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Greek Mythology > Essays > Book Reviews
This translation of The Iliad illuminates the Trojan War, in a way that suits its poetic grandeur. I believe Mr. Lattimore’s use of names was crucial to making the characters as dynamic and graphic as possible. Many writers mix Latin and Greek names indiscriminately, and to bad effect. Mr. Lattimore avoided this trap by remaining 99 % true to the correct Greek names... Achilleus instead of Achilles, Alexandros instead of Paris, Achaians instead of Greeks, etc. I have chosen two simple tests that I think will convince you that Mr. Lattimore has, by far, the best grasp of the language and poetry of Homer: #1, This is a one line test you can do at any bookstore or library... Mr. Lattimore reads Book 18 line 1 as, “So these fought on in the likeness of blazing fire.” Compare that to any other translation on the shelf. It’s a simple phrase but other translators don’t quite say it as well. #2, When Aphrodite is wounded in the battle for Ilion she retreats to Olympus, Zeus scolds her by saying, “No, my child, not for you are the works of warfare. Rather concern yourself only with the lovely secrets of marriage...”. Again, compare this passage to any other translation.
The trials of long suffering Odysseus as he make his way home to Ithaka from the Trojan War. Mr. Lattimore brings this ancient saga to life with his careful use of the Greek names and his unwillingness to ‘make it modern’. I personally found the part where Odysseus met Agamemnon in Hades to be truly sad. The hero, Agamemnon, leader of men, recounts the cowardly way in which he was murdered by his wife and her lover upon his return from Ilion. His wife was so vile that she would not grant him the dignity of closing his eyes as he lay lifeless at her feet (Book 11.425), very sad indeed. Some parts of the book are tough reading, for example: Book 14 lines 83-89. The intent is clear but the literal meaning is hard to grasp without careful reading. However, some parts are delightful reading, Book 8, lines 333-342:
This was the way of the gods as they conversed with each other,
but the lord Apollo son of Zeus, said a word to Hermes:
’Hermes son of Zeus, guide and giver of good things, tell me,
would you, caught tight in these strong fastenings, be willing
to sleep in bed by the side of Aphrodite the golden?’
Then in turn the courier Argeiphontes answered:
’Lord who strikes from afar, Apollo, I wish it could only
be, and there could be thrice this number of endless fastenings,
and all you gods could be looking on and all the goddesses,
and still I would sleep by the side of Aphrodite the golden.
Without doubt, this translation is poetic and dramatic, I recommend it to all.
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