The publisher gratefully acknowledges the generous
support of the Joan Palevsky Literature in Translation
Endowment Fund of the University of California Press
A NEW TRANSLATION BY
University of California Press
University of California Press, one of the most distinguished
university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world
by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural
sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and
by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For
more information, visit www.ucpress.edu.
University of California Press
© 2015 by Peter Green
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The Iliad / Homer; a new translation by Peter Green.
Includes bibliographical references.
isbn 978-0-520-28141-7 (cloth, alk. paper) — isbn 978-0-52096132-6 (electronic)
1. Achilles (Greek mythology)—Poetry. 2. Trojan War—
Poetry. 3. Epic poetry, Greek. I. Green, Peter, translator I. Title.
Manufactured in the United States of America
24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
In keeping with a commitment to support environmentally responsible
and sustainable printing practices, UC Press has printed this book on
Natures Natural, a fiber that contains 30% post-consumer waste and
meets the minimum requirements of ansi/niso z39.48-1992 (r 1997)
(Permanence of Paper).
13/05/15 2:59 PM
Τυφλὸς ἀνήρ, οἰκεῖ δὲ Χίῳ ἔνι παιπαλοέσσῃ.
τοῦ πᾶσαι μετόπισθεν ἀριστεύσουσιν ἀοιδαί.
He is a blind man, and lives on rocky Chios:
All his songs will be supreme, now and forever.
Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo, 172–73
This book is the improbable fulfillment of a dream that has haunted me ever
since the middle of the twentieth century, when I was one of the team Donald
Carne-Ross assembled to produce some new versions of Homer’s Iliad on the
(now long defunct) BBC Third Programme. Creative outreach was our watchword; we were targeting a postwar generation, mostly ex-service, that knew no
Greek but was hungry for the classics. But in my case the magic went far further
back: to Andrew Lang’s marvelous Tales of Troy and Greece read in childhood;
to the Greek I began to learn when I was ten years old; to the well-thumbed
India-paper red cloth volume of Monro and Allen’s third edition of the Iliad,
which I had read from cover to cover by the time I was fifteen, and which went
with me through three monsoons in India and Burma during World War II
(and sits by me as I write these words, its pages crinkled from oppressive humidity and still smelling of the Arakan). When I finally got to Cambridge in 1947
it was a piece of providential luck that in the year I took Part II of the Classical
Tripos, the annual revolving sequence of genres had reached Epic. I still have my
ancient, battered copy of Walter Leaf ’s commentary, annotated throughout
with my (mostly embarrassing) undergraduate comments. When, a few years
later, with a Ph.D. in hand, I joined Carne-Ross’s team, I saw the translations I
did then as preparation for a full version of my own.
Of course, it didn’t happen. A mass of other work got in the way. I married, had children, was caught up in endless responsibilities. The best part of
a decade in Greece saw me productive in many ways, but not regarding
Homer. Even when, at long last, I gravitated back by a somewhat circuitous
route to teaching at university level, and became a professor of classics, other
passions, mostly historical, monopolized what little spare time I had. From
time to time—not least when I saw yet another version of the Iliad or the
Odyssey collecting tribute in the headlines—a sad twinge of regret, a sense of
opportunity lost, would nag at me, to be dismissed as self-indulgent romantic nostalgia. Even when I retired, the old dream still seemed a classic case of
the If only syndrome.
I suspect, though, that my subconscious may have been quietly at work: I
was aware, for example, when in 1996 I translated Apollonius Rhodius’s
Argonautika, that in tackling the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece I was
responding to a passion first ignited, like that for the Trojan War and the
subsequent adventures of Odysseus, by Andrew Lang’s retelling of both: his
words had fired my imagination, as a child, in an unforgettable way. What
that experience also gave me was a fresh lesson, and an extremely useful one,
in how to deal, as a translator, with the unrelentingly tricky problem of the
epic hexameter. But it was only a year ago, when I realized that on my next
birthday I was going to be ninety, that I asked myself what I had to lose, even
now, by tackling the Iliad; and in a curiously relaxed mood sat down and
tried my hand at book 1. What, of course, I eventually discovered was the
reason I had waited so long. In one way and another, my whole career had
been a preparation for this moment. What would work for Homer in translation? Of all that I had done over half a century earlier for the Third Programme, I kept a grand total of three lines. When it came to presenting the
Iliad to a modern, Greekless audience confronting ancient epic for the first
time, Homer proved a more challenging taskmaster than I could ever have
imagined: and yet to meet that challenge was something I found continually
enjoyable and exciting. Preserving the strangeness, yet in an acceptable way;
finding the mot juste for difficult and often alien concepts; matching the
wonderful linear rhetoric, both in speeches and descriptive passages; keeping the simplicity while always acknowledging the emotional subtleties;
writing rhythms that could, like the original, be declaimed aloud, and hold
the attention of a listening audience; perhaps, above all, resisting the temptation to make nonexistent equations with easily recognizable English patterns—all this tested my skills to the utmost, and too often defeated my best
efforts, forced me to settle for a compromise. Perhaps that is the best any
translator can hope for.
To one nagging minor problem, the spelling of Greek proper names, I have
found no altogether satisfactory solution, and probably none exists. The
problem itself is one legacy of Rome’s complete cultural domination of the
European classical tradition from the Renaissance until well into the nineteenth century, which dictated (among much else), not only that Greek
names be Latinized, but that the gods of the Greek pantheon should be
replaced in translation by their nearest Roman equivalents. The second practice was reluctantly abandoned only after about 1880; the first is still very
much with us. It is not just a matter of replacing –os and –on terminations
with –us and –um; k with c; short u with y; and the diphthongs –oi with –oe,
– ei with ī, and –ou with ū. The Latin –er termination is also imposed, so that
“Aléxandros” becomes “Alexander”, and “Teukros” “Teucer”. For the most
part (but not invariably: for example, I use “Achilles” rather than
“Akhilleus”), I have gone back to the Greek spelling. In a majority of cases
this does not make for a wrenching unfamiliarity. But the shift from Roman
“Hecuba” to Greek “Hekabē” or from Roman “Ajax” to Greek “Aias” can be
disconcerting, and there are some Hellenisms—for example, “Oidipous” for
“Oedipus”, “Mykēnai” for “Mycenae”, “Krētē” for “Crete—that take some
getting used to. But one has to start getting rid of this wretched Latin legacy
Now the work is done, and out of my hands, I suppose I should be relaxing;
but the truth is, I find myself getting more and more involved in the not quite
identical problems confronting a translator of the Odyssey: I suspect my tussle
with doing Homer justice is not over yet. Meanwhile I would like to take this
opportunity of thanking my publishers at the University of California Press for
their confidence in supporting yet another versio of the Iliad; the students who,
over long years, most often without realizing it, sharpened my sense of how to
look at Homer; my copy editor and old friend Peter Dreyer for, once again, his
lynx-eyed common sense; and another good friend, Barbara Hird, for not only
so generously agreeing at very short notice to execute a most complex index for
me but also for spotting a number of errors that had got past all the rest of us.
I am likewise extremely grateful to my in-house editors, Eric Schmidt and
Cindy Fulton, whose professional aplomb when dealing with a challenging
manuscript has been beyond all praise. Finally and above all, I thank my wife
Carin, who put up so patiently with being a sounding board for my ideas as the
translation progressed, and invariably came up with perceptive comments and
shrewd professional ideas of her own. My translation is dedicated to her, and
never was a dedication more richly deserved. μάλιστα δέ τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοί.
Mycenae SALAMIS Athens
A EGE A N S E A
LY D I A
CRETA N S E A
C R ET E
Claudius Aelianus (c. 170–c. 230 c.e.), a Roman freedman
from Praeneste, writer (in Greek) of miscellanies.
Ael., On the Nature of Animals.
Apollodorus of Athens, grammarian (c. 180–c. 120 c.e.).
Certainly not the author of the Bibliothēkē (library), a
manual of mythology attributed to him by a (probably)
Epitome to Apollod., Bibliothēkē.
argumentum, i.e., argument (in the sense of précis or
Athenaeus of Naukratis in Egypt (fl. c. 200 c.e.), author
of the Deipnosophistae, or Learned Banqueters, his sole
surviving work, a fifteen-book account of a symposium,
mostly notable for its excerpts from classical works now
Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. Edited by
R. J. A. Talbot. Princeton, NJ, 2000.
Diodorus Siculus, of Agyrium in Sicily (c. 100–c. 30
b.c.e.), universal historian, author of a Bibliothēkē
Herodotus, of Halicarnassus and Thurii (c. 485–c. 420),
historian of the Persian Wars
Hesiod, epic/didactic poet (fl. c. 700 b.c.e.).
Hes., Catalogue of Women.
Hes., Works and Days.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.
The Homer Encyclopedia. Edited by M. Finkelberg. 3 vols.
Oxford (Wiley-Blackwell), 2011.
Journal of Hellenic Studies.
The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd ed. rev. Edited by
S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth. Oxford, 2003.
The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 4th ed. Edited by
S. Hornblower, A. Spawforth, and E. Eidinow. Oxford,
Pliny the Elder, Gaius Plinius Secundus (23/4–79 c.e.),
equestrian procurator and literary scholar.
Pliny, Historia Naturalis, a thirty-seven-book
encyclopedic Natural History.
Thucydides of Athens (c. 460–c. 395 b.c.e.), author of an
(unfinished) history of the Peloponnesian War.
Approaching the Problem
From both the literary and the sociohistorical viewpoints, the situation of
anyone embarking on Homer for the first time—and in many ways this
applies as much to the classical student as to anyone else—is a unique one.
To begin with, in the sense that we normally consider a written work, there
is no anterior background: we are at the beginning. To make matters worse,
our ignorance concerning both work and author is abysmal.
We do not know for certain who Homer was, or where he lived, or when
he wrote. We cannot be absolutely confident that the same man (if it was a
man) wrote both the Iliad and the Odyssey, or even that “wrote” is a correct
description of the method of composition involved. Indeed, there is much
doubt still as to whether we can talk in terms of a single poet at all, rather
than of a traditional sequence of bards fashioning an oral poème vivant, a living poem subject to constant modification; though (to complicate matters
still further) there is the likelihood (West 2011) of a master poet having used
a mass of centuries-old oral lays as material from which to create the masterpieces we possess today. Even the time at which the texts we know were actually written down, and what stage of composition they represent, are equally
uncertain. This uncertainty extends to the subject matter. We can no more
state for a fact whether a Trojan War actually ever took place, let alone
whether it bore any relation to the conflict described in the Iliad, than we can
form a confident picture of “Homer”. All we have, as T. S. Eliot said in a different poetic context, are “hints and guesses, hints followed by guesses.”
The plot of the Iliad is a good place to begin, since at least we know a
reasonable amount about the early myth (itself an ambiguous term) concerning the origin and events of the Trojan War. The first striking fact for
any newcomer to the scene is how little of the myth actually takes place
within the Iliad itself, which covers less than two months—fifty-one days, to
be precise—of a war that lasted ten long years, and of which the antecedents
looked back almost as far, just as the consequences stretched out a good
decade into the future. All that the narrative of the Iliad covers are the events
precipitated, in the ninth year of the war, by a quarrel between Agamemnōn,
commander in chief of the invading Achaian forces, and Achilles, his most
brilliant warrior. A Trojan priest of Apollo, Chrysēs, comes to their camp
offering ransom for his daughter Chryseïs, currently a prisoner allotted as
booty to Agamemnōn. At first Agamemnōn brusquely—and against general feeling—rejects his offer. Chrysēs prays to Apollo, who visits the
Achaian camp with a devastating plague. The Achaian priest Kalchas
explains the plague, correctly, as a direct result of Agamemnōn’s rejection of
Chrysēs’ offer. Faced with this, Agamemnōn agrees to return Chryseïs, but
insists on being given a replacement by the Achaians: honor and status are
involved. A contemptuous speech by Achilles sharpens Agamemnōn’s
resolve: he threatens to take Achilles’ own captive woman, Briseïs, in lieu of
the one he is giving up, and in due course does so.
This provokes the almost superhuman wrath (mēnis) in Achilles that
leads him to withdraw himself and his troops from the war effort, with
alarming results for the Achaians. His rage persists, defying all efforts to
change his mind (including an offer by Agamemnōn to return Briseïs with
additional placatory gifts) until the death in battle, at the hands of the
Trojan Hektōr, of Achilles’ dear comrade Patroklos, who has borrowed
Achilles’ own armor for the purpose. This finally brings Achilles back into
action, with the sole aim of killing Hektōr—which he duly does, and then
savagely maltreats his victim’s corpse. Outraged, the gods on Olympos, led
by Zeus, compel Achilles to accept ransom from Hektōr’s father, the aged
king Priam, and to return his body for burial. The sight of Priam stirs unexpected feelings of compassion in Achilles; the Iliad ends with Hektōr’s
This epic tragedy forms a small part only of a general narrative that was,
clearly, familiar in detail to all who heard or, later, read it: casual, and unexplained, references to what follows occur at intervals throughout the text of
the Iliad that we have today, showing that knowledge of the basic plot line
was taken as a given from a very early period during the oral transmission of
lays concerning the Trojan War. That plot line, in brief, is as follows.
It begins with the Judgment of Paris, an ahistorical legendary scenario if
ever there was one. At the marriage of the Thessalian warrior Pēleus to the
sea-nymph Thetis, attended by gods as well as mortals, Eris (Strife personified) mischievously makes trouble between three powerful goddesses, Hērē,
Athēnē, and Aphrodītē, by provoking them1 to quarrel over which of the
three has the best claim to beauty. Zeus (who has long coveted Thetis, but is
marrying her off to a mortal because of a prophecy that she’ll give birth to a
man greater than his father) has Hermēs send the contentious trio to Mt.
1. By throwing down before them the famous golden Apple of Discord, inscribed “To the
Ida, where Paris Aléxandros—son of King Priam of Troy, but exposed at
birth because of a prophecy that he would bring disaster on his city, and
brought up by a shepherd family—is tending his flocks. He is to settle their
quarrel, and duly does so. Hērē promises him kingship, Athēnē will ensure
that he becomes a great warrior, Aphrodītē guarantees his conquest of the
world’s most beautiful woman. (Why, apart from pure egotism, goddesses
should not only accept the verdict of an admittedly good-looking shepherd
boy, but offer him bribes for it, is never made entirely clear.) Inevitably, his
vote goes to Aphrodītē. By so doing, he makes enemies of two great goddesses. He also, in the long run, provides a casus belli for the Trojan War (as
Zeus has planned all along, with a view to shrinking the world’s excessively
large population through slaughter), since when he meets, and falls for, the
world’s most beautiful woman, Helen, she is already married to King Menelaös of Sparta.
Years pass. Paris Aléxandros is recognized and restored as a prince of Troy.
As such, he makes a state visit to the Spartan ménage of Helen and Menelaös, and, aided by Aphrodītē (who has not forgotten her promise), not only
bedazzles and sails off with an all-too-willing Helen while Menelaös’s guest,
but also compounds his alienation of marital affection by removing a sizable
haul of family property in addition to the lady, though her nine-year-old
daughter Hermionē, a potential embarrassment on the honeymoon, is
left behind. They have a following wind, a calm sea, and reach Troy in
three days: clearly Aphrodītē, like Artemis, can control the weather for the
benefit of her favorites. (An alternative version has a spiteful Hērē, who
clearly hasn’t forgotten or forgiven the Judgment, hit them with a storm
that takes them to Sidon, which Paris Aléxandros duly captures en route to
When embassies fail to have Menelaös’s wife, and her property, returned,
his brother Agamemnōn, “lord of men” (anax andrōn), assembles a huge expeditionary force from the various Mycenean kingdoms of Hellas—Argos,
Pylos, Tiryns, Orchomenos, and Ithákē among them, in addition to Menelaös’s Sparta and Agamemnōn’s own stronghold of Mykēnai (Mycenae)—to
recover Helen by force, and sack and destroy Troy into the bargain. (These
warriors are known in the Iliad not as Hellenes, but, more locally, as Achaians,
or Danaäns, or Argives.) An omen is interpreted to mean that the war will last
ten years. As though to hint that the length of this campaign will be in large
part caused by inefficiency, a first expedition fizzles out embarrassingly after
the Achaians make landfall at Teuthrania, mistake it for Troy, sack it, and, on
discovering their error, sail back home. When assembled a second time, at the
port of Aulis, the fleet is initially held up by contrary winds due (as Kalchas
Author Homer Isbn 9780520281417 File size 2MB Year 2015 Pages 544 Language English File format PDF Category Poetry Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare One of the oldest extant works of Western literature, the Iliad is a timeless epic poem of great warriors trapped between their own heroic pride and the arbitrary, often vicious decisions of fate and the gods. Renowned scholar and acclaimed translator Peter Green captures the Iliad in all its surging thunder for a new generation of readers. Featuring an enticingly personal introduction, a detailed synopsis of each book, a wide-ranging glossary, and explanatory notes for the few puzzling in-text items, the book also includes a select bibliography for those who want to learn more about Homer and the Greek epic. This landmark translationspecifically designed, like the oral original, to be read aloudwill soon be required reading for every student of Greek antiquity, and the great traditions of history and literature to which it gave birth. Download (2MB) Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil with a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems by Charles Rowan Beye Relative Chronology In Early Greek Epic Poetry Digenes Akrites: New Approaches to Byzantine Heroic Poetry Darkness Visible: A Study of Vergils Aeneid Interactions of Thought and Language in Old English Poetry Load more posts