This Lattimore translation of "The Odyssey" was the first book I read last quarter for my Comparative Literature class, and it became a preview of coming wonders. I had neglected the old classics out of ignorance and prejudice (these two tend to go together) and "The Odyssey" was one of those books that forced me to look at an entire collection of genres and literary epochs in a different, far more positive way. I do not know Greek, therefore I cannot say whether the translation is absolutely faithful to the original, but it flows well when read silently and it sounds even better when I read it aloud, alone at night. This is the story of Odysseus, King of Ithaka, Captain of the Greeks, who must return to his homeland and his family after helping defeat the Trojans. Amazingly enough, many people seem to have bought entirely into the idea of Odysseus as a noble, courageous, and honorable leader of men who gets sidetracked solely because of the wrath of Poseidon. I finished this poem with an entirely different view of its protagonist. To me, Odysseus was an arrogant liar, a murderer and a rapist who did not hesitate to attack people who were not his enemies (the Kikonians on his way back after sacking Troy and killing and/or enslaving most of its people, as reads in Book IX, page 138), and who did not hesitate to endanger the lives of his men just to boast of his deeds (same Book, page 150). This "hero" eventually makes it to Ithaka and ends up drenched in the blood of the suitors of his wife, ordering the torture and death of the serving women who had become lovers of the suitors. His son Telemachos becomes a murderer as well: he kills a man by stabbing him on the back with a javelin. Since the suitors represented the youth of Ithaka's noble families, Odysseus has arranged to create a blood feud with everyone on the island. Only the intervention of Athena will save the day, and after all the bloodshed, all the lies, the pillaging, and the murders, he leaves Ithaka and Penelope once more to wander in other lands and thus follow a prophecy regarding his own death.
"The Odyssey" is a great poem. It is never boring and only after reading it complete one understands how little the film and TV productions kept of the original work, and how poorly we have been served with such adaptations. My reading of this timeless classic is rather different to that of other people who may have much better qualifications in this area. What I got out of it was the impression that Homer, whomever he was, used irony to drive home a message regarding his "hero," and this irony, together with the folklore that surrounded the Trojan War and its participants, helped Euripides, by the Fifth century BC, paint a far more direct and damaging picture of the Greek victors in his "Trojan Women."
I now consider "The Odyssey" necessary reading. Even if you read it and arrive to a different understanding of the poem, I think it will be an extremely valuable experience.