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Iliad by Homer
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Iliad (edition 1994)

by Homer

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21,91021861 (4.05)7 / 894
Member:OWSLibrary
Title:Iliad
Authors:Homer
Info:Harpercollins (1994), Paperback
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The Iliad by Homer

  1. 221
    The Odyssey by Homer (Voracious_Reader, caflores)
  2. 200
    The Aeneid by Virgil (Hollerama)
  3. 80
    Beowulf by Beowulf Poet (benmartin79)
  4. 30
    Tiger at the Gates by Jean Giraudoux (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Giraudoux imagines the events in Troy when Paris shows up with Helen
  5. 30
    The Tain by Anonymous (inge87)
  6. 41
    Ransom by David Malouf (GCPLreader)
  7. 21
    The Dismissal of the Grecian Envoys by Jan Kochanowski (sirparsifal)
  8. 21
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (alalba)
  9. 12
    The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage (chrisharpe)
  10. 15
    Paradise Lost by John Milton (Torikton)
  11. 17
    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.
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Penguin ed., tr. Robt. Fagles; intro. Bernard Knox

I'd like to like the Iliad.
It would be convenient to like the Iliad, for discussions about the canon and such.
I like several other epic poems. I like old war films. But this? So much of it is just a bloody casualty list (pun more or less intended), plus a soap featuring the gods (sometimes amusing, depending how detached I felt). I'm sure I'd have enjoyed it a lot more in a film version where you could see movement and action; on the page these endless lists of how so and so, son of old you-know-who, got a spear in the lung, get boring. At least they serve the entirely worthwhile purpose of preserving a historical record.

I've simply never been that interested in Greeks and Romans - with the odd exception such as Catullus, I'd rather hear about the barbarian tribes further north. That must be one of the reasons I rarely got emotionally involved; some speeches and scenes had a pull, sometimes there were moments of excitement and involvement but not with real meaning to me, and they soon passed: it was like watching a match in a sport you're not that bothered about, with teams from places you don't care about either way.

The Iliad's extended rural metaphors of hunting, shepherding and farming were fascinating though, with a vividly Mediterranean sense of place. The frequent mention of lion attacks makes it feel thrillingly close to prehistory. To the default image of non-combatant Greeks as urban chiton-wearers something more atavistic is added. Visualisations of countryside I took from My Family and Other Animals. (Not being a big fan of books from hot places, I haven't read much based around there in between.) Emotions of grief and loss are turned up to 10 in a way that could be seen as Mediterranean, as ancient, or both.

It has its moments too, in the tales of life in the Greek camp, and in Priam's palace, of ancient customs and a time in history, burning torchlight and the imagined sound of drums, and a precipitous life. But I didn't find the poetry as rhythmic and redolent as that of, say, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and there were more times when I thought instead of the chore of learning the thing by rote which thousands, possibly millions have done over time. Fagles is known as the best contemporary translation, and I chose it from a handful of others in bookshops when I was still at university. The handful of recent idioms don't intrude but it's still a little too prosey for my liking. The first half seemed to feature more repetition as I remember (read in January), though I read the rest more quickly (November). Probably the original just doesn't lend itself quite so well to the sort of verse I now hope for in epic poems - all of which I've read since I first got a copy of Fagles' Iliad.

Also very interesting - and undoubtedly long familiar to classicists - is one of the ideas mooted in Bernard Knox's excellent introduction, that the gods are nothing like gods as one might think of them after being raised in a fairly fluffy version of 20th century Christianity - the actions they make mortals do are a way of explaining irrational impulses and those actions that feel beyond our control, such as falling in love. Some later Greek thinkers appear to imply that man should strive to be better than the gods.

Achilles is interpreted quite differently in adult discussion - the introduction, other commentaries, informal comment like GR reviews - from the way he was shown in the children's versions I knew, or how the story was descibed by teachers (including at primary level). In the junior versions he was quite simply a hero - but otherwise he is criticised a lot, as essentially a brat. He may be a warrior, but I see parallels with the decadent doomed genius artist figure. He's at least as temperamental. However he's characterised, one of the handful of scenes I found really moving was his hearing of Patroclus' death.

Sometimes there are questions in history I can hardly be bothered with because they seem absolutely unknowable and thus just pawns for contemporary opinion. Helen's volition is one of those, and far more reflective of the times of its discussion than, say, the Princes in the Tower. If she existed in the first place, did she run off with Paris or was she kidnapped? We have no access to her own opinion, sometimes contradictory sources written down after centuries of oral tradition of ultimately unknown provenance, a wariness of how a male dominated culture may have recorded her - and her own thoughts, feelings and expectations could have had quite different paradigms from ours.
At any rate here, she isn't the passive kidnappee of the junior versions - she wants Paris, even if she has regrets over the political implications.

Then there is that popular quote "we don't see things as they are, we see them as we are": my first and instinctive interpretation of Briseis is that she didn't get on with her family and was glad to see the back of them - it's not as if there were any other legitimate ways for her to escape them at that time - and Patroclus was attractive and (by the standards of the time), nice to her. It's unknowable. We don't even know if these people were real or if these scenes happened.

The history of the text and its reception and influence interests me more than significant portions of the contents: the research into the Yugoslav oral tradition that helped date it, interpretations such as the above, its role in modern and early modern European schooling for the last c.500 years. I had more questions, but wasn't interested enough to read another whole book on it. Did it anyone before the mid 20th century say it encouraged boys to fight at school? To what extent is it part of imperialism, as inspiration?

This is, in a way, to colossally miss the point, - as is my frustration that we never hear anything about the rank and file soldiers: what are they even doing whilst Achilles and co are holding games? - but the ending feels inconclusive, like it's in the wrong place. Doomed Achilles still lives. But people have surely known about cliffhangers long before there was writing.

With apologies to classicist friends. ( )
1 vote antonomasia | Nov 13, 2014 |
The Iliad is a mixed bag. It is the very wellspring of Western culture, for good and for bad. The storied Olympian gods and heroic mortals who participated in the Trojan War are still alluded to in the written word three thousand years later. But the brutal behavior of those same gods and mortals in that war are also memorialized in the six hundred pages of Homer's epic.

The verse translation by Robert Fagles reads very well — like a novel, in fact. The rhythm, the beat is prominent, and presumably if you took the time to read it aloud, it would be powerful indeed. Despite this, The Iliad is not an easy read thanks to the almost one thousand names and epithets of characters and places about which the action takes place and through which that action is conducted. Many of these names are very familiar, some vaguely familiar, but most by far are new to us. The Fagles edition blesses us in this department by providing a pronouncing vocabulary which gives a brief identifying statement about each one. Without this or something like it, The Iliad would be a bewildering swirl of confusion to the modern reader. The Introduction, notes and maps are also helpful.

We all know the story of The Iliad — or at least we think we do. Surprisingly to me at least, after nine years of the siege of Troy by the Achaeans, it only covers a brief period of 45 days, and within that the bulk of the poem takes place over six days and nights of intense climactic fighting in which the greatest heroes on both sides are killed. A few of the most famous are left standing: Aeneas, will eventually be the lone survivor of Troy who will go on to found Rome; Odysseus famously takes another twenty years to reach his home in Ithaca; and Achilles, who has slain Troy's greatest hero Hector, is destined beyond the confines of The Iliad to be killed by Paris, the culprit who stole Helen from Menelaus and started the entire conflict to begin with.

There are no spoilers here. The destinies of the great and near great are announced early and often throughout the pages of The Iliad. The power of the poem lies not in suspense but in the drama of battle. That drama is conveyed through the driving verse which honors its heroes in the process of butchering them. Battles wax and wane with the rhythm of the poetry. The great Homeric similes, sometimes piled on top of each other, churn and froth with soaring images. Here is an example; italics highlight the "like … so" pattern:

"Achilles now
like inhuman fire raging on through the mountain gorges
splinter-dry, setting ablaze big stands of timber,
the wind swirling the huge fireball left and right—
chaos of fire—Achilles storming on with brandished spear
like a frenzied god of battle trampling all he killed
and the earth ran black with blood. Thundering on,
on like oxen broad in the brow some field hand yokes
to crush white barley heaped on a well-laid threshing floor
and the grain is husked out fast by the bellowing oxen's hoofs—
so as the great Achilles rampaged on, his sharp-hoofed stallions
trampled shields and corpses, axle under his chariot splashed
with blood, blood on the handrails sweeping round the car,
sprays of blood shooting up from the stallions' hoofs
and churning, whirling rims—and the son of Peleus
charioteering on to seize his glory, bloody filth
splattering both strong arms, Achilles' invincible arms."

What sets off the episode of The Iliad is a microcosm of the whole arc of the Trojan War itself. The war occurred because Paris, a prince of Troy and a guest at the home of Menelaus, stole Menelaus's wife Helen and spirited her off to Troy together with a vast amount of spoils. Most of the battling within The Iliad occurs without the aid of Achilles who ironically has been humiliated by the brother of Menelaus, warlord Agamemnon, who insists on taking the beautiful Briseis from Achilles for daring to challenge Agamemnon who has behaved badly in capturing the daughter of a priest of Apollo and refusing to give her back, thereby causing the god Apollo to shower down a plague on the Achaeans. Thus The Iliad boils down to an epic tale about men fighting over women!

Agamemnon at the beginning of The Iliad is not an attractive figure. Toward the end, Achilles' great friend Patroclus is killed by Hector and that finally brings Achilles into action, particularly as the Achaeans seem to be losing and Agamemnon sees the error of his ways and agrees to return Briseis to Achilles.

When The Iliad is reminiscing about the great deeds of one hero or another, it is quite affecting. A great deal of mythology is encompassed here, and the jealousies and machinations of the Olympians behind the scenes are both amusing and annoying.

But the battle scenes sometimes amount to a catalog of killing and brutality that go beyond the pleasurable. And while the poem as a whole makes for compelling reading, the blood and gore take it over the top. Compared with The Odyssey, it seems much more primitive in its motivation and unrelenting gratuitous violence. I am glad I read it, and I acknowledge its importance in the literary canon, but it is not one of my favorite reads. Because I personally have a distaste for this level of bloody mindedness doesn't mean it isn't worth reading. Everybody really should read it, and all congratulations go to Robert Fagles for his excellent translation. ( )
2 vote Poquette | Oct 25, 2014 |
Quite the epic adventure. I love The Iliad, but it sure is long and tedious. All those battle scenes get old. And all that wailing in grief.

But despite all the repetition, it really is good. Lots of bickering gods, vengeful heroes, and, well, wailing. ( )
  BrynDahlquis | Oct 24, 2014 |
What exactly was the point? War sucks? Yeah, we already knew that. Really depressing, unrelenting testosterone-ridden crap. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 21, 2014 |
READ IN DUTCH/GREEK

Also by Homer, but less well known than The Odyssey. I translated this book in my Greek class. But I'm still planning to read the whole book (as a book rather than translating) ( )
  Floratina | Sep 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (154 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Homerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baskin, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bendz, GerhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Björkeson, IngvarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bruijn, J.C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Butler, SamuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chapman, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cullen, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De La Motte, Monsr.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Devecseri GáborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Due, Otto SteenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagles, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flaxman, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammond, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holland, TomAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobi, DerekNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, BernardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lagerlöf, ErlandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lang, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lateur, PatrickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichmondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leaf, WalterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linkomies, EdwinForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lombardo, StanleyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manninen, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell. StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monti, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Myers, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perry Jr., William GTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rees, EnnisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rieu, Emile VictorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rouse, William H. D.Translatorsecondary 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

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Epigraph
There thou shalt hear and learn the secret power
Of harmony, in tones and numbers hit
By voice or hand, and various-measured verse,
Aeolian charms and Dorian lyric odes,
And his who gave them breath, but higher sung,
Blind Melesigenes, thence Homer called,
Whose poem Phoebus challenged for his own.


--Milton, Paradise Regained, IV. 245
(Rouse translation, 1938)
These dull notes we sing
Discords neede for helps to grace them

(Lattimore translation)
Dedication
To the memory of my father and my mother
and for Lynne, Katya and Nina ...

(Fagles translation, 1996)
To all times future this time's mark extend,
Homer no patron found, nor Chapman friend
Ignotus nimis omnibus
Sat notus moritur sibi.
(Chapman translation)
For Sarah, and for Ughetta, Benedict, Maria, Michael, Barnaby, and Caterina
(Fitzgerald translation)
TO
MY MOTHER AND FATHER
(Lattimore translation)
First words
Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Achaens loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men - carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
(Fitzgerald translation, 1974)
Rage - Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaens countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters' souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving towards its end.
(Fagles translation, 1996)
Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the
Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus' son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.
(Lattimore, 1951)
Rage:
Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks

Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls

Of heroes into Hades' dark,

And left their bodies to rot as feasts

For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done
(Lombardo translation, 1997)
Achilles' banefull wrath resound, O Goddess, that impos'd
Infinite sorrows on the Greeks, and many brave souls los'd
From breasts heroique; sent them far to that invisible cave
That no light comforts; and their limbs to dogs and vultures gave:
To all which Jove's will gave effect; from whom first strife begun
Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis' godlike son.
(Chapman translation, 1598)
Quotations
"The worst cowards, banded together, have their power but you and I have got the skill to fight their best" -- Poseidon's encounter with Idomeneus at the turn of the battle for the ships
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Disambiguation notice
Due to the "dead language exception" copies of the Iliad in the original Greek should not be combined with modern language translations. Also, individual volumes should not be combined with other individual volumes or with the complete work.
The original Greek title is “Ἰλιάς”
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[Prior description deleted. Note this field applies to the work and should not be used for edition-specific information]
Haiku summary

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:23 -0400)

(see all 11 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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 33 descriptions

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Six editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140268863, 0140275363, 0140445927, 0140447946, 0140444440, 0451530691

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