The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

Over the Wine-Dark Sea

The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters


William Collins 352pp £25

There is a simple answer to the question understood by the subtitle of this book. Homer matters because he has mattered to people for some three thousand years or even longer. He matters because he is the father of European literature. Homer, Adam Nicolson writes, ‘is the foundation of truth and beauty … Homer is alive in anyone who is prepared to attend. Homerity is humanity.’

But who was Homer? Was there indeed ever a single Homer? And if there was, when did he live and when were the Iliad and the Odyssey composed? Did they have the same author? There is no certain answer to these questions. Nicolson has no doubt that ‘the poet of

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