Misquoting Homer

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 23 17:23:04 UTC 2009

This should probably go to the Homer list, but they may know about it there

These lines show up fifty times on Google Books, back to 1942 (in a book of
quotations...) as a Homeric statement on men and war:

"Men grow tired of sleep, love, singing and dancing, sooner than of war."

Great comment, right?

Well, maybe, but what Homer really said was something like this:

“A man may have enough of anything—

sleep or love or the sweet song or the dance—

and all are much better than battle, but

these Trojans never get their fill of war!”

     ---- Iliad, XIII, 636-39, trans. Michael Reck.

See, Menelaus is complaining that the Trojans are inhuman for keeping the
war going, whereas the misquotation implies that an overweening love of war
is the norm.

I picked Reck's undeservedly lesser-known translation (it came out at the
same time as Robert Fagles's blockbuster! Oops!) because it's the simplest
for mof the statement, but all the others I've looked at say essentially the
same thing.

"There You Go Again...Using Reason on the Planet of the Duck-Billed

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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