© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.



We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)

(5) Tree Line

For the first-time reader, probably the hardest thing about Homer's Iliad is its language. Even the most up-to-date translation – those by Robert Fagles and Stanley Lombardo use probably the most contemporary phrasing (Lombardo especially) – is still going to have a lot of repetitions and lengthy who-killed-whom-and-how battle scenes that sound just plain weird to modern readers. On Shmoop, we quote from the 1950s version by Richmond Lattimore, which is a bit harder than those, but which has some advantages that make it worth using. (Every line in Lattimore's version matches up exactly to its counterpart in the original Greek; its quirkiness actually gives a good sense of what the original feels like.) Some of the cultural details may also be unfamiliar. Once you get past these, though (reading the introduction to your edition will help), the poem is extremely accessible. The characters are vivid and every reader will find someone to identify with. By the time you start thinking deeply about the book's themes of life, death, and fate, it won't feel like a chore – you'll be hooked. We guarantee it.

back to top