ENG I Honors
Mr. Davis
The Odyssey Translations
As discussed briefly in class, The Odyssey has many different translations. Although it is impossible to say
which one is the best, people prefer different translations based on their personal opinion. Today, you will
compare three different translations of The Odyssey and judge which translation you prefer. Circle the one you
like the best in each category and underline words or phrases that make you like it better.
1. Context: Odysseus stabs the Cyclops:
Translation 1
He gave a horrible bellow till the rocks
rang again, and we shrank away in fear.
Then he dragged out the post from his eye
dabble and dripping with blood, and threw
it from him, wringing his hands in wild
agony, and roared aloud to the Cyclopians
who lived in the caves round about among
the windy hills.
Translation 2
The Cyclops bellowed and the rock roared
round him, and we fell back in fear.
Clawing his face he tugged the bloody
spike out of his eye, threw it away, and his
wild hands went groping; then he set up a
howl for Cyclopes who lived in caves on
the windy peaks nearby.
Translation 3
He gave a giant horrible cry and the rocks
rattled to the sound, and we scuttle away
in fear. He pulled the timber out of his
eye, and it blubbered with plenty of blood,
then when he had frantically take it in his
hands and thrown it away, he cried aloud
to the other Cyclops, who live around him
in their own caves along the windy
2. Context: Agamemnon’s advice to Odysseus.
Translation 1
Never be too kind even to your wife.
Translation 2
The day of faithful wives is gone forever.
Translation 3
There is no trusting in women.
Translation 2
Among them all the youngest was Elpenor
– no mainstay in a fight nor very clever –
and this one, having climbed on Circe’s
roof to taste the cool of night, fell asleep
with wine. Waked by our mourning
voices, and the tramp of men below, he
started up, but missed his footing on the
long steep backward ladder and fell that
height headlong. The blow smashed the
nape cord, and his ghost fled to the dark.
Translation 3
There was one, Elpenor, the youngest
man, not terribly powerful in fighting nor
sound in his thoughts. This man, apart
from the rest of his friends, in search of
cool air, had lain down drunkenly to sleep
on the roof of Circe’s palace, and when his
companions stirred to go he, hearing the
tumult and noise of talking, started
suddenly up, and never thought, when he
went down, to go by the way of the long
ladder, but blundered straight off the edge
of roof, so that his neck bone was broken
out of its sockets, and his soul went down
to Hades.
3. Context: Elpenor’s Death
Translation 1
One of us, Elpenor, the youngest of all,
one not so very valiant in war or steady in
mind, had been sleeping by himself on the
roof to get cool, being heavy with wine.
He heard a noise and bustle of men
moving about, and jumped in a hurry, but
his poor wits forgot to come down again
by the long ladder. He fell off the roof and
broke his neck, and his soul went down to
ENG I Honors
Mr. Davis
4. Context: Polphemous asks about Odysseus and his crew when they first meet.
Translation 1
“Who are you?” he called out. “Where do
you come from over the watery ways?
Are you traders, or a lot of pirates ready to
kill and be killed, brining trouble to
Translation 2
“Strangers,” he said, “who are you? And
where from? What brings you here by sea
ways – a fair traffic? Or are you
wandering rogues, who cast your lives like
dice, and ravage other folk by sea?”
Translation 3
“Strangers, who are you? From where do
you come sailing over the watery ways? Is
it on some business, or are you recklessly
roving as pirates do, when they sail on the
salt sea and venture their lives as they
wander, bringing evil to alien people?”
5. Context: Odysseus replies to Eurymachos right after he accuses Odyssues of killing the best of Ithaca
(i.e. Antinous)
Translation 1
Dogs! You thought I would never come
back from Troy, so you have been carving
up my substance, forcing the women to lie
with you, courting my wife before I was
dead, not fearing the gods who rule the
broad heavens, nor the execration of man
which follows you for ever. And now the
cords of death are made fast about you all!
Translation 2
You yellow dogs, you thought I’d never
make it home from the land of Troy. You
took my house to plunder, twisted my
maids to serve your beds. You dared bid
for my wife while I was still alive.
Contempt was all you had for the gods
who rule wide heaven, contempt for what
men say of you hereafter. Your last hour
has come. You die in blood.
Translation 3
You dogs, you never thought that I would
any more come back from the land of
Troy, and because of that you despoiled
my household, and forcibly took my
serving women to sleep beside you, and
sought to win my wife while I was still
alive, fearing neither the immortal gods
who hold the wide heaven, nor any resent
spring from men to be yours in the future.
Now upon all of you the terms of
destruction are fastened.
6. Context: Odysseus kills Antinous
Translation 1
The arrow struck him in the throat, and the
point ran through the soft neck. He sank
on the other side, and the goblet dropt
from his hands. In an instant a thick jet of
blood spouted from his nostrils; he pushed
the table away with a quick jerk of his feet,
spilling all the vittles on the ground – meat
and bread in a mess.
Translation 2
Odysseus’ arrow hit him under the chin
and punched up to the feathers through his
throat. Backward and down he went,
letting the winecup fall from his shocked
hand. Like pipes his nostrils jetted
crimson runnels, a river of mortal red, and
one last kick upset his table knocking his
bread and meat to soak in dusty blood.
Translation 3
But Odysseus, aiming at this man, struck
him in the throat with an arrow, and clean
through the soft part of the neck the point
was driven. He slumped to one side, and
out of his stricken hand fell the goblet, and
up and through his nostrils there burst a
thick jet of mortal blood, and with a thrust
of his foot he kicked back the table from
him, so that all the good food was
scattered on the ground, read and baked
meats together.
Totals: Count how many times you like each translation best and put your tally in the chart.
Translation 1
Translation 2
Translation 3
ENG I Honors
Mr. Davis
4. Context: Odysseus’ response to the pleas of Eurymachos
Translation 1
Eurymachos, not if you would give me
your whole estates, all you now possess,
and more if you could get it, not even so
would I stay my hand from killing until
every man of you shall have paid in full
for his outrageous violence. Now the
choice lies before you, fight or flight, if
you wish to save your lives; but I do not
think any one of you will escape sudden
Translation 2
Not for the whole treasure of your fathers,
all you enjoy, lands, flocks, or any gold
put up by others, would I hold my hand.
There will be killing till the score is paid.
You forced yourselves upon this house.
Fight your way out, or run for it, if you
think you’ll escape death. I doubt one
man of you skins by.
Translation 3
Eurymachos, if you gave me all your
father’s possessions, all that you have
now, and what you could add from
elsewhere, even so, I would not stay my
hands from the slaughter until I had taken
revenge for all the suitor’s transgressions.
Now the choice has been set before you,
either to fight me or run, if any of you can
death and its spirits. But I think not one
man will escape from sheer destruction.