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English Translations of Homer
January 19, 2011 10:16 AM   Subscribe

A huge number of English translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, many available in full text. I would just add to the list Chapman's Iliad available in full-text on Google Books and Logue's War Music available in preview.
posted by Paquda (29 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold, but this is totally awesome. Great post!
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2011


English translations of Homer
posted by stbalbach at 10:27 AM on January 19, 2011


Ooooh, what a feast! Looks like I'll be staying out of trouble for a while.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2011


Maybe this will be the one of the dozens and dozens of public domain books I've added to my Google library with the best intentions that I will actually read.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:42 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just want to add a strong recommendation for Christoper Logue's amazing recastings of the Iliad in modern idiom. Here's the start of "Pax" (his version of book 19):
Rat.
Pearl.
Onion.
Honey.
These colours came before the Sun
Lifted above the ocean,
Bringing light
Alike to mortals and Immortals.

  And through this falling brightness,
Through the by now
Mosque
Eucalyptus
Utter blue
Came Thetis,
Gliding across the azimuth,
With armour the colour of moonlight laid on her forearms,
Palms upturned,
Hovering above the Fleet,
Her skyish face towards her son

  Achilles
Gripping the body of Patroclus
Naked and dead against his own,
While Thetis spoke:
  "Son..."
His soldiers looking on;
Looking away from it; remembering their own;
  "Grieving will not amend what Heaven has done.
Suppose you throw your hate after Patroclus' soul.
Who besides Troy will gain?
  See what I've brought..."

  And as she laid the moonlit armour on the sand
It chimed;
  And the sound that came from it
Followed the light that came from it
Like sighing
Saying:
  Made in Heaven.
posted by languagehat at 11:01 AM on January 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Line 98: On Chapman's Homer

A reference to the title of Keats' famous sonnet (often quoted in America) which, owing to a printer's absent-mindedness, has been drolly transposed, from some other article, into the account of a sports event. For other vivid misprints see note to line 802.
- Pale Fire
posted by nasreddin at 11:03 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is maybe obvious because of how many different translations there are, but reading the Homeric poems in the original is a really great, worthwhile experience. The grammar is straightforward enough that you don't have to be very good at Greek to do it, but the vocabulary is so rich that you can end up with all these different English readings of single Greek words. They're fascinating, very human poems (which is why we've kept them around for 3000 years or so). Perseus is really helpful, if you have basic Greek and want to take a stab at it.

(Eponysterical, etc.)
posted by oinopaponton at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought of Pale Fire too; nasreddin's cite from the Commentary should be complemented by the reference in the poem for full effect:

...and from the local Star
A curio: Red Sox Beat Yanks 5-4
On Chapman's Homer
, thumbtacked to the door.
posted by chavenet at 11:09 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember the time I spent the summer vacation before 11th grade reading the Odyssey and the Iliad (while babysitting). When my social studies teacher informed us that we'd be spending a majority of the first trimester studying the Iliad, I told him that I'd read it already. So he smugly asked me which of the thousands of translations, as we would be working from the Fagles as indicated on the syllabus. I wasn't sure, but I brought my copy in the next day. I set it down heavily on his desk. The translator? Fagles.

It wasn't often that he was one-upped, so he loaned me a copy of a book he had on teaching oneself Greek (not ancient, though) as a special treat. Me, I was just proud to have momentarily un-smugged the smugmonster.

So I got to read something I really wanted to and enjoyed reading, on my own time and at my own pace, and then I had tons of free time during the year to read whatever I wanted or spend on my physics research. And I got a little bit smug myself.
posted by Eideteker at 11:28 AM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the Stanley Lombardo translations, and am excited to peek at these.
posted by HeroZero at 11:34 AM on January 19, 2011


Also, I had an idea to write a heavy metal epic covering the entirety of the Iliad. I even had the cover designed. It was just the title, "Ilium." with a battered hoplite helmet knocked onto its side on a black background. Because (as Fagles points out), the poem begins with a single word: Rage. So at a time when bands like "Rage Against the Machine" were around and Smashing Pumpkins had a single where the chorus contained the line: "Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!" my brilliant idea was to open the album with just a huge scream of "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE" over dischordant rising guitar tones and staccato percussion. I got most of the lyrics adapted before frustration set in and I moved over to the centerpiece of the album: "Diomedes Fights the Gods." Because what is more metal than stabbing your religious figures with a spear? And who is a more badass character than Diomedes? His ἀριστεία crosses two books. Achilles may have been the "best" of the Greeks at combat, but he was really just a whiny momma's boy. If the Achaeans had had a 2nd Diomedes instead of Achilles, they would have been in and out of Troy in about 10 days, and the whole conflict would be long forgot about. Except for the part where he stabs Aphrodite. Because how funny was that?

That conflict, by the way, exposes something about the classical Greek gods that I've always found interesting. The gods themselves are immortal, but only in the sense that they are fated not to die. They have special powers and abilities, but they can be stabbed and made to bleed just like you or me. They basically have really long lifelines, from a palmistry standpoint. Which sort of shows how down and dirty the Greeks were. It was possible, in their mythological/religious framework, to actually physically redress a god for your grievances if you felt it was worth the risk (in Diomedes case, he had Athena's backing, which would easily protect him from the weaker/more effeminate Aphrodite). And it also showed some of the egalitarian nature of the Greek society; it was possible for a mortal to ascend (like Heracles, Ganymede, etc.) to immortality if they were deemed worthy. Zeus basically told the fates to back off, and *poof*, you were "fated not to die." Welcome to the club, pal.

But yeah, due to my lack of musical talent or follow-through, I never finished writing the songs for the album. But I still think about educating people on classical Greek mythology through heavy metal from time to time. Sing it with me, "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE..."
posted by Eideteker at 11:48 AM on January 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the Logue versions. I'm glad to see them in the post.
posted by OmieWise at 11:50 AM on January 19, 2011


> reading the Homeric poems in the original is a really great, worthwhile experience. The grammar is straightforward enough that you don't have to be very good at Greek to do it

Absolutely. Whenever people ask me about where to start with Greek, I point them to Homer (and specifically Pharr's Homeric Greek, which has you reading the real thing right off the bat). The reward/effort ratio is huge (especially if you compare Homer to the traditional beginning text, Xenophon).

> I thought of Pale Fire too; nasreddin's cite from the Commentary should be complemented by the reference in the poem for full effect

And that should be complemented by a reference to the actual Red Sox outfielder who (might have) hit the homer, Ben Chapman. (Wikipedia: "The newspaper headline "Red Sox beat Yanks 5–4 on Chapman's Homer," a possibly intentional pun on the title of John Keats' poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer", is mentioned in Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pale Fire (lines 97–98), where it is misinterpreted by the character Charles Kinbote. Sources disagree on whether the headline is genuine [Boyd, Appel] or not [Donahue].")
posted by languagehat at 11:52 AM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


And as she laid the moonlit armour on the sand
It chimed;
And the sound that came from it
Followed the light that came from it
Like sighing
Saying:


D'oh!
posted by mmrtnt at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2011


my brilliant idea was to open the album with just a huge scream of "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE"

*pssst*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:43 PM on January 19, 2011


I just want to add a strong recommendation for Christoper Logue's amazing recastings of the Iliad in modern idiom.

I love a day when somebody points out a gaping hole in my education. Why isn't this on Kindle, dammit!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:30 PM on January 19, 2011


Languagehat, thank you very much for that Textkit link.
posted by jfuller at 2:35 PM on January 19, 2011


Open a couple of these in separate tabs and toggle back and forth between them. it never fails to amaze me how many ways there are to translate the same source.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:42 PM on January 19, 2011


Love the Chapman. Never liked War Music. Though of course I think all modern translations are admirable (but rubbish).
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:12 PM on January 19, 2011


I once met a guy that had an advanced degree in Classics. Classics! How awesome was that! I was a former English major, a brand new lawyer, but an English major at heart, and to see somebody had dedicated his studies to one of the best and most influential aspects of literature, I was pretty impressed.

Visiting his home, I saw his pine bookshelves, filled with cool PhD-level classics materials. I was very excited to ask him, in an attempt to start a conversation on an issue I was sure would be out of my depth instantly, "What is your favorite version of the Iliad?" I asked, because I had a preferred translation (Lattimore), and I really wanted his insight; I wanted to know what made a translation good. His answer was "What?"

I clarified, "I mean, which translation do you like the best?"

Awkward pause. He answered, "Uhhh ... I ... don't have one." I was shocked and disappointed.

Maybe I should have asked for his favorite translation of the Aeneid. (Mandelbaum.)
posted by jabberjaw at 3:48 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this. I'm homeschooling 3 boys (aged 6, 8 and 11) and we just got to the ancient Greeks this week. Based on the quality advice from this recent AskMe, I have my older son reading Lombardo's Iliad while I read aloud from this children's edition to the younger boys. We'll probably be switching to Fagles and Mary Pope Osborne for the Odyssey.

I'm especially keen to try out languagehat's suggestion of Homeric Greek when we revisit this topic in three or four years.
posted by richyoung at 3:55 PM on January 19, 2011


Visiting his home, I saw his pine bookshelves, filled with cool PhD-level classics materials. I was very excited to ask him, in an attempt to start a conversation on an issue I was sure would be out of my depth instantly, "What is your favorite version of the Iliad?" I asked, because I had a preferred translation (Lattimore), and I really wanted his insight; I wanted to know what made a translation good. His answer was "What?"

There are actually two good reasons for that: 1) no sane PhD student would focus on Homer, because what new can you say about the Iliad or Odyssey in an article or dissertation? Insanely obscure shit is where it's at. The stuff that makes normal people's eyes glaze over. 2) We don't read texts in translation.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:11 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also recommended as a compendium -- Elizabeth Vandivers' lectures from the Teaching Company on the Odyssey and Iliad.
posted by iamck at 7:24 PM on January 19, 2011


Can anyone recommend a translation that names Odysseus as such and not as ulysses?
posted by Severian at 8:25 PM on January 19, 2011


"What is your favorite version of the Iliad?"

Did you read?
posted by stbalbach at 8:43 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Logue is astonishing.
posted by Wolof at 10:18 PM on January 19, 2011


As an alum of a Great Books school, I heartily recommend the translations of Fagles and Fitzgerald (for style and poetry), and Lattimore (for information). And, if you are particularly adventurous, Pope's translation is king of them all.
posted by aesacus at 11:28 AM on January 20, 2011


I really wish I'd seen this some time ago. I'm currently slogging through the worst ebook version of the Iliad I can imagine. Loading Fagles onto the old Kindle as I type this.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by rush at 1:29 PM on January 20, 2011


> He answered, "Uhhh ... I ... don't have one." I was shocked and disappointed.

Really? Pretty much the whole point of a classics education is being able to read the original, thus not needing translations.

(I chose my undergraduate college partly on the basis of their having a classics professor who could teach me Greek, and then when I got there I discovered the bastard had died and they didn't offer Greek any more.)
posted by languagehat at 1:50 PM on January 20, 2011


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