Barry B. Powell

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Barry B. Powell 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. 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. 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, as his text The Greeks: History, Culture, Society (with Ian Morris) is widely used in ancient history classes. His text World Myth is popular is such courses.

Powell's critical study Homer, second edition, translated into Italian, is widely read as an introduction for philologists, historians, and students of literature.

A New Companion to Homer (with Ian Morris), 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, and an academic novel (A Land of Slaves).

He has translated the Iliad 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.[2] He has also translated the Aeneid.



  • 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, Prentice-Hall, 2000
  • Writing and the Origins of Greek Literature, Cambridge University Piess, 2003
  • 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, autobiography, 2006
  • Homer, second edition, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007
  • Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
  • The Greeks: History, Culture, Society (with Ian Morris), second edition, Prentice-Hall, 2009
  • Ilias, Odysseia, Greek text with translation of Alexander Pope, 2009
  • A Land of Slaves, academic novel, 2011
  • World Myth, Prentice-hall, 2013
  • The Iliad, Oxford University Press, 2013
  • The Odyssey, Oxford University Press, 2014
  • Classical Myth, eighth edition, Prentice-Hall, 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


Notes and references

  1. "Signs of Meaning", Science 324, pp. 38–39 (3 April 2009)
  2. Blume, Harvey (12 January 2014). "Fuse Poetry Commentary: Thoughts on Reading a New Translation of The Iliad". The Arts Fuse. Retrieved 3 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links