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The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad

by Homer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Homer's Epic Cycle (1)

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27,19227437 (4.04)9 / 1309
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  1. 292
    The Odyssey by Homer (Voracious_Reader, caflores)
  2. 241
    The Aeneid by Virgil (HollyMS)
  3. 91
    Beowulf by Beowulf Poet (benmartin79)
  4. 31
    Tiger at the Gates by Jean Giraudoux (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Giraudoux imagines the events in Troy when Paris shows up with Helen
  5. 31
    The Táin by Táin author (inge87)
  6. 42
    Ransom by David Malouf (GCPLreader)
  7. 22
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (alalba)
  8. 22
    The Dismissal of the Grecian Envoys by Jan Kochanowski (sirparsifal)
  9. 13
    The Death of King Arthur by Anonymous (chrisharpe)
  10. 18
    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.
  11. 110
    Troy [2004 film] by Wolfgang Petersen (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Very free interpretation (not adaptation) that in many ways improves on the original. No childish gods, no rambling digressions. Visually spectacular. The dialogue is a bit cringeworthy now and then, but it does have flashes of brilliance. Only for the most broad-minded admirers of Homer - or those who find the Greek bard unsatisfactory. PS Caveat: the Director's Cut is gratuitously gory!… (more)
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I have read all 15,691 lines of this epic poem so that my white arms can bring these winged words to your ox eyes, which I now share with good intention toward all…

The Iliad is an epic poem from about 2800 years ago that focuses on an episode near the end of the Trojan War. Basically the story is about a lot of men going through a lot of trouble because men treated women like trophies. This trouble is compounded by fickle and illogical gods. Ok, I know, that’s a major over-simplification, but that’s my description and I’m sticking to it. :)

I chose to read Lattimore’s translation, which is in verse format and is supposedly a fairly literal translation of the original. I’m not good at reading poetry at all, but I wanted to make the effort to appreciate it in something as close to its original format as possible. This means my throat is now raw from doing a lot of reading out loud, because that was usually the only way I could keep any sort of poetic rhythm, even though I’m sure I had it all wrong anyway. This also resulted in a painfully slow reading speed.

The poetic format actually grew on me after a while, though. I also liked the various repeated phrases that made it feel more poetic to me. Not only the constantly-repeated phrases like the ones I opened up this review with, and the repeated messages that were passed from character to character, but also those sections where several lines were repeated almost word-for-word in similar-but-different situations, many pages apart. I can’t really say why I liked it, as it surely would have annoyed me in prose, but it appealed to me somehow.

Most of the main characters are really quite awful. For example, in the beginning, Achilleus gets in a snit because Agamemnon takes from him the woman he had been given as a prize of war. This is an internal struggle; both characters are on the same side fighting against the Trojans. As a result of his snit, Achilleus actually asks the gods to teach Agamemnon a lesson by convincing him to go into battle and then let lots of his people get slaughtered. Ah yes, who doesn’t long to see hundreds of people murdered when one person has pissed you off? The gods are just as bad as they switch sides, and argue, and break promises, just adding confusion and trouble for the poor humans they’re supposedly helping.

The battle scenes, of which there are a great many, were pretty tedious for me, as well as the scenes leading up to battle. More often than not, these were little more than long lists of names of battle participants, along with a little bit of family history and surprisingly detailed and gory descriptions of how they died. Often there would be a nice simile, usually involving a lion or possibly water. Oh, and occasionally the individuals fighting would pause to tell each other their life stories, or at least list a few generations of their genealogy, before trying to kill each other. All the better to brag about who you killed later, I guess.

As far as large numbers of named characters go, The Iliad may give the entire Wheel of Time series some competition. I really didn’t even try to keep the names straight since many people were mentioned and then promptly killed. The most important characters were usually given some sort of recurring description, like “Achilleus of the swift feet”, so I used that as an indicator that I should remember a character. For the most part, that served me well enough. To anybody reading this for the first time, I’d recommend paying extra attention to who the fathers of the main characters are. Throughout the poem, the characters aren’t always referred to by name. For example, Achilleus’ father was Peleus. Sometimes Achilleus was called Achilleus, but many times he was just called the son of Peleus, and sometimes he was called Peleides, which I guess is another way of saying “son of Peleus”. This caused me some confusion at first and I didn’t see it explained in the commentary.

The commentary in my edition seemed more focused on expounding on the story, providing additional historical context, listing other myths, etc. There wasn’t much explanation of terms or phrases, I guess because Lattimore’s translation is fairly recent (1950’s), but I would have liked a little more of that. I usually avoid a classic’s introduction until after I finish the book since they’re always full of spoilers as the story is discussed in detail from a scholarly perspective. This time I decided to read the introduction first, because I know very little about ancient history, very little about Greece, and very little about Greek mythology. And, as I said before, I’m terrible at reading poetry. With all those strikes against me, I expected this to be a really difficult read for me so I thought I needed as much advance help as possible to understand the story.

I’m still not sure if reading the introduction first was the best choice. On the positive side, I think it did help that I went into it with some context, especially in the beginning when I was still adjusting to the verse format itself. It also allowed me to notice more foreshadowing than I might have otherwise. On the negative side, it reduced the impact of pretty much every important scene because I already knew everything that was coming. I also robbed myself of the satisfaction of figuring things out for myself which is very important to me in general, not just in my reading. I don’t know. I think, in the future, I’ll probably stick with my usual preference to go into something as blind as possible and trust my own brain to figure things out as needed. I may not catch as much on my own in the case of a more difficult read like The Iliad, but I’ll probably enjoy the process more and feel more satisfied with it.

I’m rating this a little on the low side, 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for literary merit on Goodreads. I realize The Iliad is a very impressive work of literature, but my ratings are mostly based on my own subjective enjoyment. From an enrichment perspective, I’m glad I read this, and happy that it wasn’t as painful as I expected. I learned more than I expected about Greek history and mythology. From an entertainment perspective, I had fun with the poetic format and I enjoyed some of the non-battle parts. I enjoyed the way some things were phrased, and I will forever forward be speaking with “winged words” in the privacy of my own mind. ;) But it was also a little painful, and there were large chunks of boring, name-filled passages that literally put me to sleep. I’ve never taken so many naps as I have in this past week! So maybe I should also give it some credit for helping me catch up on my sleep. Since I survived this without too much torment, I suspect I might fare at least a little better with The Odyssey. I intend to read that also, maybe next year. ( )
2 vote YouKneeK | May 8, 2018 |
The Iliad beings in the ninth year of the Trojan war and the Greeks laying siege to Troy's capital. The 24 book story covers about a seven week period that sees the Greeks beaten back to where their ships are laid up, enduring slaughter at Trojan hands because their hero Achilles refuses to fight; he's angry that Agamemnon took the Trojan woman he'd selected as his prize. Not until Achilles' battle buddy Patroclus is killed (in Achilles' armor) by the Trojan hero Hector does Achilles rise to fight. When Hector dies, we have a good sense that Troy won't be long either.

Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey are oft referenced as a pair, but it's always the Odyssey that ends up assigned reading in American junior high and middle schools. They're both long (epic!) but I assume teachers pass on the Iliad due to the amount of violence and perhaps fewer "teachable moments." The Iliad is probably one of those 'must reads' in the profession of arms, especially for infantry. I would assign it to any elected official overseeing or directing military activity. The war between Greeks and Trojans isn't just a human affair, rather the gods of Olympus are ever meddling, sometimes influencing and at other times outright spiriting their favorites out of the field of battle to spare their lives. The gods are capricious, given to their own passions, and prone to change their minds, so they frankly bear strong resemblance to politicians if one wants to relate it to real life. It's a reminder that there are always two conflicts going on, one on the battle field and one back in the halls of government; they don't always combine well.

I'm unable to vouch for the quality of the translation in terms of remaining true to the Greek, but Robert Fagles deserves much credit for turning it into beautiful, modern English epic poem. The usual complaints against the Iliad are the instances of repetition and a fathomless well of detail when it comes to describing mortal combat with spear, sword, and the occasional rock stoving a skull in. As much as the Iliad glorifies manly virtues in war (like courage, bravery, camaraderie) it also showcases its horrors (the violence, fear, and waste) to the same degree. One comes away with the feeling at the end: why did we bother with all of this? What did we gain? Can we even quantify what we lost, or is it immeasurable?

Overall, a long read, but worth the epic journey from page to page, book to book. ( )
  traumleben | May 6, 2018 |
The audio book is read, compellingly, by Alfred Molina. Great and, of course, grueling. ( )
  DFratini | Apr 23, 2018 |
Thank Heaven for Freshman Literature and being required to read The Illiad. I loved, loved, loved this and will forever remember Hektor, Breaker of Horses. ( )
  Kim_Sasso | Mar 14, 2018 |
A king offends his strongest ally in the middle of a war.

Good. It's very repetitive, but its interesting. ( )
  comfypants | Mar 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (525 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Homerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pope, AlexanderTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alberich i Mariné, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alexander, CarolineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ģiezens, AugustsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baskin, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bendz, GerhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Björkeson, IngvarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bond, William HenryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boysen, RolfNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Broome, WilliamContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brower, Reuben ArthurEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bruijn, J.C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckley, Theodore AloisEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Butler, SamuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chase, Alston HurdTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ciani, Maria GraziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cullen, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Damsté, OnnoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Devecseri, GáborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Due, Otto SteenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Earl of Derby, Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley,Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Erni, HansIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagles, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flaxman, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fridrihsons, KurtsIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammond, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holland, TomAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobi, DerekNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kelfkens, C.J.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, BernardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koolschijn, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lagerlöf, ErlandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lateur, PatrickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichmondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leaf, WalterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linkomies, EdwinForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lombardo, StanleyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luis Segala & Estalellasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manninen, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monti, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muller, Herbert J.Contributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Myers, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orléans de La Motte, Louis François Gabriel d'Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parnell, ThomasContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perry, William G. Jr.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pope, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rees, EnnisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhodes, Charles ElbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rieu, Emile VictorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rouse, William H. D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Savage, SteeleIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schadewaldt, WolfgangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schrott, RaoulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Segalà i Estalella, LluísTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shankman, StevenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shorey, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stawell, F. MelianIntroductionsecondary 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
Wakefield, GilbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wills, GarryPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Haiku summary
Too many heroes
Too much blood, sex, fighting, war
Gods and goddesses
Mannered, ironic,
Pope is scarcely Homeric.
How is it this works?
Helen of Sparta
Elopes with Paris. Name change
To Helen of Troy
All work and no gifts,
I refuse to fight for you
until my friend dies.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140275363, Paperback)

This groundbreaking English version by Robert Fagles is the most important recent translation of Homer's great epic poem. The verse translation has been hailed by scholars as the new standard, providing an Iliad that delights modern sensibility and aesthetic without sacrificing the grandeur and particular genius of Homer's own style and language. The Iliad is one of the two great epics of Homer, and is typically described as one of the greatest war stories of all time, but to say the Iliad is a war story does not begin to describe the emotional sweep of its action and characters: Achilles, Helen, Hector, and other heroes of Greek myth and history in the tenth and final year of the Greek siege of Troy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:07 -0400)

(see all 14 descriptions)

The centuries old epic about the wrath of Achilles is rendered into modern English verse by a renowned translator and accompanied by an introduction that reassesses the identity of Homer. In Robert Fagles' beautifully rendered text, the Iliad overwhelms us afresh. The huge themes godlike, yet utterly human of savagery and calculation, of destiny defied, of triumph and grief compel our own humanity. Time after time, one pauses and re-reads before continuing. Fagles' voice is always that of a poet and scholar of our own age as he conveys the power of Homer. Robert Fagles and Bernard Knox are to be congratulated and praised on this admirable work.… (more)

» see all 49 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

5 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140275363, 0140445927, 0140447946, 0140444440, 0451530691

HighBridge Audio

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