The Iliad

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Overview

The first of Homer's epic poems. Translated by Samuel Butler,
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Homer

Homer, the Greek poet to whom are attributed the great epics, the Iliad, the story of the siege of Troy, and the Odyssey, the tale of Ulysses’ wanderings. The place of his birth is doubtful; Smyrna, Rhodes, Colophon, Salamis, Chios, Argus and Athens contend for the honour of having been his birthplace; his date, formerly put back as far as 1200B.C. is, from the style of the poems attributed to him, referred to 850–800B.C.. Wolf in 1795 fiercely assailed the current opinions about Homer, defended the view that the Iliad and Odyssey were not by the same hand; and contended that both had their origin in lays by Homer and his followers (Homeridæ) in Chios, chanted and altered for centuries by the Rhapsodists, and finally digested into the poems we know, by Pisistratus about 540B.C. Even those who insist most strongly on the general unity of plan of the poems and assign the main authorship to one man, Homer, probably born in a Greek colony on the coast of Asia Minor, admit that they were, doubtless, based on current ballads, and have, since they were moulded into the two great epics, been considerably modified and extended. The various problems of the Homeric question cannot be regarded as solved; and of the true Homer we know nothing positively, not even that he was blind. The so-called ‘Homeric Hymns’ and the humorous Batrachomymachia (Battle of the Frogs and Mice) are certainly of a later age.

Anton Lesser has played many of the principal Shakespearean roles for the RSC and performed contemporary drama, notably The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter. Appearances on TV include The Cherry Orchard, The Mill on the Floss and The Politician’s Wife.

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