Hear Homer’s Iliad Read in the Original Ancient Greek

Sure, you enjoyed hearing the way Ancient Greek music actually sounded last week, but what about the way Ancient Greek poetry actually sounded? We can find fewer finer or more recognizable examples of the stuff than Homer’s Iliad, and above you can hear an hour-long reading of its entire first book in the original Ancient Greek language. It comes from what may strike you as an unlikely source: Stanley Lombardo, a University of Kansas classicist (and also, as it happens, a Zen Buddhist) best known for his translations of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Virgil’s Aeneid into contemporary-sounding English. “Sounding less like aristocratic warriors than like American G.I.’s, perhaps,” writes classics-steeped critic Daniel Mendelsohn in the New York Times review of Lombardo’s Iliad, “his epic heroes ‘badmouth’ and ‘beat the daylights out of one another and witheringly call one another ‘trash’ and ‘pansy.’”

But Lombardo knows thoroughly the material he adapts. Even those of us who never learned Ancient Greek — if I may speak for this presumably large group of readers — can get a feel for Homer’s tale of the Trojan War and the soldiers’ long return home by listening to the professor’s delivery alone. Just above, you can see him give a reading from his English translation. It won’t surprise you to learn that he also reads the audio books. “We listened spellbound to the incantatory waves of Professor Stanley Lombardo’s voice telling the stories of Odysseus and his Odyssey and then those of the Trojan heroes of The Illiad,” writes Andrei Codrescu in an article on them for the Villager. “Professor Lombardo translated anew the immortal epics and immersed himself so deeply in their world his voice sounded as believable as the hills and valleys we crossed. His voice knows the tales and their enduring charms, and sounds for all the world like an ancient bard’s. Homer himself couldn’t have done better. In English no less, millennia later.”

Related Content:

What Ancient Greek Music Sounded Like: Hear a Reconstruction That is ‘100% Accurate’

Hear The Epic of Gilgamesh Read in the Original Akkadian, the Language of Mesopotamia

What Shakespeare Sounded Like to Shakespeare: Reconstructing the Bard’s Original Pronunciation

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey: Free AudioBooks & eBooks

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.



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  1. christina says . . . | November 4, 2013 / 11:33 am

    His reading in english from the Illiad is superb, I could be listening to him for hours. But the piece in ancient greek is so ‘infected’ with american accent I found it almost incomprehensible (and I am a greek who studies literature).

  2. christina says . . . | November 4, 2013 / 11:33 am

    His reading in english from the Illiad is superb, I could be listening to him for hours. But the piece in ancient greek is so ‘infected’ with american accent I found it almost incomprehensible (and I am a greek who studies literature).

  3. Michael Lane says . . . | November 4, 2013 / 11:58 am

    Iliad, no Odyssey (sic).

  4. mrl says . . . | November 4, 2013 / 1:07 pm

    this sounds bad from a greek speaker perspective

  5. Greco says . . . | November 5, 2013 / 2:24 am

    As I mentioned in the “What ancient Greek music sounded like” topic: in a remote part of Turkey near the Black Sea (in the heart of the ancient Greek world!) an ancient form of old Greek is still spoken. Romeika or Romeyka.nnOne thing it still has is the use of the ‘infinitive’ which modern Greek has lost.nnhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcAYP4irSyQ

  6. Apostolis says . . . | November 5, 2013 / 8:41 am

    Someone should tell him that’s not Greek! Why every foreigner who wants to study Greek does it in the Erasmus’ way? It is totally wrong! Philosophically and melodically

  7. kokirii says . . . | November 5, 2013 / 9:29 am

    page title says “Odyssey,” recording is of “Iliad”…

  8. Hermes says . . . | November 14, 2013 / 5:48 am

    But the “greeks” today has NOTHING to do with the ancient ones, they speak another language; it would be like an Italian trying to correct the accent of ancient Romans.

  9. chris says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 12:53 pm

    OMG, his greek is awful. Even the words that are still spoken are read with what sounds like a Gaelic accent.

  10. George says . . . | December 13, 2013 / 5:48 pm

    Many words have changed as grammar but it is familiar.Now we speak “demotiki” but until a few years back we used “kathareuousa”which was somewhat closer to ancient greek,not similar.Even if we do not speak the ancient is not a strange language to us, and if you listen a modern greek read ancient greek you will see the difference.

  11. sofia says . . . | December 30, 2013 / 1:27 pm

    All languages evolve and ancient greek and modern greek are exactly the same language 3 thousands years apart. To a native Greek speaker it is familiar and would have been more so 30 years ago before the language was ‘simplified’. In order to study modern Greek and modern Greek literature in depth, a knowledge of ancient Greek is compulsory. The syntax and the vocabulary may be different but it still lies at the core of the language spoken today. There are also words in use today that you will find in Homeric texts, completely unchanged in nearly 3000 years.

  12. Shimke says . . . | January 2, 2014 / 7:29 pm

    As a native speaker of English, I would probably find Shakespeare hard to follow if pronounced as it was in his time; I would certainly find Chaucer odd; as for Beowulf, I doubt if I would understand more than a word here and there. But I am willing to accept that scholars can get closer to the language they SPOKE better than I can. Why are the Greeks so resistent to this seemingly common-sense notion?

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