Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Scenes of Ovid’s love stories in art

The poet Ovid plays a central role in Roman literary history and culture. Best known for his Metamorphoses, a 15-book mythological epic, and his collections of love poetry, particularly Amores and Ars Amatoria, Ovid’s poetry has greatly influenced Western art, and his works remain some of the most important sources of classical mythology.

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Was Alexander the Great poisoned?

By Philip A. Mackowiak
In the January issue of the journal Clinical Toxicology, investigators at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand and the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom offer yet another theory as to the cause of the untimely death of Alexander the Great just prior to his 33rd birthday.

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A goddess’s long life

By Amanda Podany
As an undergraduate, long before I chose to become an ancient historian, I took a course on ancient art history. I remember sitting in the darkened auditorium in the first weeks of the term, looking at images of prehistoric art and scribbling down notes as the professor paced the stage and pointed out features of each slide. Then came an image that took my breath away: a white marble face of a woman, almost life-size (though blown up to about six feet tall on the screen).

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What the ovaries of dinosaurs can tell us

By Dr. Jingmai O’Connor
Understanding the internal organs of extinct animals over 100 million years old used to belong in the realm of impossibility. However, during recent decades exceptional discoveries from all over the world have revealed elusive details such as fossilized feathers, skin, and muscle.

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Writing historical fiction in New Kingdom Egypt

By Colleen Manassa
The origins of Egyptian literary fiction can be found in the rollicking adventure tales and sober instructional texts of the early second millennium BCE. Tales such as the Story of Sinuhe, one of the classics of Egyptian literature, enjoyed a robust readership throughout the second millennium BCE as Egypt transitioned politically from the strongly centralized state of the Middle Kingdom…

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Translation and subjectivity: the classical model

by Josephine Balmer
At a British Centre for Literary Translation Seminar held jointly with Northampton Library Services some years ago, one of the participating librarians recounted his first encounter with the vagaries of translation; having fallen in love with a black Penguin version of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot as a student, he had eagerly purchased a new version when it had recently been republished. But dipping in to the book, he quickly became perplexed.

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Scenes from The Iliad in ancient art

Given its central role in Ancient Greek culture, various poignant moments in Homer’s The Iliad can be found on the drinking cups, water jars, mixing bowls, vases, plates, jugs, friezes, mosaics, and frescoes of ancient art. Each depiction dramatizes an event in the epic poem in a different way (sometimes inaccurately).

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Gods and mythological creatures in The Iliad in ancient art

Homer’s The Iliad is filled with references to the gods and other creatures in Greek mythology. The gods regularly interfere with the Trojan War and the fate of various Achaean and Trojan warriors. In the following slideshow, images from Barry B. Powell’s new free verse translation of The Iliad by Homer illustrate the gods’ various appearances and roles throughout the epic poem.

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Ancient Syria: trouble-prone and politically volatile

By Trevor Bryce
I have long been fascinated with Syria. Like other Middle Eastern regions, it has many layers of civilization and has seen many conquerors and raiders tramp and gallop through its lands over the centuries. That of course has been the fate of lots of countries, ancient and modern.

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Lost writings of Latin literature

By Peter Knox and J.C. McKeown
Once upon a time, the Greek city of Cyrene on the coast of Libya grew prosperous through the export of silphium, a plant much used in cookery and medicine. But then the farmers learned that there was more money to be made through rearing goats.

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Echoes of The Iliad through history

The Iliad was largely believed to belong to myth and legend until Heinrich Schliemann set out to prove the true history behind Homer’s epic poem and find the remnants of the Trojan War. The businessman turned archaeologist excavated a number of sites in Greece and Turkey, and caused an international sensation.

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An interview with Barry B. Powell on his translation of The Iliad

Every generation and culture needs its own version of The Iliad — one that capture the spirit of the original for a contemporary audience, whether Alexander Pope’s rhymed verse of the 18th century or dense Dickensian prose of 19th-century translations. Barry B. Powell’s new free verse translation of The Iliad was written with the modern English speaker in mind, and with the idea that the language Homer uses was colloquial and accessible to his contemporaries.

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Characters from The Iliad in ancient art

The ancient Greeks were enormously innovative in many respects, including art and architecture. They produced elaborate illustrations on everything from the glory of the Parthenon to a simple wine cup. Given its epic nature and crucial role in Greek education, many of the characters in the Iliad can be found in ancient art. From the hero Achilles to Hector’s charioteer, these depictions provide great insight into Greek culture and art.

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Illuminating the Mediterranean’s pre-history

It’s no wonder that the Mediterranean basin—centered on the world’s largest inland sea, blessed by a subtropical climate, and host to nurturing rivers—gave birth to several ancient civilizations. What many don’t realize, however, is that the Mediterranean’s pre-classical history was just as rich as its geography, and just as instrumental in priming the region for success.

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A call to the goddess

In the first book of The Iliad, Homer calls for a muse to help him recount the story of Achilles, the epic Greek hero of the Trojan War. The poet begins his account nine years after the start of Trojan war, with the capture of two maidens, Chryseis by Agamemnon, the commander of the Achaean Army, and Briseis by the hero Achilles.

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