Anachronism in The Iliad

I’ve checked out a couple of translations of The Iliad recently, and I’ve noticed an anachronism. Often horses are said to be eating corn. But, I’m fairly certain that pre-Columbian Europeans didn’t know what corn was.

The only translator I can site right now is Samuel Butler, but I’m fairly certain he’s not the only one to do this.

Were the translators unaware of this? What is the common English name of the ancient Greek plant that’s being translated as corn?

Corn doesn’t always mean maize. Are you sure the translators are American?

in British English, “corn” is a general term for grains, not North American maize.

See this column by Cecil Adams from 1978: How could the Romans use corn? It’s American!

In English English “corn” usually means wheat (possibly it usually means oats in Scotland). In general, it means the staple grain crop of the country. (However, British people do use the terms “sweetcorn” and “corn-on-the-cob” to refer to forms of maize.)

Cambridge Dictionaries online: “UK (the seeds of) plants, such as wheat, maize, oats, and barley, that can be used to produce flour”

Let’s not forget their iron weapons if we are going to go on about anachronisms. Troy was bronze age.

Thanks for the help guy. I’m American, and the translators (I presume) are British, hence the mix up.

Two nations with a common culture and separate languages I suppose.

That I was aware of. But Homer wasn’t.


(Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

IIRC “maize” was also referred to as “Indian corn”, hence the shortening to “corn” in N. America.

Troy was on the fringes of the Hittite empire, so it had access to iron.

You call it corn. We call it maize.
Pass the margarine.

An unpublished extra chapter was recently found where Odysseus gets shipwrecked off the coast of Flanders. Stupid Flanders.

And cornholing? Is that something the Brits do?

And where Achilles eats corned ox.

My theory is that in British usage, “iron” is just a general term for metals. :cool:

That was really corny.

It hurts, hurts I say, to read that. Pass the butter.

And that’s butter in the sense of actual butter, made from milk/cream, came from cows. Not “butter” meaning any pale yellow glop that some people put on bread. Kids these days don’t seem to know the difference. And what are they doing on my lawn?

No, youngun’ you get off my lawn! Mazola Margarine

(FTR, the Devil household keeps a tub of some sort of oil-based product in the freezer for guests who for some reason want it (read: mothers in-law). Otherwise, all we keep in the fridge is butter (salted and unsalted), so I’m completely with you at the dig at the plasticine goop.)

I’ve seen more than one production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in which the “corn” is depicted as Maize. That’s not the worst anachronism, however, since Pharaoh is portrayed as Elvis.