Iliad, commentaries

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Bart
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Iliad, commentaries

Post by Bart » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:48 am

in a different thread Paul Derouda wrote:
the new German Homer commentaries ("Gesamtkommentar") are only on the Iliad, none on the Odyssey. And I would not call them just updates of the old Ameis-Hentze-Cauer (although that's what the authors themselves call them) but new works entirely.
And are they good?
Actually, I'm looking around for resources for a second reading of (parts of) the Iliad. So far I've come up with:

-Basler Gesamtkommentar, so far commentaries to books 1,2,3,6,9 and 24 have been published
-Cambridge commentary in 6 volumes. I understand from what I've read not all of them are equally interesting and helpful. Apparently especially the one edited by Janko on books 13-16 is very good.
-Oxford Green & Yellow series: as far as I know only books 6 and 22 are covered. I have actually used the one by Barbara Graziosi on book 6 and liked it.

I've read about a major commentary of the Iliad in Italian but am unable to trace it. And I'm a bit surprised I didn't find anything in French (apart from Chantraine of course).

So which of the above do you recommend?

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Iliad, commentaries

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Jul 21, 2015 7:51 pm

Well, I have had only casual use of the first two of the German commentaries. For a couple of years already I've been planning for a very thorough re-read and have been collecting material (=impulse shopping at Amazon). So I can't speak from real experience, but they look good and they say they're good. For each book, there's a commentary volume and a text+translation volume; I'd perhaps skip the latter. The commentary is written so that there one register for less advanced readers and another in smaller print for more advanced ones. The idea is, I think, that even greekless readers might use the easy register.

For Green&Yellows, I think there's at least a volume for book 24. Oxford has volumes for books 1 and 9, which I suppose are similar in scope.

The big Cambridge commentary is what I used when I first read, and re-read, the Iliad, not aware of anything else; I think the first two are perhaps the least useful. I also used Pulleyn's Oxford commentary for book 1, which I liked back then.

I would be in much better position to give my recommendations after that planned re-reading;) I'm much more familiar with the stuff on the Odyssey...

With the Italian commentary, you might be mixing up with the Odyssey — the 3-volume Oxford commentary is basically an English translation of an Italian original. I'm not aware of anything iof real interedt in French.

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Re: Iliad, commentaries

Post by mwh » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:28 pm

The Basel commentary I’ve only dipped into, but it’s very good, very thorough (too much so for some), and up-to-date. It’s a bit faddish (too much narratology for my taste) but pays good attention to poetics as well as to more traditional philological matters, plus of course archaeology (though Latacz himself holds questionable views on historicity). It looks daunting, there’s so very much, but is well organized and quite reader-friendly and you can pick out the bits you want to read. It’s not for beginners, but then Bart you’re no longer a beginner. :D I only use it for occasional reference myself (or what we so far have of it), but if I were starting over I’d devour it.

The Cambridge commentaries are very good too, but rather mixed and some of them now seem a bit dated (especially the first). The various commentators each take their own approach to Homer.

I’d recommend sampling both commentary sets and deciding which would better suit you. Or you could switch between them, and also single-book commentaries. I especially recommend Colin MacLeod on Il.24—very different from the Basle comm. which I’m sure is also excellent in its way.

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Re: Iliad, commentaries

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 22, 2015 7:43 am

I pretty much agree with everything mwh says. One thing came to my mind: you asked about French commentaries. There's actually a volume on book 23 by Chantraine and Goube. I have never laid my eyes on it, but it might be worth a look. It's of course a bit old, but it's signed by Chantraine, and it might be interesting to read something that belongs to the tradition of French scholarship for a change. (Incidentally, I don't usually like French academic/intellectual writing a lot, which to my mind typically gives priority to the display of one's own erudition and big turns of phrases to the detriment of substance. This applies even to newspapers like Le Monde, a fine paper otherwise, but you have to brush off a whole lot of word fluff to get what the texts are about. But Chantraine is Chantraine.)

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Re: Iliad, commentaries

Post by Bart » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:23 am

Thanks.
I'll start then with the first part of the Gesamtkommentar on book 1. Sampling sounds like a good plan.

Of course this is a project for next year. First there's still the greater part of the Odyssey to be read.I do like the Odyssey very much, by the way. Perhaps it lacks the drama and emotional intensity of the Iliad, but makes up for this by its variety and charm. So far I especially liked book 4 and 5: Telemachos quest for his father, the interaction between Helene and Menelaus, Menelaus disguising as a seal to catch the old man of the sea, Hermes marvelling at the beauty of Calypso's island, the building of the raft, Odysseus' shipwreck... all equally entertaining episodes.
And then, what to think of Odysseus forced to sleep with a beautiful nymph (παρ᾽ οὐκ ἐθέλων ἐθελούσῃ). poor him! One shivers to think what other gruesome things the gods will throw at him!

Paul, you're being very harsh on the French, but you have a point I'm affraid. French radio suffers from the same problems: interesting programs marred by endless digressions and pompous discussions. Nevertheless, great country. I'll be going there on holiday next week and take the Odyssey with me. France & Homer, hard to beat that combination!

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Re: Iliad, commentaries

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:57 pm

Ah, the Odyssey! Lucky you. Variety and charm, that's it exactly. The melancholy atmosphere at Menelaus' palace, the stinking seals, the sweet irony of Odysseus' ordeals on Calypso's island—the irony in a thousand places actually... But I don't think Odysseus' craft is a raft—there's a book actually by a naval archaeologist called Homeric Seafaring; he thinks Odysseus builds a small ship, with laced seams, ( something called a sewn boat, I think). It's an interesting read, although a bit weak on the philological side, unsurprisingly.

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