View Poll Results: Iliad or Odyssey?

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  • The Iliad

    6 66.67%
  • The Odyssey

    3 33.33%
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Thread: The Iliad or The Odyssey?

  1. #1
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    The Iliad or The Odyssey?

    Dear readers:

    Which of Homer's two epics do you prefer? The Iliad or The Odyssey?

    My preference is with The Iliad, which many seem to prefer. Harold Bloom, Shelby Foote, Longinus, and others are among the luminous names that have loved this war epic more. An English professor of mine happens to enjoy Iliad more.

    I love both, though.

  2. #2
    Watcher by Night mtpspur's Avatar
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    Put me down on the side of the Odyssey but this is really like comparing the movies Alien and Aliens--two superb films with a different story to tell in the same setting. The Iliad is basically a war story and the Odyssey a quest (to return home). Both have great characters and remarkable incidents but really two different from each other it's difficult to separate the two in the heart much like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility--same author-different goals to the story.

  3. #3
    Registered User Red Terror's Avatar
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    While the Odyssey is more accessible of the two, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I ended up putting it aside many times before I finished it. Ditto for the Iliad.

    I am reminded of Voltaire's Candide of which the following is an excerpt:

    They sat down to table, and after an excellent dinner they went into the library. Candide, seeing a magnificently bound edition of Homer, commended his most illustrious host on his good taste.

    "There," said he, "is a book that was once the delight of the great Pangloss, the best philosopher in Germany."

    "It is not mine," answered Pococurante coolly. "They used at one time to make me believe that I took a pleasure in reading him. But that continual repetition of battles, so extremely like one another; those gods that are always active without doing anything decisive; that Helen who is the cause of the war, and who yet scarcely appears in the piece; that Troy, so long besieged without being taken; all these together caused me great weariness. I have sometimes asked learned men whether they were not as weary as I of that work. Those who were sincere have owned to me that the poem made them fall asleep; yet it was necessary to have it in their library as a monument of antiquity, or like those rusty medals which are no longer of use in commerce."


    Candide, Chapter XXV


    P.S. I've never made it past the 4th book of the Aeneid.
    Last edited by Red Terror; 05-01-2017 at 05:11 PM.
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    Part of the issue is the translation. I highly recommend Stephen Mitchell's Illiad. You might also try Illiad from the 'Great Books of World Literature' Series. It's been out so long now that you can check it out at your local library. The do the Illiad in Prose and if you read that you'll understand the story more easily and then move on to the Mitchell. I don't know that the Odyssey is more accessible per se, but the plot moves along more quickly and the events are more extreme on a regular basis.

  5. #5
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Prior to 1800, the Iliad was considered the great work of epic literature. War, heroism, and masculinity were honored in this great work. Lovelace would approve.

    The Odyssey is about a longing for more homely pleasures, and some modern tastes prefer it. Joyce wrote the seminal twentieth century novel based on the quest for home it entails.

    I like them both.
    Last edited by Ecurb; 05-03-2017 at 12:13 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Prior to 1800, the Iliad was considered the great work of epic literature. War, heroism, and masculinity were honored in this great work. Lovelace would approve.

    The Odyssey is about a longing for more homely pleasures, and some modern tastes prefer it. Joyce wrote the seminal twentieth century novel based on the quest for home it entails.

    I like them both.
    Wasn't it the Aeneid that was considered the pinnacle of literature?
    Last edited by Leopard; 05-04-2017 at 12:11 PM.

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    Yeah, it was also more well-read, since people was more familiar to Latim than Homer's Greek. One of the points in Voltaire tirade is exactly that many people praised Homer, but few have read him.
    #foratemer

  8. #8
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Poetry is what is lost in translation. Reading a prose translation of a poem in a foreign language is like an opera without the music.

    (I dip into John Dryden's translation of the Aeniad from time to time as I am amused by Dryden's poetic style. I read the Iliad is some modern quasi poetic translation and realized that after the touching scene in Book 1 of Hector and his wife, all the action is describing fighting. I'm totally bored by action movies and they are no better if written a couple of millennia ago in Attic Greek. The Odyssey has far more variety of action.)
    Previously JonathanB

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  9. #9
    Registered User Drake's Avatar
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    Both Iliad and the Odyssey are major master works of literature. I even had the opportunity to study and read a morsel of the Iliad in ancient greek in my last year of high school. It might appear selfish but I preferred the Odyssey over the Iliad because it was telling the story, the fate and the mistake of one man.

    The Odyssey is both fun and sad to read. It contains also very strong moments such as when Telemachus and his father reunited and while the Iliad only tells a piece of the Trojan war, the Odyssey is very precise about the psychology of Odysseus.

    Also Sio (if you allow me to shorten your username) is right : our perception about the text depends also on the skills of the translator and their wish.

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    Alexander Pope's translation of the Iliad is astoundingly beautiful. You have to take it slowly, reading a bit at a time, but it is worth it! He truly brings the poetry out of the Iliad in a way that no other English translator has.

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    Pope's heroic couplets got on my nerves, and couplets don't always get on my nerves. That said, some of those couplets are pretty amazing.

    I prefer Robert Fagles and Richmond Lattimore. Fagles for speed, and Lattimore to get closer to the feel of the poem, and for its grander feel.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vota View Post
    Pope's heroic couplets got on my nerves, and couplets don't always get on my nerves. That said, some of those couplets are pretty amazing.

    I prefer Robert Fagles and Richmond Lattimore. Fagles for speed, and Lattimore to get closer to the feel of the poem, and for its grander feel.
    I haven’t read Pope, but I love Fagles and Lattimore.

    Caroline Alexander did a translation of The Iliad, which I find pretty swell and amazing.

    For Elizabethan awesomeness, check out George Chapman’s Iliads. There’s a reason why Keats called Chapman’s homer “loud and bold”—its very brash, bold, exuberant, archaic, complicated, weirdly interesting

  13. #13
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    About halfway through The Iliad (E.V. Rieu translation) I became aware I was reading a great work of literature. I never got that feeling with The Odyssey. nor have I ever really worked out why I am so sure it is the superior work. It's greatness sort of sneaks up on you.
    ay up

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    The Odyssey is an "easier" read. I read a spanish prose translation, and it seemed to me like a standard action-adventure novel. Ulysses is a really interesting character, while Achilles became annoying in some parts of The Iliad.

  15. #15
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    Two great tastes that taste great together.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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