Free Press 2011
Favorite Books of 2011, The New Yorker.
Tolstoy called the Iliad a miracle; Goethe said that it always thrust him into a state of astonishment. Homer’s story is thrilling, and his Greek is perhaps the most beautiful poetry ever sung or written. But until now, even the best English translations haven’t been able to re-create the energy and simplicity, the speed, grace, and pulsing rhythm of the original. Now, thanks to the power of Stephen Mitchell’s language, the Iliad’s ancient story comes to moving, vivid new life, and we are carried along by a poetry that lifts even the most devastating human events into the realm of the beautiful.
Mitchell’s Iliad is also the first translation based on the work of the preeminent Homeric scholar Martin L. West, whose edition of the original Greek identifies many passages that were added after the Iliad was first written down, to the detriment of the music and the story. Omitting these hundreds of interpolated lines restores a dramatically sharper, leaner text. In addition, Mitchell’s illuminating introduction opens the epic still further to our understanding and appreciation.
Hector and Andromache (from Book 6)
At these words, Hector ran from the house, back along
the route he had taken through the broad streets of Troy.
He had crossed the city and come to the Scaean Gates,
where soon he would make his way out onto the plain,
when breathlessly his wife came running to meet him,
Andromache, King Ëétion’s noble daughter
(he had ruled the Cilícians in Thebē under the wooded
slopes of Mount Placus). Now she ran up to meet him,
and behind her a handmaid came who was holding the child
in her arms, an infant, cooing and gurgling, Hector’s
beloved son, as beautiful as a star.
Though Hector had named him Scamándrius, everyone called him
Astýanax, “Lord of the City,” because his father
seemed to them all the one defender of Troy.
Hector smiled as he looked at the boy in silence.
Andromache came even closer and stood beside him
weeping and said to him, taking his hand in hers,
“My dearest, this reckless courage of yours will destroy you.
Have pity now on your little boy and on me,
your unfortunate wife, who before long will be your widow.
Soon the Achaeans will kill you, and when you are gone,
it will be far better for me to die and sink down
under the earth, since once you have met your fate
I will have no comfort—only unending sorrow.
I have no one else. My father and mother are dead.
Achilles cut down my father when he took Thebē,
though he didn’t strip off his armor—respect touched his heart
and he couldn’t do that—he burned his body with all
his beautiful war gear and heaped a mound over his ashes,
and the nymphs of the mountain planted elm trees around it.
I had seven brothers, who lived in my father’s palace,
and all of them, on the very same day, went down
to the realm of Hades; Achilles slaughtered them all
while they were tending their sheep and their lumbering oxen.
As for my mother, the queen of our proud city,
he carried her here along with the rest of his spoils,
then set her free, in exchange for a huge ransom;
but Ártemis shot her down in her father’s halls.
Hector, you are my everything now: my father,
my mother, my brother—and my beloved husband.
Have pity on me. Stay with me here on the tower.
Don’t make your child an orphan, your wife a widow.”
Hector answered her, “Dearest, what you have said
troubles me too. Yet I would feel terrible shame
at facing the men and the long-robed women of Troy
if, like a coward, I shrank from the fighting. Nor can I:
my heart would never allow that; it is my place
to be brave and scorn danger and always fight in the front line,
winning great fame for my father and for myself.
But however it is, deep in my heart I know
that a day will come when the sacred city of Troy
will be devastated, and Priam, and Priam’s people.
And yet it is not their anguish that troubles me so,
nor Hecuba’s, nor even my father King Priam’s,
nor the blood of the many brave brothers of mine who will fall
in the dirt at the hands of their enemies—that is nothing
compared to your grief, when I picture you being caught
by some bronze-armored Achaean who claims you and takes
your freedom away and carries you off in tears.
Then, all your life, in the Argives’ land, you will work
long days, bent over the loom of some stern mistress
or carrying water up from her well—hating it
but having no choice, for harsh fate will press down upon you.
And someone will say, as he sees you toiling and weeping,
‘That is the wife of Hector, bravest of all
the Trojans, tamers of horses, when the great war
raged around Troy.’ And then a fresh grief will flood
your heart, and you will start sobbing again at the thought
of the only man who was able to ward off your bondage.
But may I be dead, with the cold earth piled up upon me,
before I can hear you wail as they drag you away.”
Then Hector reached out to take his son, but the child
shrank back, screaming, into his nurse’s arms,
scared by the flashing bronze and the terrible horsehair
crest that kept shaking at him from the peak of the helmet.
At this, his father and mother both burst out laughing;
and right away Hector took off his helmet and laid it,
glittering, on the ground. And he picked up the child,
dandled him in his arms and stroked him and kissed him
and said this prayer to Zeus and the other immortals:
“Zeus and you other gods who can hear my prayer,
grant that this child, this boy of mine, may grow up
to be as I am, outstanding among the Trojans,
strong and brave, and rule over Troy with great power.
And let people say of him, ‘He is a better man
than his father was,’ as they see him returning from battle,
having killed his enemy, carrying back in triumph
the gore-stained armor to gladden his mother’s heart.”
He handed the child to his wife then, and she took him
to her fragrant breast and smiled with tears in her eyes.
And looking at her, her husband was touched with pity,
and he stroked her face, and he said, “My foolish darling,
please do not take these things so greatly to heart.
No man shall send me to Hades before my time,
and no man, I promise, has ever escaped his fate
from the moment that he was born, whether brave man or coward.
Go now, return to our house and your daily work
at loom and spindle; command your women as well
to go about their work. The men must take care of the fighting—
all men of Troy, but I more than any other.”
As he said this, Hector picked up his gleaming helmet
with its horsehair crest. Andromache walked home, slowly,
and she stopped many times, turning around to look back
and bitterly weeping. And when she came to the palace
of man-killing Hector, she found all her handmaids inside,
and they burst into lamentation. So, in his own house,
they mourned for Hector even though he was alive,
for they thought that he would never return from the fighting
or escape from the deadly hands of the Achaeans.
Paris did not remain in his palace for long.
Once he had put on his beautiful inlaid armor
he rushed through the city, confident of his swift legs.
Just as a stabled horse who has fully eaten
breaks his tether and gallops across the plain,
eager to have a swim in the fast-flowing river,
and exults as he runs—he holds his head high, and his mane
streams in the wind, and he runs on, aware of his own
magnificence, to the fields where the mares are at pasture:
so Paris ran down from the height of Pérgamus, shining
in his armor like sunlight, exulting, laughing out loud,
and his swift legs carried him onward. And right away
he caught up with Hector, as he was leaving the spot
where he just had been speaking so tenderly with his wife.
Paris said, “Here I am, Brother; I must have delayed you
by taking so long and not coming as fast as youwished.”
And Hector answered, “What kind of warrior are you?
No man of any sense could ever belittle
your exploits in war, since you are such a brave fighter;
but then you slack off and willfully hang back from battle,
and my heart is grieved when I hear the contemptuous words
of our men, who endure such hardship because of you.
But come. Later on, we will make these things right, if someday
Zeus grants that we celebrate, drinking wine in our halls
in thanks to the gods for our freedom— if we should ever
manage to drive the Achaeans away from Troy.”
The Shield of Achilles (from Book 18)
With these words he left her there and moved back to the bellows.
He turned them to face the fire and commanded them
to get to work, and all twenty bellows started
to blow on the crucibles, blasting the flames up high
when he needed them to; and when he was not so busy
they blew with a gentler force in whatever direction
he wanted, so that the work could proceed. And he threw
bronze on the fire, and tin and silver and gold,
and he placed the great anvil upon its block, and with one hand
he picked up a pair of tongs to hold the hot metal
and with the other one picked up the mighty hammer.
He began by making a huge and powerful shield,
embellishing it all over. Around its edge
he put a glittering rim, of a triple thickness,
and from it he hung a shield strap inlaid with silver.
The shield itself had five layers, and on the top one
he created marvels with his unmatchable skill.
Upon it he fashioned the earth and the sky and the sea
and the tireless sun and the moon as she grows into fullness
and all the constellations that crown the sky,
the Pleiades, Hyades, and the hunter Oríon,
and the Great Bear (men also call it the Wagon),
who turns in the same place and keeps a close eye on the hunter
and never goes down to bathe in the stream of Ocean.
Upon it he made two cities, alive with people.
In one there were weddings and feasts; they were leading the brides
from the women’s chambers, under the blaze of torches
and through the wide streets, and the wedding song rang out among them.
Young men were leaping and twirling around in the dance,
and the flutes and lyres played joyfully, and the women
stood in their doorways, looking on with delight.
At the place of assembly, meanwhile, a crowd had gathered.
A quarrel had broken out, and two men were disputing
about the blood-price for someone who had been killed.
One man was claiming the right to pay for the death,
while the other refused to accept any compensation,
and each was eager to plead his case to the judges.
The people were cheering them on, some taking the side
of one, some taking the other’s side, while the heralds
tried to control the crowd, and the city elders
were seated on polished stone chairs in the sacred circle,
holding the heralds’ staffs. The men stood before them,
and each made his case, and the elders rose and gave judgments.
Two bars of solid gold, one from each side,
were displayed in the center; they were to be awarded
to the judge who was thought to give the clearest opinion.
Around the other city two forces were camped
in their shining armor. They were debating two plans:
One side wished to attack and plunder the city,
while the other side wished to spare it and, in return
for withdrawing, to claim one half of the city’s possessions.
But the city would not consent; they were secretly arming
for an ambush, hoping to break the siege, and their wives
and children were standing upon the wall to defend it
along with the men who were too old to fight now. The others,
the warriors, were marching out from the city
led by Athena and Ares, fashioned in gold,
both of them huge and beautiful in their gold armor,
and they stood out above the rest, as is fitting for gods;
he had made the humans who marched at their feet much smaller.
And when they arrived at a likely place for the ambush,
in a riverbed where the cattle would come to drink,
they took their position, covered in shining bronze.
At some distance, two scouts were stationed to watch for the sheep
and cattle of the besieging army. These soon
appeared, and two herdsmen came with them, happily playing
on shepherds’ pipes, with no premonition of danger.
And when the ambushers saw them, they charged out and quickly
cut off the herds of cattle and flocks of sheep
and killed the herdsmen. But when the besiegers, still
debating the issue, heard the loud noise from the cattle,
they leaped up onto their chariots and rode off
in pursuit, and they soon caught up with them. Then, by the banks
of the river, they took their position and fought a battle,
and both sides were hurling their bronze-tipped spears at each other,
all of them struggling in combat like living men
and dragging away the enemies they had killed.
Upon it he set rich farmland that had been lying
fallow the year before. It had just been plowed
three times, and plowmen were wheeling their teams across it,
back and forth and up and down the deep furrows.
When they reached the edge of the field and before they turned,
a man would hand them a cup of honey-sweet wine;
then they would turn back, eager to plow through the soil
and reach the other edge of the field for the next turn.
And the land darkened behind them and looked as if
it had just that moment been plowed, although it was fashioned
of pure gold: so marvelous was the craft of its forging.
Upon it he set the estate of a nobleman,
where the hired farmhands were reaping the grain with their sickles.
Some handfuls fell to the ground as they moved through the swath,
and the binders were tying other handfuls in sheaves
with rope made of twisted straw. Three binders stood by,
while behind the reapers children were gathering
the bound sheaves in armfuls and taking them off to be stored,
and the nobleman stood beside them, holding his staff
and silently watching the work with a joyful heart.
Apart from the reaping, under an oak tree, heralds
were preparing a feast; they had sacrificed a large ox
and were busy cutting it up, and the women took barley
and sprinkled the flesh with it for the workers’ dinner.
Upon it he set a large vineyard, heavy with grapes;
it was golden and beautiful, and the rich hanging fruit
was dark, and the vines were trained around poles of silver.
He set a ditch of dark-blue enamel around it,
and around that, a fence of tin. One single path
led to the vineyard; the grape-pickers came and went
along this path whenever they gathered the vintage.
Girls and young men, carefree, with innocent laughter,
carried the honey-sweet fruit in their wicker baskets.
In their midst a boy who was plucking his clear-toned lyre
played heart-pleasing music and sang the ancient lament
for Linus. His voice was clear and lovely, and they
moved to the powerful rhythm; their nimble feet pounded
the earth as they followed him, singing and shouting with joy.
Upon it he fashioned a large herd of straight-horned cattle,
of gold and tin; they were moving from farmyard to pasture
by a murmuring stream and a swaying thicket of reeds.
Along with the cattle four golden herdsmen were walking,
and nine dogs were running beside them. But at the front
of the herd, two ferocious lions had caught a bull,
and he, with loud bellows, was being dragged off, while the dogs
and young men pursued them. The lions had ripped through the bull’s hide
and were lapping his blood and gorging themselves on his entrails
while the herdsmen were vainly setting the dogs on them, trying
to frighten them off, but the dogs were afraid, and they stood there
at a distance, barking, and would not move any closer.
Upon it the master craftsman, the crippled god,
made a large meadow, filled with a flock of sheep
grazing, and shepherds’ stalls and roofed huts and sheepfolds.
Upon it he inlaid a dancing floor, like the one
that Dǽdalus built in Knossos for Ariádnē.
Young men and rich-dowried girls were dancing upon it,
moving gracefully, holding each other’s wrists.
The girls wore long linen robes, and the young men wore tunics
of fine-spun cloth, which glistened with olive oil;
and the girls were crowned with garlands of flowers, and the men
wore golden daggers that hung from sword belts of silver.
Sometimes they circled around on their knowing feet,
as when a potter sits at his wheel and holds it
between his palms, to make sure it is turning smoothly;
sometimes their rows came close and merged with each other.
And around the beautiful dancers stood a large crowd,
watching with utter delight as two solo performers
went spinning and whirling among them, leading the dance.
And he set the powerful river of Ocean flowing
on the marvelous shield, along its outermost rim.
Once he had fashioned the shield, he made him a breastplate
brighter than fire, and a beautiful inlaid helmet
with a golden crest, and two greaves of hammered tin.
Then, when the master craftsman had finished his work,
he took it and put it in front of Achilles’ mother.
And she, like a hawk, came swooping down from Olympus
carrying the bright armor, the gift of Hephaestus.
Priam and Achilles (from Book 24)
Priam got down from the car and went to Idǽus,
and leaving him in charge of the mules and horses
he walked straight across the courtyard and reached the house
where Achilles most often was. He found him inside.
The rest of his men were sitting apart, but two—
Automedon and Álcimus—were nearby,
waiting on him. He had just finished his supper,
and the table was still there. Priam walked in, unseen,
and went to Achilles. He clasped his knees, then he kissed
his terrible hands, the deadly hands that had slaughtered
so many of Priam’s sons. As when a man
who is gripped by madness murders someone in his homeland
and escapes to another country and then seeks refuge
in the house of some lord, and all who look on are astounded:
just so was Achilles astounded when he saw Priam,
that godlike man. And everyone in the hut
was astounded as well, and they looked around at each other.
Then Priam spoke to Achilles in supplication:
“Remember your father, Achilles. He is an old man
like me, approaching the end of his life. Perhaps
he too is being worn down by enemy troops,
with no one there to protect him from chaos and ruin.
Yet he at least, since he knows that you are alive,
feels joy in his heart and, every day, can look forward
to seeing his child, whom he loves so dearly, come home.
My fate is less happy. I fathered the bravest men
in the land of Troy, yet not one remains alive.
I had fifty sons before the Achaeans came here,
nineteen from a single woman, and all the rest
were borne to me by other wives in my palace.
Most of my sons have been killed in this wretched war.
The only one I could truly count on, the one
who guarded our city and all its people—you killed him
a few days ago as he fought to defend his country:
Hector. It is for his sake that I have come,
to beg you for his release. I have brought a large ransom.
Respect the gods now. Have pity on me; remember
your father. For I am more to be pitied than he is,
since I have endured what no mortal ever endured:
I have kissed the hands of the man who slaughtered my children.”
With these words he stirred in Achilles a wild longing
to weep for his father. Taking the old man’s hand,
he gently pushed him away. And each of them sat there
remembering. Priam, crouched at Achilles’ feet,
sobbed for Hector; Achilles wept now for his father,
now for Patroclus. And every room in the house
rang with the sound of their mourning and lamentation.
But when Achilles had had enough, and the aching
sorrow had eased from his mind and body, he stood
and took Priam’s hand and lifted him from the ground;
and with pity for his white hair and white beard, he said,
“Unfortunate man, what grief you have had to endure!
Sit down on this chair, and let us both rest from our tears.
Heart-chilling anguish can do us no good. The immortals
have spun out the thread of life for us human beings
so that, however we can, we must learn to bear
misfortune like this, but they live free of all sorrow.
There are two urns in the house of almighty Zeus,
one of them filled with evil, the other with blessings.
If Zeus pours gifts for a man from both of these urns,
he sometimes encounters evil, sometimes good fortune.
But when Zeus pours gifts from the urn of misery only,
he makes a man hate his life, and a ravenous hunger
drives him restlessly over the shining earth,
and he wanders alone, despised by both gods and mortals.
Consider Peleus. All his life, from the start,
the gods gave him splendid gifts; he surpassed all men
in power and wealth and was king of the Myrmidons,
and though he was mortal, they gave him a goddess as wife.
Yet even on him a god brought evil, because
no sons were born in his house to take over his kingdom:
only a single child, who was doomed to die early,
and I am not able to care for him in his old age.
I am idly sitting around in the land of Troy,
a long way from home, a curse to you and your children.
And you also, sir—we hear that you once were happy.
Men say that in all the lands of your realm, from Lesbos
in the south, where Macar ruled, and to Phrygia eastward,
and northward and westward as far as the Hellespont,
you reigned supreme, with vast wealth and many children.
But ever since the immortals brought you these troubles,
there is ceaseless fighting and slaughter around the walls
of your great city. It is something that you must bear.
Even if you should endlessly grieve for your son,
it would do no good; you will never restore him to life
before some other new misery comes upon you.”
Then, in response to him, Priam, the old king, said,
“Don’t ask me to sit, my lord, while Hector is still
lying uncared-for inside your hut. Release him
quickly and let me see him with my own eyes.
Accept the great ransom I bring here. May you enjoy it
and return home safely, because you have spared my life.”
Achilles answered him then, with an angry scowl,
“Don’t push me too far, sir. I have already decided
to release Hector’s body to you, since Zeus commands it.
He sent me word; the messenger was my own mother,
the daughter of the Old Man of the Sea. And also
I am well aware, Priam—you haven’t hidden it from me—
that some god escorted you here to the Argive ships.
No mortal would dare to come to our camp. However
young and strong he might be, he would never get past
the sentries or push back the beam that fastens our gate.
So do not provoke my grieving heart any further,
or else, disobeying Zeus’s command, I may not
spare even you, sir—suppliant though you are.”
The old man, recoiling in terror, at once sat down.
Then, like a lion, Achilles sprang out the door,
not alone: two attendants followed his steps,
Automedon and Álcimus, whom Achilles
loved more than any comrade except for Patroclus.
They unyoked the horses and mules, then brought in the herald
and seated him on a stool. Then from the cart
they unloaded the magnificent ransom for Hector,
leaving two robes and a tunic there, for Achilles
to put on the body and wrap around it, before
he presented it for the old king to carry home.
And Achilles called for his handmaids and told them
to wash and anoint the dead man, but somewhere else,
in another part of the house, so that Priam would not
see his son—in case, in his anguish of heart,
he might not be able to keep from voicing his anger
and Achilles’ own heart flare up into violent rage.
When the body was washed and anointed with olive oil
and dressed in the fine-spun tunic and handsome robe,
Achilles lifted it onto a pallet and then
with the help of his comrades he put it onto the cart.
And he groaned aloud and addressed his beloved companion,
“Don’t hold it against me, Patroclus, if down in Hades
you hear a report that I have given back Hector
to his old father. The ransom he brought is worthy,
and of course I will give you your own fair share of the gifts.”
After he said this, Achilles returned to the hut,
sat down on the inlaid chair that he had jumped up from,
against the opposite wall from Priam, and said,
“Your son has now been released, sir, as you requested.
He is lying upon a pallet. Tomorrow, when daybreak
appears in the camp, you will see him yourself, with your own eyes,
as you take him away. But for now, let us think of supper.
For even Níobē came to the point of eating,
and that was after all twelve of her children were killed,
six daughters and six sons, in the prime of their youth.
Apollo shot down the sons with his silver bow,
and Ártemis shot down the daughters. They were both angry
at Níobē for boasting that she was the equal
of Leto, because the goddess had borne just two,
while she herself was the mother of many children;
so the pair, though only two of them, slaughtered her many.
For nine days they lay in their blood, since there was no one
to bury them—Zeus had turned the people to stones.
But on the tenth day the gods came and buried the children,
and exhausted by weeping, Níobē finally ate.
Somewhere among the rocks in the lonely hills
of Sípylus, where men say that the wood nymphs sleep
when they dance on the banks of the Áchelésius river,
she still continues, although she is made of stone,
to brood on the desolation that the gods brought her.
So come, sir; it is time that you think of eating.
Afterward, when you have taken your dear son to Troy,
you can mourn for him; and many tears will be wept then.”
With this Achilles stood up and slaughtered a sheep,
and his comrades skinned and prepared the carcass and cut it
expertly into small pieces and skewered them
and roasted them on the flames. And Autómedon
took loaves of bread and passed them around the table
in fine wicker baskets. Achilles then served the meat,
and they helped themselves to the food that was set before them.
And when they had had enough of eating and drinking,
Priam gazed at Achilles in wonder—how tall
he was and how handsome, like one of the blessed gods.
And Achilles gazed at Priam in wonder, admiring
his noble face and the brave words that he had spoken.
“The verse is well-forged and clean-limbed, and achieves a powerful simplicity. Mitchell has re-energised the Iliad for a new generation.”
-The Sunday Telegraph (London)
“A daring new version of the epic poem.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“Stephen Mitchell’s translation is a brilliant accomplishment. It captures the fierce energy, rhythms, and powerful narrative of Homer’s Greek in vivid and compelling English.”
-Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels
“Mitchell’s Iliad is slimmer and leaner than anything we have seen before… [and] is by far the most swift-footed in recent memory, the line driving forward in a way that gives force to the English and nicely suggests the galloping dactyls of Homer’s lines. This is especially useful in those many passages in which characters speak with heated emotion… Mitchell’s is the first major English translation of the poem to implement the theories of the eminent British scholar M. L. West, stripping away what West argues are the impure, later additions to the original written text… His strong five-beat rhythm is arguably the best yet in English.”
-Daniel Mendelsohn, The New Yorker
“Mitchell has been widely hailed for his masterful translations and this one, I think, will be regarded as the capstone of his reputation.”
“Thrillingly recounts a big war, filled with big armies, masses of men and horses, tall black ships, a walled city scraping the heavens, jealous, deathless gods, the clash of divinely inspired heroes and women unequaled in beauty”
– Chicago Sun Times
“A propulsive, muscular rendering”
-The Washington Post
“A sturdy, muscular, and nuanced translation that will surely bring many new readers to this great work, ‘one of the monuments of our own magnificence,’ in Stephen Mitchell’s happy formulation.”
-John Banville, author of The Sea
“Mitchell is one of the great translators of our time, renowned for his Gilgamesh and Tao Te Ching and various parts of the Bible. He’s outdone himself with the Iliad, bringing Homer’s classic to a new generation with a strong, fresh take.”
“Mitchell’s Iliad powerfully communicates the spirit and the spectacle of the classic story through a subtle poetic style that reflects the essence of the original. Whether you’re reacquainting yourself with the work or coming to it for the first time, you’ll find Mitchell’s interpretation of the Iliad intensely rewarding. Reader, enjoy the spoils.”
“Mitchell’s [translation] has resulted in a livelier, more contemporary feel for this epic of world literature. The result is a faster-moving story… Make room for this one on the shelf.”
-Los Angeles Times
“Stephen Mitchell’s wonderful new version of the Iliad is a worthy addition to his list of distinguished renditions of the classics,”
“With this new translation of the Iliad, you’re in for a treat. It is not just the clarity of thought and language that make this a better English language translation than the ones you might have tackled back in high school. It’s actually better researched, as well,…resulting in a text that is, in some ways, thematically altered from any you might have read – or tried to read – before. But nothing trumps Mitchell’s language here and his understanding of the text.”
“Stephen Mitchell has done a marvelous thing here: he has given fresh energy and poetic force to a work that perennially repays our attention. Without the Iliad the West would be a vastly poorer place; Homer’s achievement speaks to every successive generation with its unflinching understanding of the essential tragic nature of life. Mitchell’s translation is a grand accomplishment.”
-Jon Meacham, author of American Lion
“Mitchell’s very readable Iliad could well prove to be more popular than his rival translators’.”
-Toronto Globe and Mail
“Mitchell has done more than any other translator to fill Matthew Arnold’s criteria for rendering Homer. This translation is ‘eminently rapid,’ ‘eminently plain and direct,’ and ‘eminently noble: In remarkably straightforward English, free of pretense and other distractions, the story keeps much of its original excitement and seriousness. Mitchell has completed a labor of true love and driven hard toward the real thing.”
-Sarah Ruden, Department of Classics, Wesleyan University, and translator of the Aeneid
“From the moment Stephen Mitchell opens with the ancient invocation of ‘the rage of Achilles,’ the reader is captivated by his rendition of Homer’s epic poem… This handsome edition breaks through centuries of accumulated cultural weight and restores the Iliad to its rightful legacy as a gripping epic that will keep the reader up long past the appearance of the rosy-fingered dawn… A powerful new translation of Homer’s Iliad that gracefully captures the true poetry of its enduring spirit.”
-Shelf Awareness for Readers
“Stephen Mitchell has translated the Iliad’s ‘serene music’ with a serenity and musicianship worthy of the original. His love of Homer’s humanity and his deep insight into this most timeless of poems radiate from every line of verse. Mitchell’s Iliad is a glorious achievement, free-flowing and natural but also carefully researched. It promises to become the foremost version of Homer’s epic in modern English.”
-James Romm, Professor of Classics, Bard College
“A strange, almost forgotten feeling overtook me as I first dipped into this new translation. I felt compelled to recite aloud! The prose rocks and has a macho cast to it, like rap music. It’s overtly virile stuff, propelled from the time when music, language, information, and politics were not yet distinguished, meaning the idea of the nerd did not yet exist.”
-Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
“Stephen Mitchell’s five-beat line is a startlingly strong alternative to other translators’ attempts to capture the inimitably mellifluous flow of Homer’s Greek. Mitchell fits a meter to the poem, but also the poem to the meter, paring away words that could not work in English, aiming always to preserve the uncanny aesthetic distance and moral neutrality of the original at its full, thrilling, and horrifying depth. Read three pages, any three pages, and you’ll realize that, no, you are not yet done with Homer.”
-Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography
“Stephen Mitchell’s magnificent new translation of the Iliad reminds us that there is always a new and different way to read and interpret the great classics and that they need to be reinvigorated from generation to generation, just as we need to be reminded that they are, however venerated, above all, stories: exciting, full of life and great characters, in short great entertainment, not just great monuments of culture or the Western canon. Mr. Mitchell has accomplished this difficult feat wonderfully well and produced a book that is both a joy to read and an Iliad for this generation.”
-Michael Korda, H. Lilt., author of Hero, Ike, and Ulysses S. Grant
“Mitchell’s powerful verse allows us to read the Iliad as it was read in the ancient world, as an exciting narrative about war, anger, and regret, with a lucidity that reveals the poet’s profound insight into the tragic nature of the human condition.”
-Mary Lefkowitz, Professor Emerita of Classical Studies, Wellesley College, and author of Greek Gods, Human Lives
“In a lifetime of conspicuously successful translations, this is Stephen Mitchell’s greatest achievement.”
-Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania