Reading Homer: Reading Together

Since mid-June, I have been hosting a read along of Homer’s Iliad on Instagram that has been a bright light of 2020 for me. The participants range from late teens just starting their journeys with ancient literature to PhDs. This diversity of experience with and knowledge of Homer has been especially fruitful for the discussion. Those new to Homer raise questions and topics that seasoned readers may take for granted, providing fresh insight into familiar terrain; seasoned readers provide context valuable for new readers.  

One of the most heartening things this experience has given me is an appreciation for how much curiosity and passion readers of all ages and experience levels have for ancient works of literature. The ancient Greek language is often referred to as a “dead” language, but this may be only about, say, 40 percent true. In addition to living on in modern Greek, ancient Greek lives on through the Homeric epics that continue to resonate and inspire, both in the original and in translation. And no matter readers’ ages or backgrounds, the potential to find meaning, relevance, and connection seem inexhaustible, if one remains open to them.

The read along has also shown me, through our shared reading experience, that understanding historical context can deepen the resonance by allowing us to both identity with the works and confront what we do not and perhaps cannot understand. We see who we are on an intimate level even as we simultaneously confront the ways we are different. If we allow it to, this can inspire us to move away from indignation and condemnation toward understanding and grace. Not coincidentally, this is an important part of the hero Achilles’ journey in the poem.

The enthusiasm for Homer that I’ve encountered on Instagram and beyond has prompted me to bring the conversation to this platform with a new series around the Homeric epics. Are there any questions or topics that you’re especially interested in seeing covered? I invite you to share them in the comments, by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and/or by tweeting @booksinkhub. You can also visit me on Instagram here.

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