Following a period of revision to catch up on our slightly rusty Greek, including some research and experimentation on pronunciation, we have made a new recording of the first twenty-one lines of the Iliad, which tell how the quarrel, on the results of which the whole poem turns, began between Agamemnon, the high King of the Greek forces besieging Troy, and Achilles, the mightiest of all the Greek warrior-chieftains.

There is a pretty good consensus in the academic world about how, syllable by syllable, Greek words should be pronounced. Unfortunately, just what the language sounded like is probably lost beyond recall. In particular, Greek in ancient times was a tonal language, in which the pitch at which a syllable was spoken mattered, as well as the pronunciation of its vowel sound and whether it was sounded long or short. We experimented with the tonal approach and studied a number of brave readers, who can be found on You Tube and elsewhere, who have attempted it. We ourselves found that the unfamiliarity of a tonal rendering, and a certain tendency for it to “flatten-out” the flow of the poetry and give it a sing-song quality that detracted from the grandeur and pathos of the narrative, were real drawbacks. We have therefore followed the view of Professor W. Sidney Allen, author of “Vox Graeca”, the standard scholarly work on Greek pronunciation, who advised against attempting a tonal rendering, instead concentrating on accuracy and consistency in other respects. We hope you enjoy the results: you can link to them here.

Today sees a new sound recording in our post of the opening lines of Homer’s Odyssey. Hear Homer’s Greek and follow in English translation here.

The illustration shows the Sorceress, Circe, who is only one of the many dangers that Odysseus encounters on his … well … Odyssey.