My translation of the Iliad of Homer

This is a translation I actually did from a Greek text of the Iliad of Homer.  Homeric Greek is rather ideosynchratic as Greek dialects go.  Mine was informed a great deal by (IMO the finest) English translation, done by Richmond Lattimore.  I did this for what would have been Greek 301 at Western Washington University, taught by the brilliant, beautiful and kind-hearted Diane Johnson, one of my very favorite people on this (or any other) planet.

For those not familiar with the translation process, one doesn’t simply look at the text in the original language and read it.  For this translation, I copied line after line from the text into my notebook in Greek, on alternating lines, then I pulled out my (Middle) Liddell and Scott lexicon and began looking up the unfamiliar words to find the roots, and then tried to figure out the inflections enough to begin carrying that sense into English.  Looking over the work of Dr. Lattimore added insights which, as I said, I leaned upon heavily.  But my translation of these few dozen lines is not simply copying his work.  It benefited again by correction and explanation of the grammatical tricks being played provided by Diane, who has forgotten more about those grammatical tricks than I will ever know.  Her languages in which she has fluency are numerous and intimidating to consider.  I shan’t brag for her.  But I will bring one of her pet peeves here — it is not correct nor fair to refer to languages like Ancient Greek and Latin as “dead languages.”  Her preferred terminology is that they are “literary languages,” which are not the same as their linguistic progeny that might carry the same names.  They are the language in which literature has been written, and, on those pages, it is certainly alive in carrying the meaning of those writers of millenia past.  And by learning those languages, we are able to reach back to their work and make it alive in us as well.

This translation was done by me in the Fall of 1995.


Book I — The Wrath of Achilleus

lines 1-43

Sing, goddess, the destructive wrath of Peleus' son Achilleus,
which put upon the Achaians miriad sufferings,
the many strong souls of heroes sent untimely to Hades,
the spoil it made their bodies for the dogs,
for all birds of prey, completing the will of Zeus
beginning from when first stood apart conflicting
the son of Atreus, leader of men, and godlike Achilleus.
Which of the gods brought them both together fighting?
The son of Leto and Zeus.  For, stirred in his anger with the king
he stirred up evil sickness to the army, the people died
because the son of Atreus esteemed lightly Chryses the priest.
For he came to the side of the Achaians' swift ship,
requesting the release of his daughter, bearing countless ransom,
having in his hands wreaths of Apollo, who strikes from afar off,
and a scepter with gold upon it, and beseeching all the Achaians 
but the two sons of Atreus he beseeched the most, commanders of the people:
"Sons of Atreus and also other well-greaved Achaians,
may the gods who have homes at Olympus give you, on the one hand,
to utterly sack Priam's City, well to return homeward
but my beloved daughter, on the other hand, may you all free and take these things
standing in awe of Zeus' son, Apollo, who strikes from afar off."
Just then the others, on the one hand, all the Achaians shouted assent
to respect the priest and also to take the glorious ransom.
But this did not please Atreus' son Agamemnon in his heart,
but evil sent him forth, and with hard words sent him away:
"Let me not find you, old man, around our hollow ships
and neither tarrying now nor coming here later
lest now, I assure you, the golden scepter and the wrath of the god not protect you.
I will not release her:  before that, old age will come upon her
in my house in Argos, that land far away from her,
weaving and coming to my bed.
But go.  Do not irritate me, so that you may go more safely."
so he said, and so the old man obeyed his word,
left silently along the beach of the roaring sea.
After that, going very far away, the old man prayed
to King Apollo, the one Leto of the beautiful hair bore:
"Hear me, silver bow, you who have wrapped around,
ruling over both Killan and most holy Tenedos by force,
mouse-god, if ever I roofed your temple that was pleasing to you
or if ever I burned the fat-wrapped thigh-bones
of bulls and goats,
may the Danaans pay for my tears by means of your arrows."
Thus he said....

lines 101-108

This, he said, and cut down to such 
heroic son of Atreus, far-ruling Agamemnon, burning
annoyed, passion filling his heart with blackness
eyes burning like fire.
Kalchas first with a threatening look he addressed:
"Prophet of evils, never did you tell me the truth.
Always is your heart fond of evil things to be prophesied.
You never yet speak any good word...."

lines 121-131

Said swift-footed Achilleus:
"Most noble son of Atreus, covetous of all,
how will the high-minded Achaians give you a gift?
We do not know of quantities of public property stored anywhere.
That we took from the cities we destroyed has been distributed amongst us
It is not fair that the people should collect these things
together again.  But now, give her up to the god, still we Achaians
three or four times over will repay you, if Zeus 
gives us the well walled city of Troy to sack."
Replying, spoke Lord Agamemnon:
"Not that way, good fighter though you be, godlike Achilleus...."

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