883: The Iliad by Homer (trans. Powell)

by Gerard


883.01: Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Barry B. Powell. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. 570 pp. ISBN 978-0-1993-2610-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 880: Classical and modern Greek literatures
  • 883: Classical Greek epic poetry and fiction
  • 883.01: Ancient period

Among the first extant works of mankind is Homer’s Iliad. Dating back almost 2,800 years and comprising over 15,000 lines, it stands as a testament to the human imagination. It is a recounting of the famous Trojan war but really only takes place during a few weeks at the end of the war. Through flashbacks and stories within the story, we get the entire magnitude of the struggle. Agamemnon rails against Achilles, Paris duels with Menelaus, Troy is sacked, and the death of Achilles, while untold, is still a tragic affair. Being an epic poem, it has everything under the sun packed into it lines—love, war, trickery, gods, life, and death.

I haven’t read multiple translations of this work, so I can’t speak to Powell’s ability as a translator. His text, however, is a bit monotonous, a bit stilted, and not as poetic as I expected it to be. Of more interest and use are all the supplementary materials provided. There is a good history of the work, plenty of maps, an introduction to Greek poetry, and even a pronunciation dictionary at the end so you can be sure you’re hearing everything correctly. All that helped out a lot as the actual text takes some effort to get through. Readers of Greek mythology probably already have a copy somewhere on their shelves, but this new translation does make for a good introduction to the genre.