 0140275363, 0143039954, 0140445927, 0140449116, 0140383093, 0451530683, 0141192445


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