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Kwyjibo
08-29-2001, 12:50 PM
I was just given the Iliad by Homer (Of Non-Simpsons Fame ;) ) by a co-worker and plan on buckling down tonight and reading it.

I've also taken a skim through it and it looks to be broken down like the Bible. (Chapters and verses.)

If you've read it, what is your take on it? I'm I in for a good read? (I've read reviews on sites, but their agenda is to get you to buy it, so they will always say its good.)

Finagle
08-29-2001, 12:53 PM
Originally posted by Maximum Override
I was just given the Iliad by Homer (Of Non-Simpsons Fame ;) ) by a co-worker

Was the co-worker an engineer? Because you know what they say about geeks bearing gifts.

Maeglin
08-29-2001, 12:56 PM
Big subject. Very big subject. Considering it is commonly considered the greatest epic poem in the history of the west, The Iliad rather defies a "take."

Regardless, I absolutely adore it. While even a die-hard, Greek-reading classicist such as myself skips the Catalogue of Ships in Book 2, I can find something to love in nearly every other speech, descriptive passage, or dialogue between characters. It must be read several times, and slowly in order to maximize the pleasure gained.

This is my ideal, so as always, YMMV. More importantly for your purposes is the selection of a good translation. If you haven't bought your copy yet, let me know. I'd be happy to suggest some of my favorite translations.

It's a great read, bar none. The scene in Book I in which Achilles nearly draws his sword and kills Agamemnon gives me chills every time I read it.

MR

Kwyjibo
08-29-2001, 01:06 PM
BoyOhBoyOhBoy...Getting excited. :D

The copy I have was translated by Richmond Lattimore (ISBN: 0-226-46940-9) and was printed by the University of Chicago Press.

Don't know if he's any good, but here is some background on him from the back of the book:


Richmond Lattimore was professor emeritus of Greek at Bryn Mawr College at the time of his death in 1984. He was coeditor (with David Grene) of The Complete Greek Tragedies, translator of Greek Lyrics, and author of Poems from Three Decades, all published by the University of Chicago Press.


I've never read anything like this before, so I am looking forward to it.

Maeglin
08-29-2001, 01:15 PM
The Lattimore is the translation I typically use. It's in blank verse, and some of it is rather dull or clumsy. However, it is by far the closest to the original Greek of any translation I have dealt with. It captures the strangeness of Greek heroic poetry rather nicely, even if it isn't exactly a verbal feast.

It may help to get some context down before you start reading. Every Greek who would have heard this poem recited already knew the story, the characters, and many of the highlights. I believe that this same knowledge is even more essential to the modern reader. So how up are you on your history of the Trojan War? ;)

MR

Spiritus Mundi
08-29-2001, 01:19 PM
Achilles is a spoiled brat.
Ares is a crybaby.
Aphrodite is a vindictive slut.
Paris is a sullen wanker.
Hector rocked, then he got rolled.
Aeneas deserved his own spinoff series.
Who the hell would want a giant wooden rocking horse, anyway?
Agamemnon could have used a course in active listening.
;)

Oh, and the damn thing is a page turner. Read it aloud, even in translation. Poetry is not meant to be a silent activity.

lno
08-29-2001, 01:20 PM
Just have some sympathy for the Trojans- it'll make the segue into the Aeneid so much nicer.

Kwyjibo
08-29-2001, 01:27 PM
I am far from a scholar of Greek mythology/history, but while skimming, I did recognise the names of many characters that I have read/learned about when I was younger. (IE:Artemis, Agamemnon, Zeus(duh!), Kronos, et al.) And I know who the Trojans were, but not much about their history.

I'm sure who they are will come back to me as I read. The glossary will also help me out. (And if I am still not sure, my buddy Google will help. ;) )

So far, it looks like this is not going to be something that is just 'read', but something that you 'experience'. (If you follow me.)


LOL! Thanks for the run down, Spiritus. Sure beats that this glossary says. :D

Danimal
08-29-2001, 01:28 PM
I read it about seven years ago, in English translation. I don't remember who the translator was.

I remember being surprised how little of the story of the Trojan war it covered. I had always assumed that it went through the sack of Troy.

Hector was definitely my favorite character. He's fighting for his home and his family, and you can see that he loves them. I like him much better than any of the Greeks, or the gods for that matter.

Certain points in between battles were slow and boring to me, but it did maintain my interest to the end. The language is florid and occasionally rousing. Overall, I thought it was worth reading, but it wasn't an epochal event for me.

DPWhite
08-29-2001, 01:29 PM
Epic in its sweep! Thrilling battles, clever ruses! The male bonding book of the past four millenia! A must read. I can't wait for the Odyessy, the rumored sequel!



Anit-spoiler: P.S. Agamemnon survives the Iliad! I won't tell you who he kills.

ChordedZither
08-29-2001, 01:30 PM
Great idea, Spiritus!

Aeneas deserved his own spinoff series.


I have a friend, Publius Virgilius, who's been trying to break into the writing field. As soon as he get's back from his day job, leading tour groups through the inferno, I'll mention this to him.

Podkayne
08-29-2001, 01:32 PM
"Just like Achilles sulking in his tent." [pauses] "Homer?" [pauses] "The Illiad?" [pauses] "READ A BOOK!"
--Handy (from The Tick, not the handy of SDMB fame.)

Fun game to play at home: keep track of Homer's stock phrases, like "give up the ghost" and "bite the dust." "Rosy-fingered dawn" was Homer, too, wasn't it? Not bad for a blind guy.

Kwyjibo
08-29-2001, 01:34 PM
Originally posted by Maximum Override
...And I know who the Trojans were, but not much about their history.

Err...apart from the seige of Troy and the big wooden horsy.


"...then Sir Lancelot, Gallahad and I will leap out of the Rabbit..."


This is starting to look like those "Princes Bride" threads. None of the posts made sence until I saw the movie last month.
::Hangs Head In Shame::

Drastic
08-29-2001, 01:41 PM
I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed seeing this thread, as it gave me an excuse to rescue one of my old usenet posts that I'm particularly proud of.

Drastic's Achilles, Reimagined for the Modern Audience:

Given that the Illiad, at least, is primarily one long fight scene, with
the occasional break for discus-hurling and surly speeches, I had the
thought that it would make a good big-budget film. Certain aspects of
the story would need to be modified, of course, to better satisfy the
modern audience. The gist of the revamped vision:

1: Achilles is the king.

2: Agamemnon is his trusty sidekick.

3: The slave girl he spent most of the tale sulking over is actually
his true love who brings the distant warrior out of his shell.

4: The evil Hector secretly kidnaps Achilles' true love and holds her
hostage in Troy. He promises to kill her if Achilles ever fights again.
Deeply troubled, Achilles does not dare fight; the other Greeks, in
their ignorance, think him a coward but he cannot reveal the truth.
That damn Hector!

5: Without Achilles, the evil Hector stampedes all over the greeks. He
has bitchin' ominous orchestral choruses whenever he's on screen, hewing
the forces of Good in slow motion. The audience's mood is tense, but
comic relief is supplied by Ajax and Ajax. Best-loved sidekick
Patroclus is killed; in agony of mind, Achilles gets new armor and
prepares to fight again, knowing he'll never see his true love again.
The audience feels his pain, is teary-eyed at his heroic determination.

6: When things are their darkest, Achilles' trusty sidekicks Agamemnon
and Menelaius, sneak into Troy and rescue Achilles' lady-love.

7: Achilles mows through routing Trojans as dramatic music blares. He
is raging; he thinks his true love is now surely dead; he intends to
join her one way or the other once Hector is dead at his feet. The
audience knows better.

8: Final showdown. Hector is knocked down, Achilles sure to triumph,
when Hector's evil apprentice Paris lets fly an arrow from his cowardly
sniper's position. Thwack! right into the hero's heel. Achilles goes
down, clutching at the arrow as Hector rises to finish him off, sword
held high.

9: Paris gloats up above. A finger taps him on the shoulder. He
turns. Agamemnon and Menelaus have rescued not only Achilles' love but
Helen as well. Helen kicks Paris in the crotch. His eyes bug out, he
stumbles. Makes a funny "ooooo" strangled sound. The audience laughs
appreciatively. "Consider this a divorce," Helen tells him, and
Menelaus pushes him off the wall.

10: Hector is still poised over Achilles, sword raised high.
Apparently, all of #9 happened really fast, or Hector just likes to
pause for dramatic effect. Achilles has lost, but that's okay, he knows
his twue wuv is as good as dead. He looks past Hector, to the parapets
of Troy and (triumphant music) sees Her with his trusty sidekicks,
waving. This works just like spinach for Popeye.

11: Achilles surges to his feet, and the final showdown, part 2, takes
place. Hector bites the dust.

12: Happy ending and celebration back at the Greek camp. Credits roll.

Now, surely that's a better story. The original would just never fly, I
mean, after all, Homer's Achilles was sort of an petulant, pouty
asshole. It's much better if Achilles is the misunderstood and
ultimately vindicated hero.

Maeglin
08-29-2001, 01:52 PM
Check out the Perseus Site (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu). It has an enormous glossary of names, characters, concepts, etc. that will be of enormous use to you. You may also find texts in English, Latin, and Greek is you are interested.

I remember being surprised how little of the story of the Trojan war it covered. I had always assumed that it went through the sack of Troy.

An excellent point. When I first read it, I assumed it would at least cover the death of Achilles and the Trojan Horse. It doesn't. I was pretty pissed. So don't go in expecting that sort of detail and you will be less disappointed. ;) You may find more accounts of the sack of Troy in The Odyssey and in some of the Greek plays.

Anit-spoiler: P.S. Agamemnon survives the Iliad! I won't tell you who he kills.

Or more importantly, who kills him. ;)

Fun game to play at home: keep track of Homer's stock phrases, like "give up the ghost" and "bite the dust." "Rosy-fingered dawn" was Homer, too, wasn't it? Not bad for a blind guy.

If you are seriously interested in the subject of Homeric formulae and epithets, you might want to read the works of Milman Parry (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/019520560X/qid=999111020/sr=1-1/ref=sc_b_1/104-7466232-4613515). He dove in to the text, sorted and categorized the hundreds of formulae and epithets, and strove to explain how they created meaning and structure in the Homeric poems. His works are excellent, and they generated important methods of inquiry into epic poetry.

MR

Kwyjibo
08-29-2001, 02:07 PM
Originally posted by Finagle
Was the co-worker an engineer? Because you know what they say about geeks bearing gifts.

*Woosh* <Waves Hand Over Top Of Head>
Sorry, must be a little slow today. ;)

The co-worker wasn't an engineer, but one of the lovely ladies in our sales department. (One of the few intellectuals in this office.)

We were chatting and she mentioned that she had the book, so I though, "I'd be interested in reading that."

And the rest is history.

CalMeacham
08-29-2001, 02:09 PM
1. I love the Iliad.

2. I hate Richmond Lattimore's translation. When I was in high school we read Fitzgerald's translation of The Odyssey. I loved it. I wanted to read The Iliad, but Fitzgerald hadn't finished translating it yet, so I got Lattimore's. Lattmore reads, in my opinion, like MY translation from Latin. Severely disappointing.

3. Robert Fagles' translation (Penguin books) is pretty good, too.

4. If you can, get the Penguin Audio of Derek Jacobi reading Fagles' translation. It's not complete (unlike the Peguin Audio reading of The Odyssey), but the six tapes are good.

5. The Iliad, despite its great age, is an incredibly mature work. You realize that someone has had a lot of time to consider these stories, and to give them a "modern" telling, as if they involved real people, and not stereotypes or symbols. Also, the storytelling is complex, with levels of storytelling within storytelling.

6. There are several guides to the Iliad, including a multi-volume set that goes through it damned near line by line. Maybe too expensive to buy, but you might find it at a local college library or through interlibrary loan.

7. Just for kicks, read The Patrocleia, translated by Christopher Logue. It's a translation of one book of the Iliad done in the weirdest style you can imagine (Achilles' prayer to Zeus is modeled on the "Our Father", for instance). Done in a jarringly modern style, with a lot of different typefaces.

Maeglin
08-29-2001, 02:18 PM
I'm not a big fan of Fagles, and personally, I think the man is an asshole.

Fitzgerald is pretty solid, though I am a bit disappointed with his translation of the Aeneid.

Anyone read Chapman's Iliad?

CalMeacham
08-29-2001, 02:28 PM
I'm not a big fan of Fagles, and personally, I think the man is an asshole.

Fitzgerald is pretty solid, though I am a bit disappointed with his translation of the Aeneid.

Anyone read Chapman's Iliad?


1. Interesting comment on Fagles. Care to elaborate? I didn't see anything to support that strong a condemnation.

2. Agree with you. I never did finish reading his translation of the Aeneid.

3. About Chapman: I'll look into it. (One of my favorite titles for a physics article was the one written about the physics of a baseball that appeared in the American Journal of Physics. It was entitled "On Looking into Chapman's Homer".)

Maeglin
08-29-2001, 03:02 PM
Interesting comment on Fagles. Care to elaborate? I didn't see anything to support that strong a condemnation.

I've met him. He regularly makes a circuit of museums, college campuses, etc to read from his translation. One of my former teachers knows him fairly well, so we had some access before and after the reading. He is not a very nice man, and seems to feel that he is Zeus' gift to Homeric translation.

Neither of these are endearing attributes in a scholar of a three thousand year old discipline.

About Chapman: I'll look into it. (One of my favorite titles for a physics article was the one written about the physics of a baseball that appeared in the American Journal of Physics. It was entitled "On Looking into Chapman's Homer".)

No kidding. The poem, "On Looking into Chapman's Homer," by John Keats, can be found here (http://www.bartleby.com/101/634.html). It's a wonderful work.

MR

gobear
08-29-2001, 03:33 PM
Well, Fagles's personal flaws notwithstanding, I like his translation better than that of Lattimore. For my money, though, the Odyssey is the more interesting book, if only because I enjoy reading about sirens, cyclops, sailors turned into swine, and the father/son reunion with Telemachus and Odysseus more than a long and drawn out war story, great as it is.

rushtopher
08-29-2001, 04:26 PM
Odyssey is definitely better, in my opinion.

Frankly, more happens in the Odyssey. Like others above I began reading the Illiad in earnest because it starts out very exciting but became bored with it when I realized it was just one big fight scene. And a few speeches thrown in for good measure. Little or none of the "famous" stuff happens in the Illiad, which makes me wonder how they became famous in the first place.

Of course the Odyssey, like the Illiad, starts off after much of the "famous" stuff has happened as well.

Chronos
08-29-2001, 05:06 PM
So who did the translation in the Britannica Great Books collection? I remember that I tried to read it, but the language was so archaic, I figured I'd have an easier time with the original Greek. No, I don't know Greek.

Katisha
08-29-2001, 07:15 PM
Originally posted by Spiritus Mundi
Achilles is a spoiled brat.
Ares is a crybaby.
Aphrodite is a vindictive slut.
Paris is a sullen wanker.
Hector rocked, then he got rolled.
Aeneas deserved his own spinoff series.
Who the hell would want a giant wooden rocking horse, anyway?
Agamemnon could have used a course in active listening.
;)


Are you by any chance familiar with Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (http://tech-two.mit.edu/Shakespeare/troilus_cressida/index.html)? ;)

I like the Fagles translation -- of course, I don't read ancient Greek and I've never met him so I don't know (or care) if he's an asshole. Ah, well.

BTW, where can I find the audio version with Derek Jacobi? (I would enjoy listening to Derek Jacobi reading the phone book. :D)

I'll have to look for The Patrocleia as well -- sounds intriguing. Thanks for the heads-up.

(I read the Fitzgerald Aeneid, but it was at the same time as I was reading the Latin. It helped a lot.)

Drastic, ROTFL. :D

CalMeacham
08-29-2001, 07:56 PM
Here's the Penguin Audio version, on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0453007740/qid=999132743/sr=1-3/ref=sc_b_3/002-1567122-6333629

You can also find it at large bookstores the B&N chain, Borders Books, etc. have them on the shelves. Sometimes.)

Jacobi doesn't read the Penguin Audio of The Odyssey, but he does read another version of it.

Amazon.com doesn't even list Logue's Patrocleia, but they do list some of his other translations. I'm surprised he hsn't completed either the Iliad r th Odyssey:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-form/002-1567122-6333629

delphica
08-29-2001, 09:54 PM
Love the Illiad, I hope you enjoy it too. My approach to the Illiad has always been similar to the Whole Language approach to teaching kids to read -- sort of a Whole Illiad method. Personally, I can't read it straight through. I enjoy it much more when I read a section, and then start following what ever catches my interest, doing reading or online research on the people mentioned, or browsing over maps of Asia Minor, or looking at depictions of the events of the Illiad in painting and sculpture from various periods, or archeological exhibits of Greek weapons and shields. You could really spend the rest of your life doing that, not a bad hobby IMHO.

Don't forget to follow up with some of the Greek tragic plays that involve various characters from the Illiad and what happens to them after.

Crunchy Frog
08-29-2001, 10:45 PM
I remember NBC doing the Odyssey as a mini-series and I wanted to read the book before seeing the series. I went to my sister, who had it from when she went to college. She suggested I read The Iliad first and gave me both books, as well as the Aenid.

I loved it. It was much better than Cats. I'm going to read it again and again.

Seriously, I liked The Iliad better than The Odyssey, but I agree it has much to do with the translation you get. After reading them, I went to buy my own copies, but couldn't find a translation I liked.

Still looking...

Zaphod Beeblebrox
08-29-2001, 11:32 PM
I'm just signing in as another poster who hates Lattimore's translations. Yes, they are close translations. However, sometimes a good translator should take liberties, otherwise the text will seem like... well... a translation.

I rather like my Penguin Books' translation of The Odyssey, but unfortunately, I am now thousands of kilometers away from my Classics collection, and I'm drawing a blank on the translator's name.

Zaphod Beeblebrox
08-29-2001, 11:46 PM
That said, if you ever have a chance to read Homer in the original Greek, do try it. I only read some parts of The Iliad in Greek, but I read The Odyssey entirely in Greek. The translations are good, but they don't do the originals justice. Many words in Greek were polysemic. That fact was fully exploited in the original texts. Many paragraphs can be read four or five different times, and interpreted differently each time.

Basically, my thoughts after having read The Odyssey in English were "Hmmm... entertaining story, but I don't really see the big deal."

After reading it in Greek, my thoughts were "Oh my goodness. This is too freaking good."

dogbutler
08-29-2001, 11:57 PM
I am currently reading the Illiad, and I agree that Lattimore's translation is a little rough. His translation of the Odyssey seemed to flow more smoothly.

Maeglin
08-30-2001, 09:14 AM
The Odyssey is certainly a more colorful and entertaining work, but in my opinion it does not address some of the Great Problems of the Human Psyche with nearly the depth and sophistication of the Iliad. The nature of leadership, heroism, and the good life are methodically explored in speeches and ekphrases. Take this speech of Sarpedon, for example:

With these words he put heart and soul into them all. Then Sarpedon rebuked Hektor very sternly. "Hektor," said he, "where is your prowess now? You used to say that though you had neither people nor allies you could hold the town alone with your brothers and brothers-in-law. I see not one of them here; they cower as hounds before a lion; it is we, your allies, who bear the brunt of the battle. I have come from afar, even from Lycia and the banks of the river Xanthos, where I have left my wife, my infant son, and much wealth to tempt whoever is needy; nevertheless, I head my Lycian warriors and stand my ground against any who would fight me though I have nothing here for the Achaeans to plunder, while you look on, without even bidding your men stand firm in defense of their wives. See that you fall not into the hands of your foes as men caught in the meshes of a net, and they sack your fair city forthwith. Keep this before your mind night and day, and beseech the leaders of your allies to hold on without flinching, and thus put away their reproaches from you."

While setting the fundamental principles of leadership and heroism, Homer is darkly ironic, for their efforts bring them only humiliating death. The Iliad ultimately concludes, in my opinion, that there is no wisdom in suffering, yet we as humans must continue to plod onwards, and we must continue to hold on without flinching.

Even the victories of the Greeks come to nothing: Agamemnon gets offed as soon as he gets home, Achilles dies horribly on the field, Aias kills himself from rage and shame, Menelaus and Helen live in a haze of drugs and alcohol back in Sparta, and a fair city is annihilated. All for what?

All because the Greeks and the Trojans discharged their duties without flinching. Homer's world is and grim, yet his characters live and die with rare majesty and dignity.

MR

Steve Wright
08-30-2001, 12:36 PM
Originally posted by Zaphod Beeblebrox
.

I rather like my Penguin Books' translation of The Odyssey, but unfortunately, I am now thousands of kilometers away from my Classics collection, and I'm drawing a blank on the translator's name.

I think it might be E. V. Rieu. At least, that's who did the translations on my Penguin editions of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

(Of course, I'd prefer to read them in the original... but my Greek is rusted away to practically nothing these days...)

Maeglin
08-30-2001, 12:39 PM
Yep, Emil Rieu did the Iliad and the Odyssey for Penguin. And in my opinion, they are excellent prose translations. Good call.

Kwyjibo
08-31-2001, 08:49 AM
I started reading it last night. I think it's going to take a while. It is very hard to follow at times, but seems pretty good so far.

I'll look into the Penguin versions to see if they are easier to follow, though.

Zaphod Beeblebrox
08-31-2001, 08:54 AM
Yes, it was indeed a rather modern (stylistically) prose translation. Unfortunately, the name of the translator doesn't ring a bell, but it's probably right. My memory just happens to suck.