Homer’s epic poems – The Iliad and The Odyssey – are the among the oldest works of Western literature. Written roughly in the 8th century B.C., The Iliad precedes the better known Odyssey. It tells the story of the Trojan War (specifically just a few weeks at the end of war, but you get a picture of the tenor of the entire conflict), and largely follows Achilles as he forms war strategies, battles infighting among the Achaeans, and takes on Hector and the Trojans.
I’ve read this book once, and can’t wait to read it again. It truly speaks to the nature of honor, glory, hubris, and the potential and pitfalls of masculinity. Just as Christians study the Bible for guidance on how to live, the ancient Greeks turned to The Iliad and The Odyssey for direction and moral instruction. Western writers for thousands of years have drawn on it for inspiration and cited it in their own works. Familiarizing yourself with this classic will both broaden your understanding of manhood and expand your cultural literacy.
The Illiad can be tough to get through, but a piece of advice I’ve heard that worked well for me was to basically do a “quick read” through the book as normal as you can, regardless of comprehension, and then go back and read closer later. You will have picked up more than you realized.
A few of you may be asking which translation to get, as there are hundreds out there. There are four that are generally recommended:
- Richard Lattimore (1967) — this version has been compared to what listeners would have heard from Homer’s original oral tellings.
- Robert Fitzgerald (1974) — a faster, easier read, but uses Greek form of character’s names, which makes for tougher reading at times (for instance, Akhilleus instead of Achilles).
- Robert Fagles (1990) — not the most literally accurate, but known for its intense and powerful emotionality.
- Stanley Lombard (1997) — crisply follows the story, and gets rid of some of Homer’s now alien and archaic diction — one of the most accessible translations.
These won’t be the free version you find online, but are well worth it in terms of being able to understand the story and the language.
The first discussion will be posted on Monday, June 16th and will cover the first 14 “books.” The second discussion will be posted on Monday, June 30th, and will cover book 15 through the end.
How to Join the Book Club
We make announcements about the book club here on the main site, while housing the book’s discussion over on the AoM Community in a private group called “The Official Art of Manliness Book Club.” In addition to online discussion in the group forums, the club offers other great features including video chats and Q&As with some literary experts on the subjects of our discussions.
To join the AoM Book Club you pay a one-time $1 membership fee (the aim of this nominal fee is to simply keep out trolls and hopefully increase your commitment). If you’ve already joined the book club group and paid, you don’t have to do so again. You’ll have access to all our discussions, notes, video chats, and expert Q&As from here on out.