• Classical Studies
  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Studies

Jack Spira ’16 examines Traditions and Translations of the Iliad 

Homer did not write; he sang. He did not memorize, he composed extemporaneously. He was not even a "he"; he was legion. Each individual performer of the Iliad created their own Iliad, suited only to the moment upon which is was performed. The song lived on in memory alone, so there was no "true" Iliad, no canonical text. We have only encountered one performance of the Iliad, and this is the Greek text which has been passed on from manuscript to manuscript for 2,500 years. Frozen in the manuscripts, the Iliad's traditional nature was lost and a single blind Homer was imagined. Beginning with Chapman in the 1600s, new Homers came about--translations of the Greek Iliad, inexplicably different because of the subtle shades of meaning which each translator saw in the words and in the meaning of the Iliad. This, I propose in my thesis "The Muted Homer: Finding Homer in Five Translations of the Iliad," mirrors the same process which occurred thousands of years ago: the bardic tradition. I do not intend to analyze each English translations for the nuances in word choice ("Lattimore says 'shouted' when Fagles says 'cried loudly'!"), but to see the methods by which each translator participates within this tradition, especially in matters of form, such as formula, establishing authenticity, and the treatment of the oral origins of the tradition.