“The rage of Achilles—sing it now, goddess, sing through me
the deadly rage that caused the Achaeans such grief
and hurled down to Hades the souls of so many fighters,
Leaving their naked flesh to be eaten by dogs
and carrion birds, as the will of Zeus was accomplished”
—Iliad, opening lines (Stephen Mitchell translation)
The Iliad, a Greek poem dating from around 700 BCE, is a defining text of western literature. If you want to see what academics say about it and its author(s), Homer, start with our interview with Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek Emeritus at Oxford University, below.
Which translation of the Iliad should you read? British actor and author Stephen Fry recommends either Robert Fagles’s translation (1969), or that of poet and translator Stephen Mitchell, which was published in 2011.
Of course all those millennia ago, the Iliad would have been principally listened to, and modern technology means that’s once again easily possible by listening to the poem as an audiobook. Our own Iliad audiobook is the Robert Fagles translation, magnificently narrated by the British actor—and veteran of the British Classics scene—Derek Jacobi. You can also opt for the audiobook of the Stephen Mitchell translation, which is narrated by the English-American actor Alfred Molina.
So find a fireside to settle down next to, imagine a bard who has memorised hundreds of lines of poetry, plug in your headphones, and press play.