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The Iliad of Homer Paperback – June 1, 1961

4.4 out of 5 stars 743 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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"Both lucid and learned, Lattimore writes with a certain grace, capturing the combination of nobility and speed which over 100 years ago Matthew Arnold famously heard in Homer’s work. . . . Read Richmond Lattimore's translation for the epic scale and narrative of Homer's poem."

(Economist)

"Martin's introduction surpasses all rivals. . . . Lattimore's Iliad is best for those who want to feel the epic from the loins up, its rush, its reprieves, and its overwhelming rage." (Chronicle of Higher Education) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Though he is traditionally credited as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, there is no reliable information about an actual, historical Homer. In antiquity, he was an honored figure, despite little being known about his life or even his era; he was credited then with several other shorter works in addition to the two epics. Current scholarship tends to view the poems as the work of many hands over many years, with differing opinions on the role and importance of any single figure in their creation or promulgation.


Richmond Lattimore (1906–1984) was a poet, translator, and longtime professor of Greek at Bryn Mawr College.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 527 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (June 1, 1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226469409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226469409
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (743 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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
The Iliad is one of the greatest treasures of Western Civilization-and not just because a teacher told you it was. 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.

The problem? How do you convey all that power? How do you do so in a way that captures the feel of original?

Iliad translations have started to come fast and furious, as every ten years or so someone tries to tackle the monumental task of bringing the poem to modern readers. The process isn't helped by the fact that the text was already 300 years old to the classical Greeks like Aristotle, Sophocles and Euripides-making it as vaguely old-fashioned as Shakespeare is to us. Should it sound antiquated to us, too? If you really want a line by line translation, one that has some kind of meter that approaches the Greek original, the obvious choice is Lattimore's classic translation. It has the side benefit now of being somewhat dated in its English usage too. That said, for just a good ol' read of the Iliad, Lattimore isn't even my third choice. For all its accuracy, I've always felt I was reading a textbook, written by a classics scholar rather than an honest-to-goodness writer.
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