Homer is the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the two greatest Greek epic poems. Nothing is known about Homer personally; it is not even known for certain whether there is only one true author of these two works. Homer is thought to have been an Ionian from the 9th or 8th century B.C. While historians argue over the man, his impact on literature, history, and philosophy is so significant as to be almost immeasurable. The Iliad relates the tale of the Trojan War, about the war between Greece and Troy, brought about by the kidnapping of the beautiful Greek princess, Helen, by Paris. It tells of the exploits of such legendary figures as Achilles, Ajax, and Odysseus. The Odyssey recounts the subsequent return of the Greek hero Odysseus after the defeat of the Trojans. On his return trip, Odysseus braves such terrors as the Cyclops, a one-eyed monster; the Sirens, beautiful temptresses; and Scylla and Charybdis, a deadly rock and whirlpool. Waiting for him at home is his wife who has remained faithful during his years in the war. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey have had numerous adaptations, including several film versions of each.
Translator and professor Robert Fagles was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1933. He received a BA in English from Amherst College and a PhD in English from Yale University. While obtaining his degrees, he studied Latin and Greek on the side. He taught at Yale for one year and then joined the faculty at Princeton University as an English professor and remained there until he retired in 2002. While at Princeton, he created the university's department of comparative literature and received an honorary doctorate in June 2007. He was also a renowned translator of Latin and Greek. His first published translation was of the Greek poet Bacchylides (1961), which was followed by versions of The Oresteia by Aeschylus and the plays, Antigone, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles. Fagles was best known for his versions of The Iliad (1990), The Odyssey (1996) and The Aeneid (2006). Instead of being an exacting literal translator, he sought to reinterpret the classics in a contemporary idiom which gave his translations a narrative energy and verve. He died of prostate cancer on March 26, 2008.
Bernard Knox was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire on November 24, 1914. After studying classics at St. John's College, Cambridge, he fought with the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, he married Betty Baur and began teaching Latin at a private school in Greenwich, Connecticut. During World War II, he served in the United States Army where he parachuted into France to work with the resistance and went on to join the partisans in Italy. He received a Bronze Star and the Croix de Guerre for his service. He received a doctorate from Yale University in 1948. He also taught at Yale University, becoming a full professor in 1959, and became the founding director of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies, a position he held until 1985. He was an authority on the works of Sophocles and his first book was Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles' Tragic Hero and His Time (1957). He also edited the anthology The Norton Book of Classical Literature (1993). His essay appeared in numerous publications including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic and The New York Review of Books. They were also collected in numerous books including The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy (1964), Word and Action: Essays on the Ancient Theater (1980), and The Oldest Dead White European Males and Other Reflections on the Classics (1993). He received numerous honorary degrees and distinctions during his lifetime including the George Jean Nathan Award for dramatic criticism in 1977; the Charles Frankel Prize of the National Endowment of the Humanities in 1990; and the Jefferson Medal of the Philosophical Society of America in 2004. He died of a heart attack on July 22, 2010 at the age of 95.