Richard Lattimore’s translations of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” – The Great Books, vol. 3, (c) 1990

I have as a goal the reading of all 60 volumes (!) of the 1990 edition of The Great Books. I just finished reading “The Odyssey.” It’s considered the best translation out there, even though, today, there are a few more recent attempts at providing fresh translations of these two seminal, foundational works of Western civilization.

As I was reading “The Iliad,” I was trying to figure out what it was all about. It really made very little sense. Sure, you can think about such things as honor and courage and pride, etc. But I took a step back and thought about it. Would it make sense to raise an army from among neighboring city-states just to go after a wandering wife? Would it make sense to spend TEN YEARS trying to do so? Would it make sense for the Trojans to have allowed Helen of Argos (NOT of Troy! Unless you consider women to be property, which is how they were considered in ancient Greece.). Would it make sense to fight someone and then, in the midst of a full melee, stop to strip off your victims armor and weapons?

Absolutely not. It HAS to be fictional, at least in the details.

So what was really going on in “The Iliad.”

Think about it. It’s all about possessions. Things. Booty. Taking by raiding.

SO why bother with a decade-long attack on Troy? What was it all about?

The main theme of “The Iliad” has nothing to do with all the bullshit that people have talked about in the past: honor, courage, vengeance, pride, etc. Rather, it’s all about…..


That’s the ONLY reason that a group as large and diverse as the Achaians/Argives would bother attacking a city-state for a full decade. Now, it may not have been a sustained engagement, as in “The Iliad.” Even Richard Lattimore believed that it could have been more like a series of viking-type raids. Nevertheless, even in “The Odyssey,” at the end, after Penelope’s suitors have been butchered, he talks about replenishing his livestock, which had been depleted by the suitors’ constant feasts, by raiding other cities.

That entire part of the world lived in a raiding culture mentality.

Curiously, just shortly after this, at about 1177 B.C., that entire part of the world around the eastern Mediterranean, collapsed.

As for “The Odyssey,” I think we get the idea that Odysseus typifies Life for most people. We try and try, only to have the rug pulled out from under us, and even then, we get up and try again.

Do you see why Western civilization has survived all these millennia? These two books are the foundational documents of our culture. Rule #1: Eliminate the competition. Rule #2: NEVER STOP.

Ideas to conquer a planet with.



About johnvkaravitis

Senior Financial Analyst: Energy, Insurance, IT consulting, Pharmaceuticals, Publishing, Real Estate
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