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The Iliad (Penguin Classics) Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1995

240 customer reviews

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About the Author

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.

E. V. Rieu was a celebrated translator from Latin and Greek, and editor of Penguin Classics from 1944-1964. His son, D. C. H. Rieu has revised his work.

E. V. Rieu was a celebrated translator from Latin and Greek, and editor of Penguin Classics from 1944-1964. His son, D. C. H. Rieu has revised his work.


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (July 30, 1950)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140440143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440140
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,921,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

175 of 179 people found the following review helpful By LIBRARIAN TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
UPDATED 02/23/15: Homer's "Iliad" is truly a great work of literature, and I certainly agree with all the other reviewers who extol its virtues, but the person who translates this epic poem into English from the archaic Greek is all-important to one's appreciation and enjoyment of it. One needn't suffer through a poor translation when good ones are available. This public domain translation by Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley Derby (or more simply: Lord Derby) is outdated and not particularly good; it is certainly not enjoyable to read. (For that reason, I suspect few of the rave reviewers, though they rightfully love and enjoy the "Iliad," have actually endured THIS particular public domain translation of it.)

Readability and faithfulness to the original language are what one seeks in a translation. There is no particular virtue in reading a sometimes convoluted Victorian rendering of the "Iiad" in iambic pentameter or heroic couplets (since Homer used neither) unless one especially enjoys doing so. In fact, foundational differences in the two languages prevent a true equivalence in English of Homer's original poetic structure in Greek; that is the reason why many translators, considering any such versification to be artificial at best and dishonest at worst, render this work in prose. But at the very least Homer's poetic form was comparatively simpler and his linguistic expression was more direct than some older translators using English poetical formats make him seem; that is why other translators now often choose free verse as being an acceptable alternative to either complex metrical forms or prose.
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63 of 70 people found the following review helpful By bernie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With many books, translations are negligible, with two obvious exceptions, one is the Bible, and surprisingly the other is The Iliad. Each translation can give a different insight and feel to the story. Everyone will have a favorite. I have several.

For example:

"Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
Murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many souls,
great fighters' souls. But made their bodies carrion,
feasts for dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving towards its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles."
-Translated by Robert Fagles, 1990

"Sing, O Goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a heroes did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures for so were the counsels of Zeus fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles first fell out with one another."
-Translated by Samuel Butler, 1888

Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades' dark,
And let their bodies rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.
Begin with the clash between Agamemnon--
The Greek Warlord--and godlike Achilles.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 14, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I long ago determined that the world of those interested in the Classical Literature of the Ancient Greeks that when it comes to Homer's epic poems there are those who prefer the "Iliad" and those who prefer the "Odyssey." My choice is for the story of the rage of Achilles. From Achilles's fateful confrontation with Agamemnon over Briseis of the lovely arms to the magnificently emotional ending where King Priam comes to beg for the body of his slain son, Hector, from the man who killed him, I find this story has greater resonance than the tale of Odysseus. The epic story also seems to me to be more classically Greek, with the great hero who acts out of anger, comes to regret his folly, and seeks to make amends with a great deed. Achilles is similar to Hercules in this regard, and although they are both strictly considered demi-gods, the Achaean hero ultimately seems more human. Plus, Achilles stature is enhanced by his opposition to the noble Hector; acknowledging the better warrior does not take away from recognizing the greater hero. Add to this the fact that all the gods and goddesses of Olympus are actively involved in the proceedings and I am convinced the "Iliad" is the more worthy book for inclusion into most classes dealing with Classical Mythology or the Ancient Greeks.
The main question with using the "Iliad" is class is picking a worthy version in English. The Lattimore translation is certainly above average, but I think the Fagles translation is far and away the best available (hence the one star deduction for this translation, which I have been compelled to use in the past) and I would not really consider using anything else in my Classical Greek and Roman Mythology course.
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