The bloody prequel: a triumphant new translation of the Iliad

There is an ancient comment (on the work of a grammarian with the terrific moniker Dionysius Thrax) that the performers of the Iliad and the Odyssey changed costume according to which poem they were reciting: a dark blue crown for the sea of the Odyssey, red for the blood of the Iliad. Emily Wilson, whose brisk and clear-eyed translation of the Odyssey became a bestseller, has now switched her sea-blue crown for her blood-red one. Even the covers of the two books – the Odyssey had a blue-dominated cover depicting the Minoan fresco of ‘Ladies in Blue’; the Iliad is red and gold, with an image of Thetis giving Achilles

The illiterate poet who produced the world’s greatest epic

Odysseus is tossed on the sea when he notices a rock and clings to it. ‘As when an octopus is drawn out of its lair and bits of pebble get stuck in its suckers,’ says Homer, ‘so his skin was stripped from his brave hands by the rock.’ There is such elegant tricksiness in that simile. Homer still sits at the apex of western literature thanks to the beauty and influence of his verse. Robin Lane Fox has been teaching the epics for 50 years and studying them for many more. His lifelong fascination with the texts has bred a sort of feverish passion in him that makes him declare