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Iliad (Hackett Classics) New Ed Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 699 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872203525
ISBN-10: 0872203522
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

So great is the impact of ancient Greek literature on Western culture that even people who have never read Homer's Iliad or The Odyssey know a lot about them. The Trojan Horse, Achilles' heel, the Sirens' call, Scylla and Charybdis--all have entered popular mythology, becoming metaphors for the less heroic situations we face in our own lives. Ever since these oral poems were committed to paper (probably in the 8th century B.C.E.), people have been translating them. The version of Iliad translated by Stanley Lombardo is a brave departure from previous translations; Lombardo attempts to adapt the text to the needs of readers rather than the listeners for whom the work was originally intended. To this end, he has streamlined the poem, removing many of the stock repetitions such as the infamous "rosy-fingered dawn," or rewriting them in ways dependent on their context. What emerges is a vivid, lively rendition of one of the world's great stories of men and war.

But classicists, beware: This Iliad has something of a '90s sensibility, from the cover art (a photograph of the D-Day Normandy landing) to Achilles' Rambo-like diction. It might well outrage the purists, but for those who remember their musty high-school reading of Homer's great epic with a barely suppressed yawn, Lombardo's energetic translation is just the version to change their minds. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

More than almost any other book, Homer's Iliad is meant to be spoken aloud, so it's a natural fit for audiobooks. With his fluid translation of ancient Greek into the rhythms of contemporary conversation, Lombardo has rendered the story of the final stretch of the Trojan War and its plethora of jealous, vengeful gods and warriors feasting, battling and endlessly speechifying, more boldly modern and recognizable than the remote marble tableaux conjured by most other versions. Lombardo's expert reading makes the tale's convolutions easy to follow despite its length, and though he doesn't always reach for the extremes one might expect (Achilles' crashing rage sometimes sounds like mere irritation, and soldiers faced with certain death can seem less than petrified), his voice does become mesmerizing. The interruptions between books, in which Sarandon reads synopses of the next, are jarring and unnecessary, since the synopses are printed in a handy booklet, along with a useful map and list of names and places. Similarly, while the thrumming cello and percussion theme that opens and closes each book sets the tone nicely, the electronic chords that sometimes accompany dreams, deaths or appearances of the gods are rather off-putting. Such quibbles notwithstanding, Lombardo's Iliad both sings to 21st century ears and holds true to Homer's original vision; the blind bard would be proud. Lombardo has also translated and narrated Homer's Odyssey for Parmenides.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Hackett Classics
  • Paperback: 574 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing; New Ed edition (March 12, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872203522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872203525
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (699 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I won't try to give yet another summary of the Iliad's plot nor give my insignificant opinion on the importance of Homer to Western Culture. More important is to discuss this translation and the translation of Homer in general.
When it comes to classic works of poetry in translation, such as those of Homer, Vergil, Dante and others, the translation makes all the difference. The type of translation, whether in rhyming verse, blank verse, prose etc., whether it is a strict line by line or more liberal translation, whether the wording and idioms are old fashioned or modern, can play such a great role that one translation may be completely different than another. This fact is probably often overlooked and attributes to the neglect of these classics, since a bad or difficult translation makes the poem seem tedious or dull.
Since Chapman's first translation of Homer into English in 1611 there have been dozens of others. Chapman's translation remains a classic, though its heavy and elaborate rhyming Elizabethan style and old wording make it quite laborious to read today. The next great translation was that of the renowned Enlightenment poet Alexander Pope; his Iliad was published progressively between 1715 and 1720. Pope's translation is in rhyming verse with his heroic couplet and is eminently poetic. It is considered the greatest translation of Homer into English (Dr. Johnson called it "the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen") but it is not as plain and straightforward as Homer apparently is in the original. It is mostly for this reason that Pope's translation has been critized as being more the work of the poet Pope than the poet Homer.
Of the more recent verse translations a few are worth recommendation.
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Format: Paperback
Robert Fagles's translation of Homer's Iliad is spiritually if not literally true to the original. Both versions repeat set speeches and descriptions in precisely the same words, and the translation exhibits a fairly regular rhythmic beat. But Homer's Greek was chanted, and the set passages were like refrains in which listeners could, if they chose, join in as a chorus. In English, the repetitions sometimes become tedious, especially when the same speech is given three times in two pages, as in the relay of Zeus's orders in Book II. Especially noteworthy is Bernard Knox's long and fascinating Introduction, a masterpiece of literary criticism and scholarship which conveys Homer's grim attitude toward war, the interplay of divine and human will, and the ancient concepts of honor, courage, and virility in the face of the stark finality of death. Knox also includes a succinct explanation of the quantitative, rather than accentual, basis of Greek (and Latin) verse. For easy readability, Fagles's translation is without rival. For elegance and poetry, however, I recommend Richmond Lattimore's older but still gripping and fluent translation.
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Format: Paperback
Fortunately, Homer is so wonderful that even fairly imaginative renderings of the text, like Fagles', can't obscure his genius.

I guess I have a bit of a problem with Fagles' translation. When I read Homer, I want to read Homer, not Robert Fagles re-writing Homer. This version reminds me of the comment made to Alexander Pope after he published his version of "The Iliad" - "a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer".

This translation is kind of a modern play on the Fitzgerald - something of an "artistic" version rendered into a kind of de rigeur semi-elliptical poetry-speak, relying on a reconfiguration of lines and sentences, replacement of Homer's own phrases, etc. If that's your bag, by all means get this.

But for me, the best translation out there is that which translates Homer as faithfully as possible consistent with comprehensible English. Fagles' cavalier handling of the source text eliminates this as the "best" translation for me.

Both the Loeb and Lattimore versions are very faithful, but I think some readers may find them fairly difficult, and then stop reading the book altogether, which would be a great shame since The Iliad is well worth reading even in the worst translation.

My two cents is that the translation out there which does the best job of combining fidelity to the original with readability is the Jones/Rieu put out by Penguin. It doesn't have the packaging of the Fagles nor the great essay by Bernard Knox in the front, but I think it does the best job at maintaining transparency, really letting Homer shine through. (But if you have the stomach for the Loeb, you could go hardcore and try that, too. But don't try this unless you're familiar with the entire story first...).
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Format: Paperback
Some general thoughts....

First, there are several reasons for translating the Iliad. Obviously, it is one of the greatest pieces of literature that has as much to offer modern readers as it did those of antiquity. On the surface, it offers raw emotions, visceral action sequences and colorful characters you admire and hate, often at the same time. But it is much, much deeper than that. The scene where Hector bids his young wife good-bye and holds up his infant son to the gods, praying that the boy will one day be a better man than ever he himself was, has never been equaled as a statement of what it means to be a man, husband or father. The debates about honor and duty are still the same we face every day. The humanity, insight and profound philosophy are remarkable-especially for a work now 3,000 years old.

There are other considerations beyond aesthetics. Recent scholarship has revealed that Homer has much to tell us about real places, people, ideas, actions and politics. Gone is the great Classical scholar Finley's view that the Homeric poems are mostly fictitious and cannot tell much about the heroic Bronze Age. Therefore, there is a need for an accurate, line-to-line translation that can convey the feel of the original meter and still use the full range of words, places and objects that can often be "streamlined" in an adaptation.

This is where Lattimore's translation comes in. This still is probably the most "accurate" translation, preserving the structure of the poem, the full meaning of the Greek words and the original "tone" of the Greek. If you're wading thru the original Greek and want to have something to check against, this translation wins hands down. Also, if your interest in Troy is historical/archaeological, Lattimore is a must.
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