Every age gets the Greek and Latin literature it deserves. Prologue to the tumultuous decade to follow, Richard Lattimore’s 1961 translation of the Iliad begins, “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’s son Achilleus/ and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians.” Thirty years later Robert Fagles gives us a post-Vietnam Homer by rendering the same lines as “Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’s son Achilles,/ murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses.” One need only appreciate the psychological bent of “anger” versus “rage,” or the more euphemistic “pains thousandfold” versus the body count of “losses” in order to see how the translation of classical literature often says more about the era from which it springs than it does about the ancient...


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