Book Review: The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad by Homer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook read by Derek Jacobi and he did such a wonderful job. I wonder why it’s no longer available on Audible.

I really enjoyed listening to The Iliad. It was more the story of Achilles than I had ever know before. This year is a foray into reading Epic Poetry and this was a good follow-up to Gilgamesh. Comparing Gilgamesh and Achilles as characters could be a productive and interesting project. Both physically strong, sons of goddesses, run by their emotions, warrior kings. Yes, there could be many comparisons drawn.

This was also the story of Hector, who seemed the best man in the whole piece, although he too had flaws. Is he the mirror of Achilles as Enkindu is to Gilgamesh? What if Hector and Achilles had met as brothers rather than as bitter enemies?

The taming of Gilgamesh through the work of Enkindu is different here in the Iliad, but no less striking. Zeus intervenes, finally, and gives Achilles a command he cannot refuse. But, his mercy and pity are met in Priam and he becomes more human toward his enemies. The holding off of battle for 12 days for the funeral of his enemy was a shocking condescension. That he was gentle with Priam because of his father was beautiful.

I loved the snapshots from the characters around Achilles and Hector. The view of Hector’s wife was particularly poignant in both of her scenes. Hecuba, too. I don’t know that I would’ve paid as close attention had I not read The Trojan Women last year, but I’m glad I did. The side losses were articulated and were more developed in the other piece.

The war council and conciliatory council of Agamemnon give us a view into the psychology of the Atreans. The ships and walls were nearly characters in themselves. Patroclus was easy to grieve because he was so well cast.

I wondered if there was some city/metropolis vs the agrarians going on here. Was Troy the sophisticated, glamorous city and the kings of the other Greek city-states lush with farms were tired of being perceived as backwards?

There are many questions I’ll save for my next reading – a reading not a listening. I determined to listen to these poems and am excited to begin The Odyssey (I’m going with Emily Wilson’s new translation) next.

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  1. Well done! I’m hoping to also read Gilgamesh & Iliad this year- I’ve only read parts of them or children’s versions. I think you bring up a good idea about listening to these epic poems vs reading!

    1. The Emily Wilson Odyssey starts with a 2+ hour introduction. 😲 I’m tempted to skip it, but probably won’t.

  2. Another great audio version of the Odyssey is in the Fagles translation, with Ian McKellan as the narrator. McKellan who did such a fine acting job as Gandalf in the LOTR movies has just the right voice and style, in my opinion!! We have loved listening to him!

  3. Whoops! My suggestion was for the Odyssey! We love Derek Jacobi as narrator, although I have not heard him narrating the Iliad. He narrates one of the books in the Narnia series

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