There's not a lot to say about this, except that in a better world we would all be able to read it.
This is the first volume of the Monro-Allen edition of Homer's "Iliad", still the unsurpassed modern edition of the greatest poem by Western literature's greatest poet. Yes, it's in classical Greek, and no, there is no translation. David Monro and Thomas Allen published their four-volume edition of the works of the possibly mythical poet known to us as "Homer" back in 1902. They brought out a second edition in 1908, and a third in 1920. Homer scholarship has not unearthed anything in the meantime which might lead us to make serious changes to Monro and Allen's text.
Most of us first read Homer in translation, of course, and it may interest the common reader to know that this was the edition that both Richmond Lattimore and Robert Fagles used for their very different translations of the poem - Lattimore, grander and closer to the original, in 1951; Fagles, more colloquial and more accessible, in the late 1980s. These translations are still in print, and Fagles at least is a bit of a bestseller.
Still, there is something very exciting about learning enough classical Greek to make one's way into the first lines of this majestic poem: "Menin áeide, thea, Peleïádeo Akhilaos/ouloménin, hè muri Akhaios alge etheke..." - Sing, goddess, the rage of Peleus' son Achilles, and its devastation, which caused such agony to the Greeks...
I am not a cultural snob, in that I do not think that being able to read the Greek and Latin classics in the original makes you into a "better person". All it says about you as a person is that either you had a very specific kind of education, or that you put the hours in to learn two languages that are no longer in common use. My point is that the Classics formed us, no matter how irrelevant we might in our ignorance believe them to be; the more we cut ourselves off from them, the less chance we have to understand where we come from. The reason why the Classics have lasted so long is that they have important things to say and they say them in, for the most part, beautiful and memorable ways. (Okay, Xenophon can sometimes be both boring and untruthful.)
Homer is the ultimate example. If you don't like the poem about men killing each other, read the one about the man who just wants to go home. Get a few books, take a course, learn some Greek. Imagine all the things you'll be able to read in the original - some of the greatest tragedies and funniest comedies in any language, some of the most remarkable philosophy, gripping history, wonderful poetry...
If you're reading this review, you're probably not a common reader but a classics scholar anyway, and you almost certainly have more Greek than I do. So there is little point to this. But I had to say it anyway.
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