The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters Hardcover – 22 May 2014
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‘[A] brilliant, passionate, world-wandering love letter to Homer … If the only real test of any book about Homer is that it should make you want to go back to Homer, then ‘The Mighty Dead’ passes that test in a blaze of glory’ Sunday Times
‘Nicolson dusts down Homer for a new generation. Superbly written’ Daily Telegraph
‘The book that was waiting to be written … a superbly written account of the poems’ The Times
‘Thrilling and unsettling … [a] wonderfully expressive alloy of travelogue, scholarship and advocacy, which broods with heartfelt grace … Nicolson's books always shine with the Homeric virtues of eloquence, passion, generosity, audacity and candour … He does them proud’ Boyd Tonkin, Independent
‘A hosanna to Homeric wandering and wanderlust … breathes new life into an ancient adventure’ Observer
‘A beautiful study: full of insight, generosity and unaffected passion. The writing is exhilarating’ Guardian
‘A thrillingly energised book … it transmits a whole worldview at once decipherable and dramatically strange … To read Homer is to be struck by what Nicolson calls ‘time-vertigo’ – and this book is one that holds your hand and encourages you to peer over the edge. To read it is to have a fat pair of Homeric jump-leads attached from Nicolson’s sparkling and crackling faculties to your own’ Spectator
‘As gripping as a thriller and as delicately constructed as a sonnet … an astonishing tour de force that reveals Homer to be at once as ancient as papyrus and as modern as MTV … Not only does he have an inward understanding of how Homer’s poetry works, his own prose also has the sharp glitter of a poet’s eye’ Telegraph
‘Erudite, far-ranging in time and space, and provocative …This rich and adventurous book is Nicolson’s own odyssey … [his] enthusiasm is enriching and his examination of the character of the two epics acute and fascinating. Homer matters because he can stimulate books such as this’ Literary Review
Why Homer MattersSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The era of Homer's Iliad was the Bronze Age - but there are a series of archaeological event horizons at Troy which date from around 2200BC to 1180BC. There is an age-old division between archaeologists and the ancient texts - being a science, archaeology doesn't hold with aery-faery myth. I tend to imagine the Trojan War as ca. 1450-1380BC. Does it really matter? The Iliad creates its own world.
Nonetheless, there have been discoveries to confirm Homer's Iliad and Odyssey - not least relevant dates for the burning of Troy, the palace of Nestor at 'sandy Pylos' and the Cretan palace of Knossos, (its labyrinthine architecture possibly constructed to take advantage of the winds in the incandescent heat of a southern Mediterranean summer.)
Nicolson's 'take' on Homer is muscular. In the main, the quest in 'The Mighty Dead' was not about finding 'how like us' the ancient Greeks were, in their thinking, practices and beliefs, but how very different. And, as he points out, Odysseus's voyage home to Ithaka, like Jason's to the Black Sea, has been the subject of much speculation - some of it realistic, based on knowledge of ancient seafaring and the construction of galleys, but many other latter-day theories are specious fantasies.
Poetry, for us, is an art form where language is employed for aesthetic purposes as well as semantics. For the ancient Greeks, ποίησις (poiesis) was a 'making' or 'creating.' Homer's words are original, yet come from a supernatural teacher, the breath he inhaled from the Muse.Read more ›
Fortunately the book succeeded very well in so many other areas. The use of language to place the original events in realms of a steppe-people (red meat and raiding) was very persuasive, moving back the events behind the poem to 1800 BC rather than 1250 BC. The discussion of bardic tradition (is it constantly changing - the Kriepiad, or astonishingly regular - Scottish Islesmen) and the comparison with contemporary tales (The Story of Sinuhe)are all very valuable. If Nicolson never quite got his love of the Odyssey into my fat head he succeeded with his description of place - the gates of Hades in Spain, and the megaron of Emporio in Chios could almost be sniffed. All in all he continues in the tradition of singing this most ancient of songs: many-voiced lord of windy Carnock.
It is the cleverest and most profound book on any subject that I have read in twenty years. It is not a difficult book, as some specialist books on, say, philosophy, theology and philology, for example, are, but it embraces all those and brings together all that makes us Proto-Indo-European speaking people what we are. From my limited vocabulary I'd call it a tour de force, de jeux, de joie, d'esprit; and then I've come nowhere near expressing its impact.
I can hook it up to Schweitzer's wonderful phrase, 'Wir Epigonen', straight from Greek meaning, We inheritors (of a profound culture and civilisation).
You can get it on Kindle for a couple of pounds. Then savour it for the rest of your life, knowing it was the best two pounds you ever spent.
This is a literary book about the poems of Homer, investigating and analysing the story, the poetry, the background, the influences, and just about every aspect that you can think of. It is extremely well-written, and immerses you in the world of the Ancient Greeks in a way that a traditionally-written history book would have difficulty achieving. There are copious notes and references included here, but tucked away at the back without any indication in the text that is not ‘just’ a book about poetry. I read it over three evenings, and didn’t even notice they were there until I had finished. If you have any interest in the poems of Homer or their place in European culture, this is an excellent view of contemporary research, literary, linguistic, archaeological and whatever, but woven together into a magnificent verbal tapestry.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely fascinating book which covers all aspects of Homer - poetry, literature, history, technology, anthropology, geography, linguistics.... And so well written and readable. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Austin Futers
This book drives you to read Homer. It is full of insights; its language is of the highest order. It provides many insights into the Greek original. Read morePublished 12 days ago by David W. Bisset
Being very interested in Ancient Greece I thought this would be really interesting - but just couldn't get into it. After a couple of chapters I gave up. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Aunty Anne
It'll make you want to read Homer again which can only be good thing.Published 2 months ago by Pedro
I should like to preface what follows by saying:
1. We do not know how old the Greek tradition of oral poetry is (as opposed to songs, accompanied or unaccompanied by... Read more
Fascinating story of the history and origin of Homer's poems and all the surrounding world of the Bronze Age. Read morePublished 4 months ago by ALEXANDRA
I'm half way through and it is a really good read. It's nicely researched and there are some brilliant descriptions. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Simon