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Iliad and Odyssey boxed set Paperback – 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0147712556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0147712554
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 9.1 x 22.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #148,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
The Iliad

With many books, translations are negligible, with two obvious exceptions, one is the Bible, and surprisingly the other is The Iliad.

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

"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

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 warier and that of Agamemnon, lord of men, who's power comes form position.
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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, 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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The Iliad was not quite what I expected. It doesn't have the lyricism and imagery of other epic poems such as Paraside Lost or the Inferno. Its metaphors are sometimes crude and very wordy. It is also an extremely violent book -- large sections of the text are devoted to describing the deaths of warriors in graphic detail. It is also sometimes repititious, which is partly a result of having evolved from an oral tradition in which repitition allowed the poet more time to improvise the next segment of poetry.
However, it is still a powerful poem. The story is not what you might expect. There is no Trojan horse, no golden apples. It starts in the ninth year of the siege of Troy as Achilles, enraged by the actions of Agammemnon, breaks from the Argives and sulks in his tent. This sets in motion a chain of events that will result in a clash between himself and the great Trojan hero Hector. All of this unfolds next to a second tale - the fighting amongst the Olympian gods as they determine the destiny of Troy and the heroes from both armies fighting for it.
The Iliad unfolds novelistically. We start with the rage of Achilles in the plains of Troy. Gradually, slowly, the background is revealed - the reason for the Argive invasion of Troy, the reason for the rage of Achilles. It is only very late in the book that the reasons for Hera's hatred of Troy and the tight bond between Patroclus and Achilles is explained.
Although there are many characters in the book, Achilles is the most powerful. Passionate, temperamental, arrogant, brutal and courageous. In many ways, he comes across as the villian. He is opposed by Hector -- also arrogant and brutal, but a family man. Hector is both admired and loved by the Trojans. Achilles is admired by the Greeks, but not loved.
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The question is not should you read Homer but what translation to read. The Iliad and The Odyssey have surivived longer than any other western story because they speak to us, even today, powerfully of life and are deep enought to speak differently at diferent points in our own life. Both books teach us lessons from our forgtten past and tell us how men and women should live their lives.
The Iliad opens with the strugle between Achilles and Agamenon. Anyone who works in an office can recognize these characters and their struggles as they occur today on the smaller stage of our cubicles.
What will draw you to Fagle is the words. He opens the Odyssey not by saying Odysseus is devious but by saying "He is a man of many twists and turn". This implies not just that Odysseus is devious but that his trip home will not be a straight path. It's also a beautiful phrase that captures Homer better than any more formal and literal translation.
All I can say is that I love these books and this is the translation I enjoy the most.
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