The Iliad: A New Prose Translation

Overview

The  greatest literary achievement of Greek civilization—an epic poem without rival in world literature and a cornerstone of Western culture

The story of the Iliad centers on the critical events in the last year of the Trojan War, which lead to Achilles's killing of Hektor and determine the fate of Troy. But Homer's theme is not simply war or heroism. With compassion and humanity, he presents a universal and tragic view of the world, of human life lived under the shadow of ...

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The Iliad

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Overview

The  greatest literary achievement of Greek civilization—an epic poem without rival in world literature and a cornerstone of Western culture

The story of the Iliad centers on the critical events in the last year of the Trojan War, which lead to Achilles's killing of Hektor and determine the fate of Troy. But Homer's theme is not simply war or heroism. With compassion and humanity, he presents a universal and tragic view of the world, of human life lived under the shadow of suffering and death, set against a vast and largely unpitying divine background. The Iliad is the first of the great tragedies. This prose translation features an excellent introduction and textual commentary by the translator, Martin Hammond. 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140444445
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/28/1988
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 699,486
  • Age range: 18 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Homer

Homer was probably born around 725BC on the Coast of Asia Minor, now the coast of Turkey, but then really a part of Greece. Homer was the first Greek writer whose work survives.

He was one of a long line of bards, or poets, who worked in the oral tradition. Homer and other bards of the time could recite, or chant, long epic poems. Both works attributed to Homer – the Iliad and the Odyssey – are over ten thousand lines long in the original. Homer must have had an amazing memory but was helped by the formulaic poetry style of the time.

In the Iliad Homer sang of death and glory, of a few days in the struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans. Mortal men played out their fate under the gaze of the gods. The Odyssey is the original collection of tall traveller’s tales. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, encounters all kinds of marvels from one-eyed giants to witches and beautiful temptresses. His adventures are many and memorable before he gets back to Ithaca and his faithful wife Penelope.

We can never be certain that both these stories belonged to Homer. In fact ‘Homer’ may not be a real name but a kind of nickname meaning perhaps ‘the hostage’ or ‘the blind one’. Whatever the truth of their origin, the two stories, developed around three thousand years ago, may well still be read in three thousand years’ time.

Martin Hammond is headmaster of the Tonbridge School and has translated Homer’s Iliad for Penguin Classics.

Martin Hammond is headmaster of the Tonbridge School and has translated Homer’s Iliad for Penguin Classics.

Biography

We know very little about the author of The Odyssey and its companion tale, The Iliad. Most scholars agree that Homer was Greek; those who try to identify his origin on the basis of dialect forms in the poems tend to choose as his homeland either Smyrna, now the Turkish city known as Izmir, or Chios, an island in the eastern Aegean Sea.

According to legend, Homer was blind, though scholarly evidence can neither confirm nor contradict the point.

The ongoing debate about who Homer was, when he lived, and even if he wrote The Odyssey and The Iliad is known as the "Homeric question." Classicists do agree that these tales of the fall of the city of Troy (Ilium) in the Trojan War (The Iliad) and the aftermath of that ten-year battle (The Odyssey) coincide with the ending of the Mycenaean period around 1200 BCE (a date that corresponds with the end of the Bronze Age throughout the Eastern Mediterranean). The Mycenaeans were a society of warriors and traders; beginning around 1600 BCE, they became a major power in the Mediterranean. Brilliant potters and architects, they also developed a system of writing known as Linear B, based on a syllabary, writing in which each symbol stands for a syllable.

Scholars disagree on when Homer lived or when he might have written The Odyssey. Some have placed Homer in the late-Mycenaean period, which means he would have written about the Trojan War as recent history. Close study of the texts, however, reveals aspects of political, material, religious, and military life of the Bronze Age and of the so-called Dark Age, as the period of domination by the less-advanced Dorian invaders who usurped the Mycenaeans is known. But how, other scholars argue, could Homer have created works of such magnitude in the Dark Age, when there was no system of writing? Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, placed Homer sometime around the ninth century BCE, at the beginning of the Archaic period, in which the Greeks adopted a system of writing from the Phoenicians and widely colonized the Mediterranean. And modern scholarship shows that the most recent details in the poems are datable to the period between 750 and 700 BCE.

No one, however, disputes the fact that The Odyssey (and The Iliad as well) arose from oral tradition. Stock phrases, types of episodes, and repeated phrases -- such as "early, rose-fingered dawn" -- bear the mark of epic storytelling. Scholars agree, too, that this tale of the Greek hero Odysseus's journey and adventures as he returned home from Troy to Ithaca is a work of the greatest historical significance and, indeed, one of the foundations of Western literature.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Odyssey.

Good To Know

The meter (rhythmic pattern of syllables) of Homer's epic poems is dactylic hexameter.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2007

    One of the best of Greek literature

    The Iliad is a classic poem that takes place in the last year of the Trojan war. The Iliad tells the tale of Achilles' wrath and the events that surround it. It shows the problems of revenge and anger. It is a modern tale that is just as relevant today as it was when it was written with its message of emotional maturity and personal growth. Despite its age of nearly three thousand years it remains accessible and understandable through the work of Martin Hammond, the translator of this edition. One of the flaws of the Iliad is the constant repetition of the battle scenes. Homer rewrites almost word for word some of the scenes. Although most of the story takes place during the combat, the bulk of the plot is in the relationships between the leaders which come through in conversations that take place during the night and during breaks in the battle. However aside from the battle scenes it is a well written book that has lasted almost three thousand years and will last at least a thousand more.

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