Every generation and culture needs its own version of The Iliad — one that capture the spirit of the original for a contemporary audience, whether Alexander Pope’s rhymed verse of the 18th century or dense Dickensian prose of 19th-century translations. Barry B. Powell’s new free verse translation of The Iliad was written with the modern English speaker in mind, and with the idea that the language Homer uses was colloquial and accessible to his contemporaries.
Every Ancient Greek knew their names: Odysseus, Penelope, Telemachas, Nestor, Helen, Menelaos, Ajax, Kalypso, Nausicaä, Polyphemos, Ailos… The trials and tribulations of these characters occupied the Greek mind so much that they found their way into ancient art, whether mosaics or ceramics, mirrors or sculpture.
In the first book of The Iliad, Homer calls for a muse to help him recount the story of Achilles, the epic Greek hero of the Trojan War. The poet begins his account nine years after the start of Trojan war, with the capture of two maidens, Chryseis by Agamemnon, the commander of the Achaean Army, and Briseis by the hero Achilles.
The gods and various mythological creatures — from minor gods to nymphs to monsters — play an integral role in Odysseus’s adventures. They may act as puppeteers, guiding or diverting Odysseus’s course; they may act as anchors, keeping Odysseus from journeying home; or they may act as obstacles, such as Cyclops, Scylla and Charbidis, or the Sirens.
Homer’s The Iliad is filled with references to the gods and other creatures in Greek mythology. The gods regularly interfere with the Trojan War and the fate of various Achaean and Trojan warriors. In the following slideshow, images from Barry B. Powell’s new free verse translation of The Iliad by Homer illustrate the gods’ various appearances and roles throughout the epic poem.
Given its central role in Ancient Greek culture, various poignant moments in Homer’s The Iliad can be found on the drinking cups, water jars, mixing bowls, vases, plates, jugs, friezes, mosaics, and frescoes of ancient art. Each depiction dramatizes an event in the epic poem in a different way (sometimes inaccurately).
The Iliad was largely believed to belong to myth and legend until Heinrich Schliemann set out to prove the true history behind Homer’s epic poem and find the remnants of the Trojan War. The businessman turned archaeologist excavated a number of sites in Greece and Turkey, and caused an international sensation.
The ancient Greeks were enormously innovative in many respects, including art and architecture. They produced elaborate illustrations on everything from the glory of the Parthenon to a simple wine cup. Given its epic nature and crucial role in Greek education, many of the characters in the Iliad can be found in ancient art. From the hero Achilles to Hector’s charioteer, these depictions provide great insight into Greek culture and art.
How do you hear the call of the poet to the Muse that opens every epic poem? The following is extract from Barry B. Powell’s new free verse translation of The Odyssey by Homer. It is accompanied by two recordings: one of the first 105 lines in Ancient Greek, the other of the first 155 lines in the new translation. How does your understanding change in each of the different versions?
While The Iliad is a fictional tale of the Trojan War between the Trojan and Achaean warriors during the Late Bronze Age (circa 1500-1200 BC), it is set in a real location: the eastern Mediterranean, along the Aegean Sea. We present a brief slideshow of maps from Barry B. Powell’s new translation of the ancient epic, which illustrate the geographic regions mentioned, from towns and cities, to character origins, and even allied battle grounds.
The Ancient Greeks were incredibly imaginative and innovative in their depictions of scenes from The Odyssey which were usually painted onto vases, kylikes, wine jugs, or mixing bowls.
By Alice Northover
As editor of the OUPblog, I’m probably one of only a handful who read everything we publish over the course of the year. Even those posts which are coded and edited by our Deputy Editors I carefully read through in the hopes of catching any errors (some always make it through). So it’s wonderful to reflect on the amazing work that our authors, editors, and staff have created in 2013. Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites from the past year…
Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey recounts the 10-year journey of Odysseus from the fall of Troy to his return home to Ithaca. The story has continued to draw people in since its beginning in an oral tradition, through the first Greek writing and integration into the ancient education system, the numerous translations over the ages, and modern retellings.
Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey is a classic adventure filled with shipwrecks, feuds, obstacles, mythical creatures, and divine interventions. But how to visualize the thrilling voyage? The map below traces Odysseus’s travel as recounted to the Phaeacians near the end of his wandering across the Mediterranean.
The Ancient Greek gods are all the things that humans are — full of emotions, constantly making mistakes — with the exception of their immortality. It makes their lives and actions often comical or superficial — a sharp contrast to the humans that are often at their mercy. The gods can show their favor, or displeasure; men and women are puppets in their world.