Bustānī’s Iliad and Imperialism in the Middle East

  • Evelyn RichardsonEmail author
Part of the New Directions in Book History book series (NDBH)


The nineteenth century witnessed the earliest translations of Homer’s Iliad into any non-European languages, amidst the intensification of French and British expansionism. Amongst these, Sulaymān al-Bustānī’s rendering of the poem into Arabic verse, begun in 1887 and published in Cairo in 1904, was hailed by local elites as a decisive intervention in the struggle against European cultural hegemony. This essay examines Bustānī’s translation as a case study of the process by which the Iliad became a text of truly global reach. It traces the formation of a new Arabic discourse on the ancient Greeks in resistance to European cultural imperialism, before describing how Bustānī’s text constituted such a powerful rejection of Eurocentric accounts of ‘civilisation’ and hence the spurious justification of colonialism as a ‘civilising’ enterprise.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Comparative LiteratureUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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