"Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus / and its devastation." For sixty years, that's how Homer has begun the "Iliad" in English, in Richmond Lattimore's faithful translation--the gold standard for generations of students and general readers. This long-awaited new edition of Lattimore's "Iliad" is designed to bring the book into the twenty-first century--while leaving the "poem" as firmly rooted in ancient Greece as ever. Lattimore's elegant, fluent verses--with their memorably phrased heroic epithets and remarkable fidelity to the Greek--remain unchanged, but classicist Richard Martin has added a wealth of supplementary materials designed to aid new generations of readers. A new introduction sets the poem in the wider context of Greek life, warfare, society, and poetry, while line-by-line notes at the back of the volume offer explanations of unfamiliar terms, information about the Greek gods and heroes, and literary appreciation. A glossary and maps round out the book. The result is a volume that actively invites readers into Homer's poem, helping them to understand fully the worlds in which he and his heroes lived--and thus enabling them to marvel, as so many have for centuries, at Hektor and Ajax, Paris and Helen, and the devastating rage of Achilleus.
Homer was probably born around 725BC on the Coast of Asia Minor, now the coast of Turkey, but then really a part of Greece. Homer was the first Greek writer whose work survives.
He was one of a long line of bards, or poets, who worked in the oral tradition. Homer and other bards of the time could recite, or chant, long epic poems. Both works attributed to Homer - The Iliad and The Odyssey - are over ten thousand lines long in the original. Homer must have had an amazing memory but was helped by the formulaic poetry style of the time.
In The Iliad Homer sang of death and glory, of a few days in the struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans. Mortal men played out their fate under the gaze of the gods. The Odyssey is the original collection of tall traveller's tales. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, encounters all kinds of marvels from one-eyed giants to witches and beautiful temptresses. His adventures are many and memorable before he gets back to Ithaca and his faithful wife Penelope.
We can never be certain that both these stories belonged to Homer. In fact 'Homer' may not be a real name but a kind of nickname meaning perhaps 'the hostage' or 'the blind one'. Whatever the truth of their origin, the two stories, developed around three thousand years ago, may well still be read in three thousand years' time.