And with this review, you see the beginnings of my exploration into ancient classics. If you have me on instagram or twitter you many have heard me mention buying a few ancient greek inspired books recently, but my reviews have a bit of a backlog and so finally, the first is coming to my blog.
Let’s dive right in!
The Iliad is the greatest literary achievement of Greek civilization. The story centres on the critical events in four days of the tenth and final year of the war between Greeks and Trojans. It describes how the quarrel of Agamemnon and Achilleus’ sets in motion a tragic sequence of events, which leads to Achilleus’ killing of Hektor and determines the ultimate fate of Troy. But Homer’s theme is not simply war or heroism. With compassion and humanity he presents a universal and tragic view of the world, of human life lived under the shadow of suffering and death, set against a vast and largely unpitying divine background. The Iliad is the first of the world’s great tragedies.
How does one review this book when there’s so much to think about?
Without a doubt being the oldest story I’ve read so far, I almost feel like I ought to judge it differently. I won’t, because I’m not about that – I’m here to tell you whether I enjoyed it or not and why, after all – but it does feel slightly odd. Almost like I ought to study it, rather than simply read it for enjoyment.
As always with classics – no matter which time period it’s from – I was a tad apprehensive about how difficult this would be to understand. But I actually found this surprisingly easy. Slow, but understandable. And I can pinpoint exactly what slows the reading down too. It seems that in Greek classics, names are essential. Every new character is introduced by name, often with details of their father’s name too and possible where they’re from. You know, they all have a title. Even if only in the book for one sentence, they were mentioned by name. Instead of the sentence “and then he went on to kill four people”, it would be “and then he went on to kill (insert name) and (insert name) and (insert name) and (insert name)”. Which, as you might guess, can be a tad overwhelming. But it’s not a book to be rushed, and that was really the only thing hindering my reading pace slightly.
I don’t know how this would be with other translations, since I’ve not compared. The only thing I noticed was that the Greek names were still used – like they for whatever reason didn’t translate Achilleus to Achilles, as most know him. Whether this will be easier/harder to read in another edition, I can’t say.
I did find myself getting a tad confused about the “sides” during the war, what with all the names. I only really kept track of the main people. Or rather, that be the names I recognise – Achilleus, Patroklus, Agamemnon, Hektor, Odysseus, Diomedes, etc etc. But I didn’t think I was losing anything from the story this way. The story is still there after all, just buried under a lot of names.
It definitely picked up more towards the end, I found. You could tell things were coming to their peak. And there’s no doubt about it that the battle writing was incredible in detail. Everything is depicted as gruesome and ruthless as you would imagine it to be. You see the war from all sides – even the Greek Gods, these scenes being my favourites – and a real sense of intensity surrounded everything.
So it was quite a slog to get through, but in the end I found it worth it. My growing interest in ancient classics means I enjoyed this book despite it taking me awhile to work through, and I still find it fascinating how this story in my hands has been in the world for so long.
I could basically sum it up as “slow going entertainment, but fascinating nonetheless.”
Rated 3/5 stars
Share your thoughts!
Have you read this book? What did you think?
If you haven’t, do you plan to?
Are there any other ancient classics you would recommend?
Let me know in the comments!
Until next time…
Come and visit me!