The Iliad & the Odyssey

by Homer

Other authorsSamuel Butler (Translator), Michael Dirda (Introduction)
Paper Book, 2010




Barnes & Noble Inc (2010), Edition: COLLECTOR'S EDITION, 732 pages


Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are unquestionably two of the greatest epic masterpieces in Western literature. Though more than 2,700 years old, their stories of brave heroics, capricious gods, and towering human emotions are vividly timeless. The Iliad can justly be called the world's greatest war epic. The terrible and long-drawn-out siege of Troy remains one of the classic campaigns, the heroism and treachery of its combatants unmatched in song and story. Driven by fierce passions and loyalties, men and gods battle to a devastating conclusion. The Odyssey chronicles the many trials and adventures Odysseus must pass through on his long journey home from the Trojan wars to his beloved wife. Though the stormy god of the ocean has sworn vengeance against him, and witches and sirens try to lure him off course, Odysseus is clever and has the brilliant goddess Athena on his side.… (more)

Original publication date

c. 8th Century BCE "Iliad" / "Odyssey" (Homeric epic poems)



1435110439 / 9781435110434


(645 ratings; 4.1)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mattries37315

The wrath of Achilles not only begins the oldest piece of Western literature, but is also its premise. The Iliad has been the basis of numerous clichés in literature, but at its root it is a story of a war that for centuries was told orally before being put down by Homer in which the
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great heroes of Greece fought for honor and glory that the men of Homer’s day could only imagine achieving.

The story of the Trojan War is well known and most people who have not read The Iliad assume they know what happens, but in fact at the end of the poem the city of Troy still stands and a wooden horse has not been mentioned. The Iliad tells of several weeks in the last year of the war that revolve around the dishonorable actions of Agamemnon that leads to Achilles refusing to fight with the rest of the Greeks and the disaster it causes in the resulting engagements against the Trojans. But then Achilles allows his friend Patroclus to lead his men into battle to save the Greek ships from being put to the torch only for Patroclus to advance to the walls of Troy and be slain by Hector. The wrath of Achilles turns from Agamemnon to Hector and the Trojans, leading to the death of Troy’s greatest warrior and the poem ending with his funeral.

Although the actions of Achilles and Hector take prominence, there are several other notable “storylines” one doesn’t know unless you’ve read epic. First and foremost is Diomedes, the second greatest fighter amongst the Greeks but oftentimes overlooked when it comes to adaptations especially to other important individuals like Odysseus, Menelaus, and the pivotal Patroclus. The second is how much the Olympians and other minor deities are thought to influence the events during this stretch of the war and how both mortals and immortals had to bow to Fate in all circumstances. The third is how ‘nationalistic’ the epic is in the Greek perspective because even though Hector is acknowledged the greatest mortal-born warrior in the war on both sides, as a Trojan he has to have moments of cowardice that none of the Greek heroes are allowed to exhibit and his most famous kill is enabled by Apollo instead of all by himself. And yet, even though Homer writes The Iliad as a triumphant Greek narrative the sections that have Hector’s flaws almost seem hollow as if Homer and his audience both subconsciously know that his epic is not the heroic wrath of Achilles but the tragic death of Hector.

The Iliad is the ultimate classic literature and no matter your reading tastes one must read it to have a better appreciation for all of literature as a whole. Although the it was first written over 2500 years ago, it shows the duality of heroic feats and complete tragedy that is war.


The crafty hero of The Iliad is in the last leg of his long ten year journey home, but it not only his story that Homer relates to the reader in this sequel to the first war epic in literature. The Odyssey describes the Odysseus’ return to Ithaca after twenty years along with the emergence of his son Telemachus as a new hero while his faithful wife Penelope staves off suitors who are crowding their home and eating their wealth daily.

Although the poem is named after his father, Telemachus’ “arc” begins first as the reader learns about the situation on Ithaca around Odysseus’ home and the search he begins for information on his father’s whereabouts. Then we shift to Odysseus on a beach longing to return home when he is informed his long sojourn is about to end and he sets off on a raft and eventually arrives among the Phaeacians, who he relates the previous ten years of his life to before they take him back home. On Ithaca, Odysseus and his son eventually meet and begin planning their revenge on the Penelope’s suitors that results in slaughter and a long-awaited family reunion with Penelope.

First and foremost The Odyssey is about coming home, in both Telemachus’ and Odysseus’ arcs there are tales of successful homecomings, unsuccessful homecomings, and homecoming that never happen of heroes from The Iliad. Going hand-in-hand with homecomings is the wanderings of other heroes whose adventures are not as exciting or as long as Odysseus’. Interwoven throughout the poem with homecomings and wanderings is the relationship between guests and hosts along with the difference between good and bad for both that has long reaching consequences. And finally throughout Odysseus’ long journey there are tests everywhere of all types for him to overcome or fail, but the most important are Penelope’s both physical and intimate.

Even though it is a sequel, The Odyssey is in complete contrast to The Iliad as instead of epic battle this poem focuses on a hero overcoming everything even the gods to return home. Suddenly the poet who gave readers a first-hand account of war shows his readers the importance of returning from war from the perspective of warriors and their families. Although they are completely different, The Odyssey in fact compliments The Iliad as well as completing it which means if you read one you have to read the other.
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LibraryThing member SumisBooks
It's a damn Greek tragedy!
The Iliad takes us through the battle of Troy and the Greek invasion. We are able to Marvel at great warriors like Hector and Achilles. We are able to hear of their struggles and their woes and eventually their deaths.
The Odyssey takes us through the 10-year struggle to
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return home after the Trojan War has ended. Odysseus battles mystical creatures and the Wrath of the Gods as he tries desperately to come back home to his throne.
Homer is definitely a master of the Greek epic. His writing resembles that of a playwright of modern day and even harkens back to a bit of Shakespearean feeling in the emotion of the characters. This is definitely a classic for the ages and in my opinion one that should be read once by everyone.
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LibraryThing member automatthias
At the core of Western culture, there is ancient Rome and Greece, and at the core of the ancient Roman and Greek culture, there is Homer. When reading, I really did feel that the Iliad and Odyssey contain the basic building blocks of the Western way of thinking. For example, Achilles and Odysseus
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were arguing about what to do next, and each could make a case that sounded convincing. But the ideas were not equally good.

This translation uses plain English, with no hexameter of rhymes, which helped me focus on the story.
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LibraryThing member reannon
It has been a long time since I read them, but the Odyssey made more of an impression when I was young. I do remember though, thinking that one scene in the Iliad and one in the Bible were quite similar, of Apollo in one case and God in the other sending arrows of plague into the enemy.
LibraryThing member athenamilis
The Odyssey is a classic story typically studied by students in high school English classes. The story falls into the category of epic poetry. It relates the tale of Odysseus and his journey back to Ithica from his victory at Troy. The gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus play a great role in
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controlling Odysseus' fate, but ultimately his wit and determination bring him home. The use of figurative language, the difficult-to-pronounce names of characters and places, and the knowledge of Greek mythology required to understand the complexities of the plot make the Odyssey a difficult story for students to read alone. Students whose reading levels are above average often struggle with this text. On the other hand, the knowledge gained from having read a classic story such as this is well worth the trouble. It is an adventure story filled with supernatural beings, exotic locations, and raw human emotion. The book creates and defines the hero archetype.
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LibraryThing member Lilic
I was thoroughly relieved that I would be spared a metric translation of the books, as that would have been very tiresome reading. The translation seems well done, though it is of course never perfect. I love the stories, the theme's are timeless.
LibraryThing member rizeandshine
Other than the gruesome, violent images often presented in magnificent detail (hey, it is a war!), I really enjoy reading Homer's epic poem. Where else are we given such insight into stubborn Agamemnon, noble Hector, intelligent and well-spoken Odysseus, lazy and spineless Paris, guilt-ridden
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Helen, the wrath of the warrior Achille's and how vain he can be? We can identify with Trojan and Greek alike, agonizing with both sides over the destructiveness of war. We get the inside story on all the Greek and Trojan heroes and what makes them tick. And best of all, we get a behind-the-scenes, humorous look at the Greek gods; their strengths, weaknesses and all the squabbles and fuss that take place between them. The Iliad is really incomplete without The Odyssey, so I will be reading and reviewing that book as well. I had read a synopsis of the adventures of Odysseus in high school, but it was nice to read the entire epic poem to get the full story. Odysseus is an intelligent, cunning hero and you are really rooting for him by the time he finally makes it home from his long journey and is ready to take action against the usurpers of his household. So many stories of this time period end in tragedy, it's nice that there is a satisfactory end to Odysseus's story after so many years of pain and heartache for him and his family. I enjoyed The Odyssey more than The Iliad because it seems a more intimate story overall. We really come to know the man Odysseus, his son Telemachus and wife, Penelope through their thoughts and interactions with others. The Iliad takes place during the Trojan war and focuses on the Greek and Trojan warriors and what takes place on the battlefield. The Odyssey is not quite a continuation of the Iliad, but takes place 10 years after the end of the Trojan war from which the great warrior Odysseus never returned. It seems he had some trouble on the high seas and on various islands along the way and has been unable to make it home. In the meantime, his home has been invaded by suitors who think he is dead and want to marry Penelope. Telemachus is not strong or powerful enough to throw them out and goes on a journey to find news of his father. With the help of the gods, Odysseus and Telemachus are finally able to defend their home. I would recommend reading both The Iliad and Odyssey together but if you're only going to pick up one, read The Odyssey.
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LibraryThing member Tabtro
Really enjoyed the introduction by Robert Knox. I paired parts of the introduction with The Iliad before I began reading either book by Homer. Some of the introduction will give away too much of the story if you don't already know it, and it would be better to read those parts after you've finished
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either book, but most of it (toward the beginning) will introduce some of the important and interesting issues surrounding the book and draw you into reading the books.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Together these two works attributed to Homer are considered among the oldest surviving works of Western literature, dating to probably the eighth century BCE, and are certainly among the most influential. I can't believe I once found Homer boring. In my defense, I was a callow teen, and having a
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book assigned in school often tends to perversely make you hate it. But then I had a "Keats conversion experience." Keats famously wrote a poem in tribute to a translation of Homer by Chapman who, Keats wrote, opened to him "realms of gold." My Chapman was Fitzgerald, although on a reread of The Odyssey I tried the Fagles translation and really enjoyed it. Obviously, the translation is key if you're not reading in the original Greek, and I recommend looking at several side by side to see which one best suits.

A friend of mine who is a classicist says she prefers The Illiad--that she thinks it the more mature book. The Illiad deals with just a few weeks in the last year of the decade-long Trojan War. As the opening lines state, it deals with how the quarrel between the Greek's great hero Achilles and their leader Agamemnon "caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss and crowded brave souls into the undergloom." So, essentially, The Illiad is a war story. One close to three thousand years old with a mindset very alien to ours. One where unending glory was seen as a great good over personal survival or family. One where all felt that their ends were fated. And one with curiously human, or at least petty, gods. Some see the work as jingoistic, even pro-war, and I suppose it can be read that way, but what struck me was the compassion with which Homer wrote of both sides. We certainly care for the Trojan Hector as much as or more (in my case much more) than for the sulky and explosive Achilles. For the Trojan King Priam as much or more (in my case much more) than King Agamemnon. Homer certainly doesn't obscure the pity, the waste, and the grief war brings. And there are plenty of scenes in the work that I found unforgettable: The humorous scene where Aphrodite is wounded and driven from the field. The moving scene between Hector and his wife and child. The grief Helen feels in losing a friend. The confrontation between Priam and Achilles.

I do love The Illiad, but I'd give The Odyssey a slight edge. Even just reading general Greek mythology, Odysseus was always a favorite, because unlike figures such as Achilles or Heracles he succeeded on his wits, not muscle. It's true, on this reread, especially in contrast to say The Illiad's Hector, I do see Odysseus' dark side. The man is a pirate and at times rash, hot-tempered, even vicious. But I do feel for his pining for home and The Odyssey is filled with such a wealth of incident--the Cyclops, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens--and especially Hades, the forerunner of Dante's Hell. And though my friend is right that the misogynist ancient Greek culture isn't where you go for strong heroines, I love Penelope; described as the "matchless queen of cunning," she's a worthy match for the crafty Odysseus. The series of recognition scenes on Ithaca are especially moving and memorable--I think my favorite and the most poignant being that of Odysseus' dog Argos.

Epic poems about 2,700 years old, in the right translation both works can nevertheless speak to me more eloquently than many a contemporary novel.
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LibraryThing member jamtin
Chapman's translation of Homer is my favorite, for its language and invention. The Chatto & Windus 1875 is the oldest edition I have, but unfortunately cramped in two-column format, with many lines awkwardly broken.
LibraryThing member AlexaRay
What better way to understand 12th century Troy than Homer's epic poem the Iliad. Homer's epic poems are some of the oldest surviving works of Western Literature. They are extremely important to learning about the Western civilization. I read both of these poems in my A.P. English class and I would
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use these in my curriculum. Students learn about violence and the effects of war. It's important to learn about these topics because we can learn from their mistakes.
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LibraryThing member hbergander
Germany is a country without access to the Mediterranean Sea. The longing for the cradle of the Ancient World grew out of German Classicism and Romanticism, which would have been very poor without Homer’s epics.
LibraryThing member Juande
Great books!
LibraryThing member Velmeran
A classic's classic, these tales are like the ESPN of history. A long listing of who's who in ancient history. Interestingly, while they do contain some of the standard items attributed to the, others are not actually in these two stories. It pays to read them.
LibraryThing member a.ollikainen
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are the first books in Hutchins’ and Adler’s Great Books of the Western World series, and is the earliest writing included in Dr. Eliot’s Harvard Classics. This was the second book I read from a reading list I compiled from Adler, Eliot and several other sources.
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These stories are the foundation to the later writings by the great Greek play writes, and by extension to many of the Great Books throughout Western history into the present.

This volume continues the trend of publishing houses taking old, copyright expired books, putting them in pretty packaging and selling them as new releases. For what it is, this edition is suburb—the binding is absolutely beautiful. The text of this book is the Samuel Butler translation, and is available at no cost through project Gutenberg and the kindle store as well. I read the digital on the bus and the codex at the home—very handy.

The translation is done in prose, in what Butler assures us is as a close to word for word as was practical. Even in prose, Butler does an admirable job of letting the language flow while telling the story. Although at times awkwardly Victorian, the language doesn’t feel forced and after a short period of acclimation only occasionally caused this reader to stumble. In his forward, Butler writes how he resisted writing his translation in an Edwardian style for, in short, for what was a perfectly good Edwardianism, may not have had the same affect on the Victorian. Likewise, I make the same observation: what may have been a perfectly good Victorianism may not have the same affect on someone in 2012.

One thing the reader will notice immediately is that in the Butler translation, the Odyssey has a completely difference voice than the Iliad. I am not sure if this is the case in the Greek, or even other translations, but it is very apparent in this translation. This really shouldn’t be a surprise; however, as Butler believed the two stories have different authors as he wrote in his forward to the 1898 edition. I can’t discern how much of the voice change is resultant from the form and style of the Greek, or the product of a translator interjecting his own beliefs into his own mind’s ear.

Learning ancient Greek to read the originals would rock but really isn’t an option right now (or for the foreseeable future). If I had it to do over, I would have read a more contemporary translation such as that from Dr. Richmond Lattimore, formerly of Bryn Mawr College as my primary, with Butler as a secondary reference.
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LibraryThing member FourOfFiveWits
My rating isn't a reflection of the story, as it deserves five stars, but of the edition. Specifically the prose version of The Odyssey.
LibraryThing member ngennaro
Long book for children but excellent illustrations throughout. Binding and paper and very well made. Of course the story is a classic.
LibraryThing member JHemlock
How do you imply the world epic and still allow for more room for well....just being EPIC? This is the Great Grandfather of EPIC stories. These two volumes over the millennia have laid the ground work for what Heroes, villians and far reaching adventure would ever be. There is not much that can be
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said that literature is not already aware of when it comes to the horizons, characters and scope of the men, women and everything else in these stories.
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