In the Sixteenth century, eight vernacular translations of the Iliad were produced in Italy, spanning from the early 1540s to the 1580s. Not a small number per se. But, of these eight, two were left unprinted, five were partial, and the only complete one was printed posthumously, by a very marginal press. Furthermore, only two in this group of translators had an established literary reputation. Five were minor figures at best; and one is totally unheard of, apart from his Homeric attempt. In the meantime, vernacular translation of ancient poems flourished in Italy, with some of the best Italian humanists and scholars of the time trying their hand at it, ever enlarging the Italian audience for Virgil, Ovid, Statius and many more. This chapter investigates the reasons behind the conspicuous and protracted lack of engagement of the Italian literary milieu with Homer through the lens of this very little known cluster of vernacular translations. In their collective failure, we can find by contrast an outline of what audiences at the time would have expected from a poem on the War of Troy. By way of contrasting these texts with the only successful attempt at divulging the Iliad to a wider audience (Dolce’s L’Achille et l’Enea, 1570), it will be clear that only a heavily romanticized and therefore “unfaithful” Iliad could appeal to a Renaissance audience that had been for centuries accustomed to the legends of Troy relying on Latin sources.
Italian translations of the Iliad in the sixteenth century: a woeful tale / Prosperi, Valentina. - (2023), pp. 217-238.