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Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad
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Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,187 ratings  ·  123 reviews
The Story of the Iliad

Homer's epic poem, The Illiad, is one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. In it, the abduction of the legendary beauty, Helen of Troy, leads to a conflict in which even the gods and goddesses take sides and intervene. It is in the Trojan War that the most valiant heroes of the ancient world are pitted against one another. Here Hectore, Ajax
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Hardcover, 128 pages
Published September 1st 1993 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published 1967)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,170)
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Esteban del Mal
The verdict of a seven-year-old:

"There's too much killing! They shouldn't have done that over one stupid woman! They should've just talked things out!"
Nikki
I didn't know, when I asked for this retelling of the story of Troy for Christmas, that it was illustrated by Alan Lee. It was enough for me that it was written by Rosemary Sutcliff! And even without the illustrations, it's well done: Rosemary Sutcliff brings a lot of pathos to it, with moments of insight and tenderness. I thought the moment from the Iliad with Astanyax being afraid of his father's helmet was well done, but there were other good bits. In most ways, though, it stuck close to the ...more
Angie
I read this with the kids for a children's book club. If it weren't for the book club, I probably would have stopped reading it to them but I would have kept reading for myself. There is a lot of violence in the Trojan war...and since I have never read the Illiad, I didn't realize how much violence is in the story. But I don't know how much they really understood. There are dozens of characters to keep up with so half of the time I was telling them which side a character fought on. And even towa ...more
Diane
I'm pleased to have such a well written version of the Iliad (including the Aeneid's fall of Troy) for my sixth graders! Sutcliff does such a wonderful job with language in this translation that I plan to focus our English lessons on word choice, metaphors, similes, personification, extended metaphors, foreshadowing, and prediction. Additional lessons will include an historical timeline, Homer and Virgil, a discussion of translations to suit a particular audience, historical evidence of Troy and ...more
Trace
Luke's review:

This was about a 10 year long war called the Trojan War between the Greeks and the Romans. And there was large wooden horse which was Odysseus' idea which help the Greeks to win the war.

It was terrific and exciting and it had lots of action.

Momma's Note: We listened to the audio version of this book which was read by Robert Glenister, and I can heartily recommend it. Robert Glenister is a fabulous narrator and captured the attention of my young son.
Leah Beecher
This is the re-telling of The Iliad for kids. Rosemary Sutcliff is a great juvenile historical author for children. A homes-schooler go-to! This book is no exception. Lots of beautiful illustrations,a good descriptive narrative that did not read like a hacked condensed book for kids. But this condensed version is still very, very, long. I am sure to keep true and include all the elements of this very long piece of Greek literature. Did I mention long? I don't know much about ancient Greek litera ...more
Poiema
This is a children's version of the Iliad, though not beneath the dignity of an adult. Sutcliff brings the many battle scenes alive in her meticulous telling and is very skilled in her use of vivid imagery. The character development is such that you are able to "see" people as neither good nor bad, but as humans who are capable of either. I think this is especially important in a children's book, because children by nature like to categorize characters in black or white, and literature like this ...more
Jamie
Excellent version of The Iliad for reading out loud. Illustrated by Alan Lee, famous for his illustrations of The Lord of the Rings books. The prose retains some recognizable elements of the original (there's the occasional simile about lions hunting their prey) while being obviously much more succinct (she takes only two or three sentences to describe the Shield of Achilles.)

This version encompasses more of the story than The Iliad: it begins with the quarrel between godesses that led to Paris
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Jennifer
This retelling of The Iliad by Rosemary Sutcliff (complete with artwork) is considered to be for children, but it is a fantastic introduction to Homer's works for people of all ages. She captures the essence of Homer's epic poetry in prose form, with all the anticipation, action, and emotion intact. Highly recommended for read-alouds with older elementary age children, or for adults who are afraid to try the full text, yet. This smart intro will probably whet your appetite for the real thing, an ...more
Laura
I read this book because it was a book for the homeschool coop's book group (intended the kids to read and discuss). My husband read it to our daughter and I just read it on my own. I liked the book more from an educational point of view than entertainment (what an awful violent story if it was just for entertainment). I had read the Odyssey in high school but not the Iliad, so it was educational for me to read the story of the Iliad and to understand what came before the Odyssey. It was also in ...more
Sarah
I thoroughly enjoyed Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling of the Iliad. She keep a quick paced while reflecting Homer's style.
Stefani
A beautiful retelling of the Iliad and other Epic Cycle poems (which no longer exist in their entirety--but only exist in summaries). The author uses wonderful imagery and even repeats various epithets for the characters, keeping an epic Greek poem feel, despite its abridgment. I will point out that the Iliad is about the wrath of Achilles--the actual Iliad starts with the return of Chryseis to her father and ends with Hector's funeral. If you want to just read the Iliad portion, start at chapte ...more
Terri
Rosemary Sutcliff excels at story telling by making the epic story of the Iliad understandable and thrilling to a seven year old. I have read this book to my son at least three times, beginning when he was seven years old. He is now so familiar with the story and characters of the Iliad as a result of Black Ships Before Troy that to read Homer's Iliad will simply mean meeting these familiar characters again. Sutcliff's writing is so engaging that parents as well will enjoy this book. An absolute ...more
Jennifer Dines
link: review originally published on literacychange.org

Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad (ISBN: 0-553-49483-X)by Rosemary Sutcliff retells Homer’s epic poem in the form of a novel. Several themes emerge in this retelling – betrayal, loss, revenge, and heroism.

Agamemnon Betrays Achilles
Achilles feels betrayed by Agamemnon, the king of the Greeks, when Agamemnon threatens to take Briseis – a captured maiden and spoil of war – away from Achilles, and, although he is the pride of the G
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Gary
A soft introduction to the story of the Iliad. The author does well to pick out key moments to form a simpler version of the classical text as we know it.
The book brings with it the traditional colour and vividness of the classical Greek style of writing. This style of writing highlights the brightness, passion and warmth in the way feelings, thoughts and events were described throughout the book.

The book explains the origin of the story of the Iliad, one of the greatest pieces of fiction of al
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Logan
J read The Iliad and the Odyssey: The heroic story of the trojan war the fabulous adventures of odysseus, which was meant for younger readers, to Logan (who is nearly 7) and although I only got this version for older kids for the pictures (by the same illustrator who illustrated Tolkien's books), L really wanted to read it too. I did find the language of this version more fun, complex, and poetic than the other, but boy, it was much more graphic. The funny thing is that L was completely unfazed ...more
Manning
Zeus thought that there were too many people on earth, so he made a golden apple that would cause a humongous war. He gave it to Eris, the goddess of discord, and told her to give it to throw it on a table where Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena were sitting. When Hera saw it and picked it up and read its inscription "To the fairest," she claimed it was hers because she was the wife of Zeus and Queen of the Gods. Athena claimed it was hers because of the beauty of wisdom that was hers surpassed all el ...more
Krobinson
This book is a great introduction of the Iliad. The book starts with how a prince invited all of the gods and goddess to his wedding except for one, who was the goddess of mischief and confusion. This goddess was mad and went to the wedding anyway and threw a golden apple with "to the fairest of all" written on it. Three goddesses fought for it, and no one would tell them who was the fairest of them was. One day, the prince of Troy was in the woods when the three goddesses asked him who was the ...more
Joel Simon
The Iliad for children. Can such a book exist and be good at the same time? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" Not for very young children, mind you, because you can't really dress up war, death and destruction for little ones, but if you want to get an 11-13 year old started on some Greek mythology, this is the way to go (and there is an Odyssey to go along with it too!).

The story, as we all know, is fascinating -- from the Judgment of Paris, to the wooing of Helen of Troy, to the death of Achil
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Ava
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike
Dec 19, 2009 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting an introduction to the Trojan War story
Considering the intended audience for this Iliad retelling - teens - Sutcliff's version is succinct, yet covers all the major events of the Trojan War. Her prose elegantly retains a flavor of the original texts, yet briskly moves along in manner that I think would appeal to an average modern reader (myself for instance). She does not shy away from the brutality inherent in this epic, and certainly brings out Achilles' fury. However I do feel that some of the heroic themes of the tale, such as gl ...more
Elizabeth
Holy god, Alan Lee can paint. (He was the concept artist for Jackson's trilogy, and you can totally see some of the same epic sweep and body language in the watercolors here.)

This is the Iliad-plus. it's the story of the rage of Achilles, with the added context of why the Greeks are in Asia Minor at all, and it goes up to the end of the war, including the horse, and Laocoon, etc., etc. It sticks pretty closely to the canonical text — although it leaves out Iphigenia, and the story I love that He
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Penny
This is a children's account of the story of Troy. It follows Paris, Helen, Menelaus, Achilles and loads of others in the seige of Troy.

This is a great book if your child is already into Greek stories but it is gory in places and is a group of stories strung together rather than one coherent account. For us it was good in parts but had too much repetition of battles, funerals and general interfering by the Gods!!!
Stacy
International Books

Lesson Ideas:

Read each chapter to a class that is studying mythology. After each chapter, each student should write a haiku to represent what happened in the chapter. At the end of the book, all students will have a series of haikus to summarize the book.

Each student can research characters in the story and report.

Emma
3'5 de 5. He tenido que leerlo medio obligada y bastante rápido, y eso ha hecho que en algunos momentos en los que no me apetecía leer se me hiciera pesado. Creo que si lo hubiera leído más a mi ritmo, lo habría disfrutado mucho más. Pero aún así me ha gustado bastante, y me llevo un buen sabor y una buena experiencia leyendo esta historia de la Ilíada.
Alba
Sinceramente tenia muchas ganas de leerme a Iliada, o una adaptacion de este libro, y al comenzar este año observe que Naves Negras ante Troya estaba entre los libros obligatorios de Lengua y Literatura. Me hizo mucha ilusion, por que la pelicula Troya me habia encantado y amo la mitologia griega, y , aunque ya sabia todo lo que iba a pasar me gusto mucho. Hay muchas cosas que no salian en l pelicula y me sorprendieron.
Esta muy bien escrito, con un lenguaje sencillo y muy bien adaptado.
Sharon
Too many vain, proud, and jealous men fighting to return an aging woman to her rightful husband. There are plenty of battles, killings, and fun filled funerals on both sides, but then fighting for more than 10 years forces you to make grand statements.
Leah Colleen Worley
I knew this book would be good based on all the recommendations I've read, but I didn't know just *how* good. I started it as a read-aloud to my kids during our Ancient Greece history lessons. I have never read "The Iliad", just knew bits and pieces of the storyline. I have been reading a few chapters each day, but ended up finishing up the book on my own because I was so drawn in by it. Now the hard part will be not giving away more details to the kids while I finish reading it. I really loved ...more
Jon
Read this with Jack. It's a very nicely illustrated children's adaptation of the Illiad which I'd never been able to slog all the way through. Wow, this is probably the most violent, bloody book I've ever read. We had a pretty hard time keeping up with the body count and the gruesome manner that the people died in but it definitely held our attention.
Nathan
I confess I checked out a children's book at the library because it was illustrated by Alan Lee, the man who also so beautifully illustrated many of Tolkien's works. How could I resist?
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Rosemary Sutcliff was a British novelist, best known as a writer of highly acclaimed historical fiction. Although primarily a children's author, the quality and depth of her writing also appeals to adults, she herself once commenting that she wrote "for children of all ages from nine to ninety."

Born in West Clandon, Surrey, Sutcliff spent her early youth in Malta and other naval bases where her fa
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“Always, in these times, I am wretched save when sleep comes to me. Therefore, I have come to look upon sleep as the best of all gifts.” - Helen, about the war” 3 likes
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