From The Chronicle Review:
Erasmus quoted the Iliad in a time of widening war:
Men get their fill of sleep and love, of beautiful singing and carefree dance, but they never get enough of war.
And they never get enough of the Iliad. In his anthology, Homer in English, George Steiner asked in 1996, Why are there so many Iliads in English? His answer: notions of noble manliness. "There shines throughout the Iliad an idealized yet also unflinching vision of masculinity, of an order of values and mutual recognitions radically virile."
Small wonder the epic has appealed to warrior nations like England and the United States. William Blake warned, "It is the Classics & not Goths nor Monks, that Desolate Europe with Wars.
According to The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation, the Iliad is among the most translated works in English, and English has more versions than any other language. They include their share of casualties. Lord W.E. Gladstone, four-time prime minister of England, tried to squeeze the Iliad into ballad stanzas. He foresaw his fate: "I have involuntarily conceived of the poem as a fortress high-walled and impregnable, and of the open space around as covered with the dead bodies of his translators, who have perished in their gallant but unsuccessful efforts to scale the walls."
In the depths of digital libraries lie dead Iliads. Who remembers the English translations of William Sotheby (1831), J. Henry Dart (1865), or Charles Bagot Cayley (1876)? And I doubt we will ever see another like The Iliad of Homer in the Spenserian stanza by Philip Stanhope Worsley and John Conington (1866-68). Samuel Butler's prose Iliad (1898) still gains praise, and T.E. Lawrence's Iliad (1932) has its following, while the couplets of Edgar Alfred Tibbetts (1907) and hexameters of George Ernle (1922) gather dust. For those that fall, new Iliads rush in.