The Iliad, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


Homer's "Iliad" is the greatest and most influential epic poem ever written, telling of the tragic and bloody climax to the ten-year siege of Troy.

This "Penguin Classics" edition was originally translated by E.V.

Rieu, revised and updated with an introduction and notes by Peter Jones and D.C.H.

Rieu. One of the foremost achievements in Western literature, Homer's "Iliad" tells the story of the darkest episode in the "Trojan War".

At its centre is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his refusal to fight after being humiliated by his leader Agamemnon.

But when the Trojan Hector kills Achilles' close friend Patroclus, he storms back into battle to take revenge - even though he knows this will ensure his own untimely death. Interwoven with this tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, of the domestic world inside Troy's besieged city of Ilium, and of the conflicts between the Gods on Olympus as they argue over the fate of mortals.

E.V. Rieu's acclaimed translation of "The Iliad" was one of the first titles published in "Penguin Classics", and now has classic status itself. For this edition, Rieu's text has been revised, and now a new introduction and notes by Peter Jones complement the original introduction.

Seven Greek cities claim the honour of being the birthplace of Homer (c. 8th-7th century BC), the poet to whom the composition of the Iliad and Odyssey are attributed. "The Iliad" is the oldest surviving work of Western literature, but the identity - or even the existence - of Homer himself is a complete mystery, with no reliable biographical information having survived.

If you enjoyed the "Iliad", you might like Homer's "Odyssey", also available in "Penguin Classics".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 560 pages, notes, maps, glossary, index
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Poetry by individual poets
  • ISBN: 9780140447941



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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The movie Troy has revitalized my thirst for The Iliad and the reading of which has long been overdue. I decide to re-read this first work of Western literature in a different literary form: the prose translation by E. V. Rieu, who had first published in 1950 and has since achieved its classic status. Never before had this greatest of ancient Greek poet seemed so vivid, so accessible, approachable, and immediate to the English-speaking readers. This edition in review is a Penguin Classics 1988 revision of Rieu's translation that has timely incorporated the changes in linguistic and cultural idioms. E. V. Rieu's prose translation is as vivid and readable as Professor Richmond Lattimore's verse translation, which I had read in my undergraduate English class. The Iliad is set in the last year of the Greek siege of Ilium, a town in the region of Troy, which is now the northwestern Turkey and it all begins with a quarrel over a woman. On a visit to Sparta, Prince of Troy seduced and ran away with Helen, the wife of the Spartan ruler Menelaus. King Agamemnon, the imperial overlord of Greece, with his brother Menelaus, induced the princes who owe him allegiance to join forces with him against King Priam of Troy. The Greeks for 9 years had encamped beside their ships on the shore near Troy but without bringing the matter to a conclusion, though they had repeatedly looted and captured a number of Trojan towns, under the leadership of Achilles, Prince of Myrmidons, who had cultivated a gripe against Agamemnon.Success of raiding Troy led to a feud between Agamemnon and Achilles. Agamemnon had been allotted a girl named Chryseis as his prize, and he refused to give her up to her father, a local priest of Apollo, when he came to the camp with a ransom for her release. The priest prayed to Apollo and a plague ensued, forcing Agamemnon to give Chryseis up. But the unruly Agamemnon couped himself by confiscating one of Achilles' own prize, a girl named Briseis. It was such violet, public, unjust, and deeply humiliating attack on Achilles' assessment of his significance to the Greek army, along with Agamemnon's seize of Briseis that drove Achilles to withdraw himself and the Myrmidon force from the battlefield.Homer has written the epic with a delay of action, deferring Achilles to later part of the book in order to create a perception that he has covered the entire Trojan War. The Iliad, in this regard, in fact covers a few days of the last year of Trojan War, filling the pages with tight packing of action, the tugging to and fro between the two sides. It only centers on the aristocratic heroes (i.e. Hector, Paris, Aeneas, Achilles, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Diomedes, Ajax, and Odysseus), of whom they are named, but not the general mass of troops.As the Trojans got the upper hand and stormed the Greeks' defenses, Hector, the Trojan Commander-in-chief succeeded in setting fire to one of the Achaean ships. At this point Agamemnon had realized he had wronged Achilles, who had remained obdurate to all entreaties and repeated to the embassy the original accusation that he did all the fighting and Agamemnon got all the rewards. Achilles' bitter and grumpy speech against Agamemnon sheds light to what possibly Homer tries to convey as he has remained restrained in his narrative, leaving much room for private interpretation that one might experience difficulty to supply a definitive answer to question about the one main theme. Achilles had altered his view in life: no compensation could ever pay him back, because all the compensation in the world could not equate the worth of one's life, moreover the Trojans never did him any wrong until death had befallen Patroclus. All he had suffered by constantly risking his life in battle had left him no better off than anyone else. The Iliad tragedizes a hero who had been viscerally wronged: a man who was the son of a great man and a goddess, and yet for whom death and inexorable destiny were waiting. Patroclus' disastrous death brought Achilles to life and gave him a cause to fight. To him life was worth revenge on the person who killed his beloved companion. Achilles' greatness lies in his refusal to disclaim the responsibility for his actions, even though his own death would be the inevitable consequence. The greatness of The Iliad lies in the fact that Homer presents a broad mental picture of what he thought the Trojan battlefield looked like. The poetry may be linked with a tradition of oral poetry, which manifested fully in the repetition of patterns and descriptions that prevailed the epic that existed in the Mycenaean age. The modern reader can enjoy the book, as it was by the contemporary, for its own sake, as a vivid description of the Trojan War. Homer took what the tradition offered him and shaped it into The Iliad we now read, in perfect accordance with his own cultural assumptions.

Review by

The Iliad manages the perfectly capture the endless routine drudgery and occassional futility that characterised much of warfare in the ancient world, despite not meaning to. Making it to the end without having once cried with sheer boredom is not so much an achievement, as it is a sign that you're trying far, far too hard.

Review by

An almost hollow drum whose bluster seriously detracts from what worth there is to be found.

Review by

I ended up following the dimly-remembered advice of a high school teacher from long ago: "Read <i>The Iliad</i> in prose first to understand the story, then re-read it in a good verse translation to appreciate the language." I didn't set out that way&amp;mdash;I started with the Richmond Lattimore verse translation. However, I found it very hard to follow the story and the myriad relationships between the characters while struggling with some of the difficult passages that were (according to the introduction) rendered rather literally. So, I switched.All in all, I liked <i>The Odyssey</i> better, preferring its "adventure story" style to the "history roll call" style of <i>The Iliad</i>. I felt that the latter was a fast-moving action story that, unfortunately, found itself embedded within a rather repetitious and verbose structure that diminished the excitement. I don't know if I'll take the second part of the advice and try another verse translation.

Review by

My favourite book/poem ever. I read the Robert Fagles edition (Penguin Classics) of both the Iliad and Odyssey and highly recommend it. I had no problem following the story and enjoying the style.

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