Saturday, January 19th, 2013...9:43 am

The Wrath of Achilles (Homer, Iliad 1.1-8)

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Iliad 1.1-8

Μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ’ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή,
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.
Τίς τάρ σφωε θεῶν ἔριδι ξυνέηκε μάχεσθαι;

Alexander Pope (1713):

Achilles’ wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Of woes unnumber’d, heav’nly goddess, sing!
That wrath which hurl’d to Pluto’s gloomy reign
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain;
Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore:
Since great Achilles and Atrides strove,
Such was the sov’reign doom, and such the will of Jove!
Declare, O Muse! In what ill-fated hour
Sprung the fierce strife, from what offended power?

Richmond Lattimore (1951):

Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.
What god was it then set them in together in bitter collision?

Robert Fagles (1990):

Rage––Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving towards its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles
What god drove them to fight with such fury?

Stanley Lombardo (1997):

Rage:
Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades’ dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done.
Begin with the clash between Agamemnon–
The Greek warlord–and godlike Achilles.
Which of the immortals set these two
At each other’s throats?



1 Comment

  • This podcast provides a valuable comparison of the different translations, illustrating the translator’s dilemma – do you sacrifice accuracy to recreate the effect of the original, or stick to the text and lose impact? They are all fine renderings – and taken together they enhance the reading of the original Greek.

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