Barry B. Powell

Barry Bruce Powell (born 1942) is an American classical scholar. He is the Halls-Bascom Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of the widely used textbook Classical Myth and many other books. Trained at Berkeley and Harvard, he is a specialist in Homer and in the history of writing. He has also taught Egyptian philology for many years and courses in Egyptian civilization.


His Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization (Wiley-Blackwell 2009) attempts to create a scientific terminology and taxonomy for the study of writing, and was described in Science as "stimulating and impressive" and "a worthy successor to the pioneering book by Semitic specialist I. J. Gelb."[1] This book has been translated into Arabic and modern Greek.

Powell's study Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet advances the thesis that a single man invented the Greek alphabet expressly in order to record the poems of Homer.[2] This thesis is controversial. The book was the subject of an international conference in Berlin in 2002 and has been influential outside classical philology, especially in media studies.[citation needed] Powell's Writing and the Origins of Greek Literature follows up themes broached by the thesis.

Powell's textbook, Classical Myth (8th edition) is widely used for classical myth courses in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan,[citation needed] as his text The Greeks: History, Culture, Society (with Ian Morris) is widely used in ancient history classes.[citation needed] His text World Myth is popular in such courses.[citation needed]

Powell's critical study Homer is widely read as an introduction for philologists, historians, and students of literature. In this study, Powell suggested that Homer may have hailed from Euboea instead of Ionia.[3]

A New Companion to Homer (with Ian Morris), also translated into modern Greek and Chinese, is a comprehensive review of modern scholarship on Homer.

His literary works include poetry (Rooms Containing Falcons), an autobiography (Ramses in Nighttown), a mock-epic (The War at Troy: A True History), an academic novel (A Land of Slaves: A Novel of the American Academy), a novel about Berkeley (The Berkeley Plan: A Novel of the Sixties), a novel about Jazz (Take Five, with Sanford Dorbin), and a collection of short fiction. He has published a memoir: Ramses Reborn. In Tales of the Trojan War he retells in a droll, sometimes ribald style, the stories attached to the Trojan cycle, based on ancient sources.

He has translated the Iliad[4] and the Odyssey. The introduction to these poems discusses Powell's thesis about the Greek alphabet and the recording of Homer and is an influential review of modern Homeric criticism.[5] He has also translated the Aeneid and the poems of Hesiod.



  • Composition by Theme in the Odyssey, Beiträge zur klassichen Philologie, 1974
  • Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet, Cambridge University Press, 1991
  • A New Companion to Homer (with Ian Morris), E. J. Brill, 1995
  • A Short Introduction to Classical Myth, Pearspm, 2000
  • Writing and the Origins of Greek Literature, Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Homer, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, 2nd ed. 2007
  • Helen of Troy, Screenplay based on Margaret George novel. 2006
  • Rooms Containing Falcons, poetry, 2006
  • The War at Troy: A True History, mock-epic, 2006
  • Ramses in Nighttown, a novel, 2006
  • The Greeks: History, Culture, Society (with Ian Morris), Pearson, 2006, 2nd ed. 2009
  • Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
  • Ilias, Odysseia, Greek text with translation of Alexander Pope, Chester River Press 2009
  • A Land of Slaves: A Novel of the American Academy, Orion Books 2011
  • World Myth, Pearson, 2013
  • The Iliad, Oxford University Press, 2013
  • The Odyssey, Oxford University Press, 2014
  • Classical Myth, eighth edition, Pearson, 2014
  • Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: The Essential Books, Oxford University Press, 2014
  • Vergil's Aeneid, Oxford University Press, 2015
  • Vergil's Aeneid: The Essential Books, Oxford University Press 2015
  • The Berkeley Plan: A Novel of the Sixties, Orion Books 2016
  • The House of Odysseus, and other short fictions, Orion Books 2016
  • The Poems of Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, the Shield of Heracles, University of California Press 2017
  • Take Five, A Story of Jazz in the Fifties (with Sanford Dorbin), Telstar Books, 2017
  • Ramses Reborn: A Memoir, Amazon Publications, 2017
  • Tales of the Trojan War, Amazon Publications, 2017


Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ A. Robinson, "Signs of Meaning", Science 324, pp. 38–39 (3 April 2009)
  2. ^ "When the Ancient Greeks Began to Write", Archaeology, pp. 44–49 (May/June 2017)
  3. ^ Barry B. Powell, Homer, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, p. 30: "Although most handbooks call Homer an Ionian poet, who lived and worked in Asia Minor, he may have worked on the long island of Euboea that hugs the east coast of mainland Greece. Certain technical features of his dialect may mark it as West Ionian, as opposed to the East Ionian of the Asia Minor coast."
  4. ^ Review by Hayden Pelliccia, "As Many Homers as you Please", New York Review of Books (20 November 2017)
  5. ^ Blume, Harvey (12 January 2014). "Fuse Poetry Commentary: Thoughts on Reading a New Translation of The Iliad". The Arts Fuse. Retrieved 3 November 2014.

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