Quotations by Homer


Even the poorest fighters turn into brave men when they stand side by side.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, 13.235 (tr. E. Rieu (1950))
Added on 8-Jan-09 | Last updated 8-Jan-09
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Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds.

[Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 1, ll. 1-5 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990)]

Alt. trans.:
The wrath of Peleus' son, the direful spring
Of all the Grecian woes, O Goddess, sing!
That wrath which hurled to Pluto's gloomy reign
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain,
Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore ....
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Sing, O goddess, the destructive wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, which brought countless woes upon the Greeks, and hurled many valiant souls of heroes down to Hades, and made themselves a prey to dogs and to all birds ....
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

Of Peleus' son, Achilles, sing, O Muse,
The vengeance, deep and deadly; wence to Greece
Unnumber'd ills arose; which many a soul
Of mighty warriors to the viewless shades
Untimely sent; they on the battle plain
Unburied lay, a prey to rav'ning dogs,
And carrion birds ....
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Sing, O goddess, the rage of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures ....
[tr. Butler (1898)]

The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus' son, Achilles, that destructive wrath which brought countless woes upon the Achaeans, and sent forth to Hades many valiant souls of heroes, and made them themselves spoil for dogs and every bird ....
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that cause the Achaeans loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men -- carrion
for dogs and birds ....
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Sing now, goddess, the wrath of Achilles the scion of Peleus,
ruinous rage which brought the Achaians uncounted afflictions;
many the powerful souls it sent to the dwellings of Hades,
those of the heroes, and spoil for the dogs it made of their bodies,
plunder for all of the birds ....
[tr. Merrill (2007)]
Added on 5-Aug-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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Always it is, that the hearts in the younger men are frivolous,
but when an elder man is among them, he looks behind him
and in front, so that all comes out far better for both sides.

[Αἰεὶ δ’ ὁπλοτέρων ἀνδρῶν φρένες ἠερέθονται·
οἷς δ’ ὁ γέρων μετέῃσιν ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω
λεύσσει, ὅπως ὄχ’ ἄριστα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισι γένηται.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 3, ll. 108-110 [Menelaus] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Lattimore (1951)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
And youth itself an empty wavering state:
Cool age advances, venerably wise,
Turns on all hands its deep-discerning eyes;
Sees what befell, and what may yet befall,
Concludes from both, and best provides for all.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

For the minds of younger men are ever fluctuating; but for those among whom a senior is present, he looks at the same time both backward and forward, in order that the best results may accrue to both parties.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

For young men's spirits are too quickly stirr'd;
But in the councils check'd by rev'rend age,
Alike are weigh'd the future and the past,
And for all int'rests due provision made.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 130-34]

Young men's minds are light as air, but when an old man comes he looks before and after, deeming that which shall be fairest upon both sides.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Ever unstable are the hearts of the young; but in whatsoever an old man taketh part, he looketh both before and after, that the issue may be far the best for either side.
[tr. Murray (1924), #95]

Always in fact do the spirits in younger men flutter unsteady;
but with an elder among them, at once the before and the after
he can observe, so that things will become far better for both sides.
[tr. Merrill (2007), ll. 108-110]
Added on 26-Aug-20 | Last updated 26-Aug-20
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Who on earth could blame them? Ah, no wonder
the men of Troy and Argives under arms have suffered
years of agony all for her, for such a woman.
Beauty, terrible beauty!
A deathless goddess — so she strikes our eyes!

[Οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιοὺς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 3, ll. 156-58 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 187-190]

Alt. trans.:
Surely there is no blame on Trojans and strong-greaved Achaians
if for long time they suffer hardship for a woman like this one.
Terrible is the likeness of her face to immortal goddesses.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

No wonder, such celestial charms
For nine long years have set the world in arms!
What winning graces! what majestic mien!
She moves a goddess, and she looks a queen.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

It is not a subject for indignation, that Trojans and well-greaved Greeks endure hardships for a long time on account of such a woman. In countenance she is wondrous like unto the immortal goddesses ....
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

And, "'tis no marvel," one to other said,
"The valiant Trojans and the well-greav'd Greeks
For beauty such as this should long endure
The toils of war; for goddess-like she seems."
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and so long, for the sake of a woman so marvellously and divinely lovely.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Small blame that Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans should for such a woman long time suffer woes; wondrously like is she to the immortal goddesses to look upon.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

There is indeed no blame on the Trojans and well-greaved Achaians,
over a woman like this so long a time suffering sorrows;
dreadfully like the immortal goddesses is she to look on.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]
Added on 2-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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Idiot, not to know
his days are numbered who would fight the gods!
His children will not sing around his knees
“Papa! Papa!” on his return from war.

Ὅττι μάλ’ οὐ δηναιὸς ὃς ἀθανάτοισι μάχηται,
οὐδέ τί μιν παῖδες ποτὶ γούνασι παππάζουσιν
ἐκ πολέμοιο καὶ αἰνῆς δηϊοτῆτος.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 5, ll. 407-409 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:

No man who fights with gods will live long or hear his children prattling about his knees when he returns from battle.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Know thou, whoe'er with heavenly power contends,
Short is his date, and soon his glory ends;
From fields of death when late he shall retire,
No infant on his knees shall call him sire.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Unknowing he how short his term of life
Who fights against the Gods! for him no child
Upon his knee shall lisp a father's name,
Safe from the war and battle-field return'd.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 463-466]

Verily he endureth not for long who fighteth with the immortals, nor do his children prattle about his knees when he is come back from war and the dread conflict.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

That man who fights the immortals lives for no long time, his children do not gather to his knees to welcome their father when he returns home after the fighting and the bitter warfare.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

Doesn't the son of Tydeus know, down deep,
the man who fights the gods does not live long?
Nor do his children ride his knees with cries of 'Father' --
home at last from the wars and heat of battle.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 465-468]

Added on 9-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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When a Man’s exhausted, wine will build his strength.

[Ἀνδρὶ δὲ κεκμηῶτι μένος μέγα οἶνος ἀέξει.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 6, l. 261 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 310]

Alt. trans.
Then with a plenteous draught refresh thy soul,
And draw new spirits from the generous bowl.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

For great the strength
Which gen'rous wine imparts to men who toil.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 306-07]

Wine gives a man fresh strength when he is wearied.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

When a man is spent with toil wine greatly maketh his strength to wax.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

In a tired man, wine will bring back his strength to its bigness.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

Wine will restore a man when he is weary as you are.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

When someone is fatigued, wine greatly increases his power.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

Added on 30-Sep-20 | Last updated 30-Sep-20
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As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
Burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
So one generation of men will grow while another dies.

[Οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
φύλλα τὰ μέν τ’ ἄνεμος χαμάδις χέει, ἄλλα δέ θ’ ὕλη
τηλεθόωσα φύει, ἔαρος δ’ ἐπιγίγνεται ὥρη·
ὣς ἀνδρῶν γενεὴ ἣ μὲν φύει ἣ δ’ ἀπολήγει.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 6, ll. 146-49 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Lattimore (1951)]
    (Source)

Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground:
Another race the following spring supplies,
They fall successive, and successive rise:
So generations in their course decay;
So flourish these, when those are past away.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]


The race of man is as the race of leaves:
Of leaves, one generation by the wind
Is scatter'd on the earth; another soon
In spring's luxuriant verdure bursts to light.
So with our race; these flourish, those decay.
[tr. Derby (1864)]


Men come and go as leaves year by year upon the trees. Those of autumn the wind sheds upon the ground, but when spring returns the forest buds forth with fresh vines. Even so is it with the generations of mankind, the new spring up as the old are passing away.
[tr. Butler (1898)]


Even as are the generations of leaves, such are those also of men. As for the leaves, the wind scattereth some upon the earth, but the forest, as it bourgeons, putteth forth others when the season of spring is come; even so of men one generation springeth up and another passeth away.
[tr. Murray (1924)]


Very like leaves upon this earth are the generations of men -- old leaves, cast on the ground by wind, young leaves the greening forest bears when spring comes in. So mortals pass; one generation flowers even as another dies away.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]


Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round again. And so with men:
as one generation comes to life, another dies away.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 171-75]
Added on 16-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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He sent me off to Troy …
And I hear his urgings ringing in my ears:
“Always be the best, my boy, the bravest,
and hold your head up high above the others.
Never disgrace the generation of your fathers.
They were the bravest champions born in Corinth,
In Lycia far and wide.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 6, ll. 245-51 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990)]

This is the first appearance of the Greek "Αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν καὶ ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων" ["Always strive for excellence and prevail over others"] in the Illiad, Glaucus telling of his father's command to him. Peleus urges Achilles with the same words in Book 11. The two passages are sometimes confused.

Alt. trans.:

By his decree I sought the Trojan town,
By his instructions learn to win renown;
To stand the first in worth as in command,
To add new honours to my native land;
Before my eyes my mighty sires to place,
And emulate the glories of our race."
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]


To Troy he sent me, and enjoin'd me oft
To aim at highest honours, and surpass
My comrades all; nor on my father's name
Discredit bring, who held the foremost place
In Ephyre, and Lycia's wide domain.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 245-249]


When he sent me to Troy he urged me again and again to fight ever among the foremost and outvie my peers, so as not to shame the blood of my fathers who were the noblest in Ephyra and in all Lycia.
[tr. Butler (1898)]


He sent me to Troy and straitly charged me ever to be bravest and pre-eminent above all, and not bring shame upon the race of my fathers, that were far the noblest in Ephyre and in wide Lycia.
[tr. Murray (1924)]


He sent me here to Troy, commanding me to act always with valour, always to be the most noble, never to shame the line of my progenitors, great men first in Ephyra, then in Lycia.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]


Added on 23-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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And unextinguish’d laughter shakes the skies.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book I, l. 771 [tr. Pope]

Pope gives the same translation in Homer's Odyssey, Book VIII, l. 366.

Added on 7-Jul-10 | Last updated 7-Jul-10
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Thou know’st the o’er-eager vehemence of youth,
How quick in temper, and in judgement weak.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Illiad, Book 23, ll. 667-78 [tr. Derby (1865)]

Alt. trans.:

  • "Thou dost know / The faults to which the young are ever prone; / The will is quick to act, the judgment weak" [W. C. Bryant (1905)]
  • "It is easy for a youngster to go wrong from hastiness and lack of thought." [R. Graves, The Anger of Achilles (1959)]
  • "You know a young man may go out of bounds: / his wits are nimble, but his judgment slight." [R. Fitzgerald (1974)]
Added on 2-Jun-10 | Last updated 2-Jun-10
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What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods as the source of their troubles, when it is their own wickedness that brings them suffering worse than any which Destiny allots them.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey, 1.32 (tr. E. Rieu (1946))
Added on 17-Dec-08 | Last updated 17-Dec-08
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It is equally offensive to speed a guest who would like to stay and to detain one who is anxious to leave.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey, 15.69 [Menelaus to Telemachus]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Apr-10
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It is not right to glory in the slain.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey, bk. 22, l. 412 [tr. Palmer (1929)]

Alt. trans. [Hull (1978)]: "It isn't right to gloat over the dead."
Added on 28-Jan-08 | Last updated 29-Apr-10
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For too much rest itself becomes a pain.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey, Book 15, l. 429 [tr. Pope]
Added on 9-Jun-10 | Last updated 9-Jun-10
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The ruins of himself! now worn away
With age, yet still majestic in decay.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey, Book 24, l. 271 [tr. Pope]
Added on 14-Jul-10 | Last updated 14-Jul-10
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Jove weighs affairs of earth in dubious scales,
And the good suffers while the bad prevails.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey, Book VI, l. 229-30 [tr. Pope]
Added on 30-Jun-10 | Last updated 30-Jun-10
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