Greek Literature

January 31st, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized

Happy February everybody!

This month, we are looking at a passage from ‘The Iliad’.  I do not want to give you too much to wade through before contributing to our discussion, so first here is a translation into English from Robert Fagles [Book VI, lines 405-426] (‘The Iliad’, Homer, London, The Folio Society, 1996):

…………………………………..Hector, helmet flashing,

answered nothing.  And Helen spoke to him now,

her voice welling up: ‘My dear brother,

dear to me, bitch that I am, vicious, scheming –

horror to freeze the heart!  Oh how I wish

that first day my mother brought me into the light

some black whirlwind had rushed me out to the mountains

or into the surf where the roaring breakers crash and drag

and the waves had swept me off before all this had happened!

But since the gods ordained it all, these desperate years,

I wish I had been the wife of a better man, someone

alive to outrage, the withering scorn of men.

This one has no steadiness in his spirit,

not now, he never will . . .

and he is going to reap the fruits of it I swear.

But come in, rest on this seat with me, dear brother.

You are the one hit hardest by the fighting, Hector,

you more than all – and all for me, slut that I am,

and this blind mad Paris.  Oh the two of us!

Zeus planted a killing doom within us both,

so even for generations still unborn

we will live in song.

This is from the Greek passage of Homer The Iliad Book VI ll. 342-358:

ὣς φάτο, τὸν δ’ οὔ τι προσέφη κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ:

τὸν δ’ Ἑλένη μύθοισι προσηύδα μειλιχίοισι:

δᾶερ ἐμεῖο κυνὸς κακομηχάνου ὀκρυοέσσης,

ὥς μ’ ὄφελ’ ἤματι τῷ ὅτε με πρῶτον τέκε μήτηρ 345

οἴχεσθαι προφέρουσα κακὴ ἀνέμοιο θύελλα

εἰς ὄρος ἢ εἰς κῦμα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης,

ἔνθά με κῦμ’ ἀπόερσε πάρος τάδε ἔργα γενέσθαι.

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ τάδε γ’ ὧδε θεοὶ κακὰ τεκμήραντο,

ἀνδρὸς ἔπειτ’ ὤφελλον ἀμείνονος εἶναι ἄκοιτις, 350

ὃς ᾔδη νέμεσίν τε καὶ αἴσχεα πόλλ’ ἀνθρώπων.

τούτῳ δ’ οὔτ’ ἂρ νῦν φρένες ἔμπεδοι οὔτ’ ἄρ’ ὀπίσσω

ἔσσονται: τὼ καί μιν ἐπαυρήσεσθαι ὀί̈ω.

ἀλλ’ ἄγε νῦν εἴσελθε καὶ ἕζεο τῷδ’ ἐπὶ δίφρῳ

δᾶερ, ἐπεί σε μάλιστα πόνος φρένας ἀμφιβέβηκεν 355

εἵνεκ’ ἐμεῖο κυνὸς καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου ἕνεκ’ ἄτης,

οἷσιν ἐπὶ Ζεὺς θῆκε κακὸν μόρον, ὡς καὶ ὀπίσσω

ἀνθρώποισι πελώμεθ’ ἀοίδιμοι ἐσσομένοισι.


And my Greek friend, Katy, has transliterated the Greek text into our alphabet [arr alfa-bit ;-)], with the following rough guide to pronunciation

th  (1) as in the article the

th (2) as in throne

e   as in egg

ou  as in route

y  as in yes

all vowels in Greek are full and open and nothing in between as in English.  Sometimes you may have 2 or 3 vowels in a row, so give each one its full value.


Os fato, ton  th (1) ou  ti prosefi  korith(2)eolos Ektor                      [342]

Ton th (1) Eleni mith(2)isi  prosivtha (1) milihiisi:

Th(1)aer  emio kinos  kakomihanou  okrioesis ,

Os  m  ofel  imati  to  ote me proton  teke mitir

Ihesthe(2)proferousa  kak i  anemio thiela (2)

Is oros  I  is kima poliflisvio thalasis (2)                                                     [347]

Entha (2) me  kim  apoerse  paros  tathe (1) erya  yenesthe (2)

Aftar  epi  tathe (1) y  othe (1) thei (2) kaka  tekmiranto

Anthros (1) epit  ofelon  aminonos  ine akitis

Os ithi (1) nemesin  te  ke  eshea  pol  anthropon (2)

Touto  th (1) out  ar  nin  frenes  embethi (1) out  ar  opiso            [352]

Esonte: to  ke  min epavrisesthe (2) oio

Al  aye  nin  iselthe (2) ke  ezeo  toth  (1) epi  thifro(1)

Thaer (1), epi  se  malista ponos  frenas  amfiveviken

inek  emio  kinos  ke  Alexanthrou(1)  enek  atis,

isin epi  Zefs  thike (2)  kakon  moron,  os  ke opiso                           [357]

anthropisi (2)  pelometh (2) aithimi (1) esomenisi.


You may be interested to know that out of 127 words approximately half  +  are still in current usage line 347 can be read almost as in modern Greek.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, and I’ll be interested to hear your comments.

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  1. James Hercules Sutton
    31. January 2013

    Helen is a schemer, daughter of Zeus by Leda. She has red hair, like Odysseus, signifying trouble. In the Odyssey, she drugs Menelaus, home from Troy, with a drug she picked up in Egypt, to combat his battle fatigue. He is disgusted with her self-serving egotism, but can’t take revenge on her, since she’s Zeus’s daughter. In Homer, gods and characters signify overt psychological impulses. Helen is what happens when a woman thinks only of herself and her own pleasure.

  2. Katrina
    31. January 2013

    Thank you for your insight, James.

    I have just discovered that the word schema comes from the Greek word “σχήμα” (skhēma), which means shape, or more generally, plan.

    By all accounts, Helen’s shape was sought after . . .

  3. Boyce Stoudemire
    6. May 2013

    hello good blog aa test

  4. Katrina
    6. May 2013

    Hello Boyce,

    What do you like about it?

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