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The Iliad / The Odyssey Paperback – Box set, November 1, 1999
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About the Author
Homer was a Greek poet, recognized as the author of the great epics, the Iliad, the story of the siege of Troy, and the Odyssey, the tale of Ulysses’s wanderings.
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A good intro if you haven't read the Odyssey before. It's clear and direct, more so than other translations. Reading it, you get a sense of pounding, unapologetic simplicity, like that of Greek architecture and sculpture. More than in other translations, the Odyssey comes across here strongly as a historical document, the product of a culture from a particular time and place. For a document written 3,000 years ago, this clarity is no easy task.
But the Odyssey is also a work of poetry; and as a work of art, this is weaker than other translations. It has some of the muscularity of ancient Greece, with a solid rhythm and a steady flow of English monosyllables. Although many lines roll off the tongue, they feel pedestrian. Its opening lines:
"Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,"
The first line may be a great translation, but it's not great English poetry. (And almost interchangeable with "He's a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman.")
Should a translation of an ancient Greek poem be a great modern English poem in itself? Maybe not, and maybe trying too hard will take us too far from the original. Homer has been translated by major English poets back to Alexander Pope, whose version was called a major English poems by itself. If that's what you're expecting, you may feel let down by many of the word choices here. Compare Wilson's language with that of the opening of Robert Fitzgerald's translation:
"Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy. He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will nor valor could he save them,"
Wilson's translation is clear and economical. She renders Homer's "polytropos" (in the first line) as "complicated." Fitzgerald translates it as "skilled in all ways of contending," and Fagles as "the man of twists and turns." Both are less clear, but strike me as a more interesting grouping of words and syllables.
Some other nice things about this version: it comes with a long, thoughtful introduction. At 100 pages in the hardback version, it's almost a book by itself. The typesetting is new and beautiful, and a pleasure to read.
"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.”
-Translated by Stanley Lombardo, 1997
“Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Akhilleus’ anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men—carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
Begin it when the two men first contending
broke with one another—
the Lord Marshal Agamémnon, Atreus’ son, and Prince Akhilleus.”
-Translated by Translated by Robert Fitzgerald, 1963
“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son of Achilleus and its devastation, which puts pains thousandfold upon the Achains,
hurled in the multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished since that time when first there stood the division of conflict Atrecus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.”
–Translated by Richmond Lattimore, 1951
“Sing, goddess, of Peleus’ son Achilles’ anger, ruinous, that caused the Greeks untold ordeals, consigned to Hades countless valiant souls, heroes, and left their bodies prey for dogs or feast for vultures. Zeus’s will was done from when those two first quarreled and split apart, the king, Agamemnon, and matchless Achilles.”
-Translated by Herbert Jordan, 2008
“An angry man-there is my story: the bitter rancor of Achillês, prince of the house of Peleus, which brought a thousand troubles upon the Achaian host. Many a strong soul it sent down to Hadês, and left the heroes themselves a prey to the dogs and carrion birds, while the will of God moved on to fulfillment.”
-Translated and transliterated by W.H.D. Rouse, 1950
“Achilles’ wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Of woes unnumber’d, heavenly goddess, sing!
That wrath which hurl’d to Pluto’s gloomy reign
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain;
Whose limbs unburied on the naked shore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore.
Since great Achilles and Atrides strove,
Such was the sovereign doom,
and such the will of Jove!”
-Translated by Alexander Pope, 1720
“Achilles sing, O Goddess! Peleus’ son;
His wrath pernicious, who ten thousand woes
Caused to Achaia’s host, sent many a soul
Illustrious into Ades premature,
And Heroes gave (so stood the will of Jove)
To dogs and to all ravening fowls a prey,
When fierce dispute had separated once
The noble Chief Achilles from the son
Of Atreus, Agamemnon, King of men.”
-Translated by William Cowper, London 1791
“Achilles’ baneful wrath – resound, O goddess – that impos’d
Infinite sorrow on the Greeks, and the brave souls loos’d
From beasts heroic; sent them far, to that invisible cave*
That no light comforts; and their limbs to dogs and vultures gave:
To all which Jove’s will give effect; from whom the first strife begun
Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis’ godlike son*”
-Translated by George Chapman, 1616
“The Rage of Achilles—sing it now, goddess, sing through me
the deadly rage that caused the Achaeans such grief
and hurled down to Hades the souls of so many fighters,
leaving their naked flesh to be eaten by dogs
and carrion birds, as the will of Zeus was accomplished.
Begin at the time when bitter words first divided
that king of men, Agamemnon, and godlike Achilles.”
-Translated by Stephen Mitchell
“Sing now, goddess, the wrath of Achilles the scion of Peleus,
ruinous rage which brought the Achaians uncounted afflictions;
many of the powerful souls it sent to the dwelling of Hades,
those of the heroes, and spoil for the dogs it made it their bodies,
plunder for the birds, and the purpose of Zeus was accomplished__”
-Translated by Rodney Merrill
“Sing, goddess, the anger of Achilles, Peleus’ son,
the accused anger which brought the Achaeans countless
agonies and hurled many mighty shades of heroes into Hades,
causing them to become the prey of dogs
and all kinds of birds; and the plan of Zeus was fulfilled.”
-Translated by Anthony Verity
Antony does not attempt to be poetic. The line numbers are close to the original.
“Of Peleus’ son, Achilles, sing, O Muse,
The vengeance, deep and deadly; whence to Greece
Unnumbered ills arose; which many a soul
Of mighty warriors to the viewless shades
Ultimately sent; they on the battle plain
Unburied lay, to rav’ning dogs,
And carrion birds; but had Jove decreed,”
-Translated by Edward Smith-Stanly 1862
“Sing, Goddess of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus-
that murderous anger witch condemned Achaeans
to countless agonies and threw many warrior souls
deep into Hades, leaving their dead bodies
carrion food for dogs and birds-
all in the fulfillment of the will of Zeus”
- Translated by Professor Ian Johnston, British Columbia 2006
“The rage, sing O goddess, of Achilles, son of Peleus,
The destructive anger that brought ten-thousand pains to the
Achaeans and sent many brave souls of fighting men to the house
of Hades and made their bodies a feast for dogs
and all kinds of birds. For such was the will of Zeus.”
- Translated by Barry B. Powell
“Wrath, goddess, sing of Achilles Pēleus’s son’s calamitous wrath, which hit the Achaians countless ills many the valiant souls it saw off down to Hādēs, souls of heroes, their selves left as carrion for dogs and all birds of prey, and the plan of Zeus was fulfilled from the first moment those two men parted in fury, Atreus’s son, king of men, and the godlike Achilles.”
-Translated by Peter Green
“Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles Peleus' son, the ruinous wrath that brought on the Achaians woes innumerable, and hurled down into Hades many strong souls of heroes, and gave their bodies to be a prey to dogs and all winged fowls; and so the counsel of Zeus wrought out its accomplishment from the day when first strife parted Atreides king of men and noble Achilles.”
- Translated by Andrew Lang, M.A., Walter Leaf, Litt.D., And Ernest Myers, M.A.
Books I. - IX. . . . . W. Leaf.
" X. - XVI. . . . . A. Lang.
" XVII. - XXIV. . . . . E. Myers.
Another translation is by Ennis Samuel Rees, Jr. (March 17, 1925 – March 24, 2009)
(Pallas) Athene. Minerva.
Wrath–sing, goddess, of the ruinous wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles,
that inflicted woes without number upon the Achaeans,
hurled fourth to Hades many strong souls of warriors
and rendered their bodies prey for the dogs,
for all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished;
sing from when they to first stood in conflict-
Ateus’ son, lord of men, and godlike Achilles.
-Translated by Caroline Alexander
You will find that some translations are easier to read but others are easier to listen to on recordings, lectures, Kindle, and the like. If you do not see information on specific translators, it is still worth the speculation and purchase. Right after the translation readability and understanding, do not overlook the introduction which gives an inset to what you are about to read.
The Stephen Mitchell translation goes though each of the major characters so well that you think you know them before you starts reading. Other introductions explain the struggle between different types of power. Rodney Merrill’s 28 page introduction focuses on singing.
The Peter Green translation is easy to read. It is almost a transliteration. However it is the all the scholarly supplemental information that give worth to his contribution.
The Oxford University Press Barry B. Powell has an extensive introduction with real “MAPS”. Also there is information of the finder Schliemann. We even get annotation on the meaning being conveyed.
The Caroline Alexander Translation is most excellent for a first translation reading. While other translation rely so much on being scholarly, her translation with plenty of white space make you feel that you are partaking in listening in awe. The only thing missing is the background music.
Our story takes place in the ninth year of the ongoing war. We get some introduction to the first nine years but they are just a background to this tale of pride, sorrow and revenge. The story will also end abruptly before the end of the war.
We have the wide conflict between the Trojans and Achaeans over a matter of pride; the gods get to take sides and many times direct spears and shields.
Although the more focused conflict is the power struggle between two different types of power. That of Achilles, son of Peleus and the greatest individual warrior and that of Agamemnon, lord of men, whose power comes form position.
We are treated to a blow by blow inside story as to what each is thinking and an unvarnished description of the perils of war and the search for Arête (to be more like Aries, God of War.)
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