A Reading of Homer (work in progress)

Audio and text annotations licensed as CC-BY, © 2016, 2017 by David Chamberlain.

Interface and audio timing is still a work in progress.

This project is a labor of love, but if you want to, you can support it on Patreon.  Feel free to share.


The Iliad:

The Odyssey:

These are also posted to archive.org in various downloadable formats.

The Iliad is done (for now).  Some mid-project comments:

The aim so far has been to produce, in a reasonable time period, a free, accessible, spoken version, with moderately good audio quality and linked to a metrically tagged text.  Accordingly I’ve tried to follow only a couple of very basic requirements:

  • a recognizable, consistent hexameter rhythm
  • a tolerable effort at reconstructed pronunciation (to the extent that it exists for Homeric Greek) with a very conservative pitch accent, and with my instinctive stress accent restrained to the best of my ability.

That was pretty much it.  Before I move on to the Odyssey, however, I need to meditate on some slightly less basic things, do a few experiments, and see if I can produce something a bit more sophisticated.  A few things to think about:

  • with a few early books of the Iliad I experimented with varying the pace of reading.  I abandoned this quickly for the sake of simplicity, and because I wasn’t happy with the way I was doing it.  It still seems to me that Homer’s audience would have appreciated a little variety of pace, so I’ll see if I can revisit that.
  • I’m getting better at the pitch accent (I think), but it would be good to do some more work on it before restarting.  I have no plans to go full Daitz on this.  More East Anglia.  I’m probably also letting the stress accent come through too much.
  • I’m inconsistent on digamma pronunciation.  The more I read, the less I pronounced them, but a few still seemed necessary.  Consistency may not be necessary, but there may be some patterns to be discovered here.  Or I may need to decide if I’m reading an 8th century poem or a 3rd century text.
  • If you’ve been listening, you’ll have noticed a few things about the way I treat caesuras.
    • I’m averse to 4th foot caesuras, generally opting to read without pause or to pause at a weak 3rd foot word break rather than observe them.  I’m not sure why this is.  It may represent a useful intuition, or it may just be a bad habit.  In  any case, it’s linked to the next one:
    • phrasing of enjambment and treatment of caesura seem to me to be linked
    • elision, lengthening and hiatus at the caesura all require decisions about pronunciation.  I’ve not been consistent in those decisions so far.  It may not be necessary to be, but we’ll see.
    • The basic rhythmic framework of my reading has some major assumptions.  I give each line 8 beats, so the rhythm is perfectly stichic, however the caesura is treated.  This means, among other things, that there is always a line-end pause before an enjambed word.  When I pause at a caesura, the pause length is consistent (for the most part) no matter the place of the caesura in the rhythm.  I don’t pause after enjambed words.  I could be wrong about all of these.  And I am a rhythmically challenged person, so I need to consult with a drummer friend or two.
  • I’d like to add more semantic info to the files at some point, perhaps working with treebank data.  I have speakers tagged, but addressees would be good, as would speaker metadata (gender, human/god, god-in-disguise-as, god-in-dream, person-as-ghost etc.), speech type (prayer, supplication, flyting etc.) .  There’s also Agamemnon’s remarkable speech in book 19, which involves the only mutli-line embedded direct speech in the Iliad; so we need tags for speaker-inside-speaker.  Wordhoard has some of this.  We could also tag similes, speech intro formulas etc.  Then again, full semantic tagging is not the aim of this project, some of these would involve significant interpretive choices, and I know that various scholars have their own versions of some of this, some at least partly published in paper format and restricted online interfaces.  Perhaps they can be persuaded to publish their raw data.  It would also be good to tag various caesura options (e.g three-folders, lines without pause), and metrical anomalies features (e.g. hiatus, hiatus-at-caesura, diastole, correption, lengthening-at-caesura, no-correption, no-correption-at-caesura, etc).  Seriously, somebody must already have this.  Speak up!
  • I would love to Moretti-fy the tag data
  • I make no attempt at anything like melody (unlike, for instance, Hagel).  It’s highly unlikely that this will change, as it’s probably not appropriate, but it’s up for consideration.
  • I’m also doing a fair bit of work on a fully tagged text of Ovid Metamorphoses 10, plus a scansion practice tool, and posting metrically tagged versions of as much hexameter verse (Latin and Greek) as I can handle (much of this will probably end up on github).

Scanned versions of the Odyssey and Iliad are available here, and will be posted to this page when I’ve completed the reading.  These ones still need some corrections.

For adding the scansion annotations, I made some use of Mindaugas Strockis and Marius Tverijonas’ online scansion tool.  The only database of hexameter scansion I’m aware of is Martin Mueller’s, which is tucked away inside WordHoard.

Iliad text is D. B. Monro and T. W. Allen, Oxford, 1920.  I made one emendation for metrical reasons: in 21.352, τὰ is changed to ταὶ as the first syllable of the line.

Some notes on using the pages as a scansion database.

A plea to other scholars collecting data on literary texts:

If you really believe in scholarship as sharing, please publish your raw data.  That means posting xml files, csv file, sql files etc. that can be reused by others working in the field.  You can license the data through Creative Commons in a way that will ensure you get credit when people use it.

A related project: