Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Thomas G Palaima

ProfessorPh.D. 1980, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professor: Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor and Director, Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP)
Thomas G Palaima



Aegean scripts & prehistory, Greek language, war & violence studies, public intellectual writing, music as social criticism, Dylanology


Tom Palaima, a MacArthur fellow for his work in Aegean prehistory and early Greek language and culture, is director of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP: see web page). He has held Fulbright fellowships/profesorships in Greece (79-80), Austria (92-93), and Spain (2007) and has been a fellow of the University of Wisconsin Humanities Institute (1983) and the University of Texas Humanities Institute (2002, 2010). In 2007, he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London.  For his public commentaries and service within the University, he was chosen one of three honorable mentions for Longhorn of the Year, Daily Texan, December 2010.

He has lectured, written and taught extensively on the subjects of ancient writing systems, the reconstruction of ancient culture, decipherment theory, Greek language, war and violence studies, ancient religion, ethnicity, feasting ritual, kingship ideology and practice, ethics and leadership, song as an important means of communicating social criticism, and Dylanology.

He is a regular commentary writer for the Austin American-Statesman and a regular reviewer and occasional feature writer for the Times Higher Education. He has also written for The Texas Observer and Michigan War Studies Review. He has appeared on NPR, national, Austin and and Boston, and on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Read and Listen to:

"In Perspective: How Grief, Technology & Storytelling Help Us Remember Tragedy." KUT-FM October 17, 2014

He received the UT Alumni/ae Association's Jean Holloway Award for Excellence in Teaching for academic year 2003-2004 and the Plan II Chad Oliver Teaching Award in 2004-2005. He has taught in the Free Minds Program for poverty-level adults, the Telluride Program summer seminars, the Odyssey program (one of UT's outreach programs), and many times at UT's annual open house (Explore UT) and in the summer Honors Colloquium.

He taught UT's Summer Intensive Greek program most years 1997-2011:

With Sara Kimball, he has taught for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and for Undergraduate Studies (UGS 302), courses on how to reconstruct Anatolian Hittite and Aegean Mycenaean cultures through textual, archaeological, art historical and traditional literary sources. He also has strong interest in ancient religion and how it is reconstructed and interpreted. His course "Placing Ourselves" (UGS 303) uses ancient and modern creative works of all kinds to raise questions about ethics, leadership and human behavior and moral systems throughout human lifetimes.

In public service, he has given seminars on the experience of warfare, ancient and modern at the Smithsonian Institute, the USMA West Point, and as a Phi Beta Kappa National Traveling Lecturer. He has given seminars on the decipherment of Linear B at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, MD and at the Smithsonian Institute. He has taught in outreach programs about youth and violence. And he has done readings and lectured in the Aquila Theater/NEH program Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives in New York city, Austin and Los Angeles.

Tom serves on the editorial advisory board, Texas Studies in Language and Literature (2010- ), on the Consejo Científico, Minos, Revista de Filología Egea y del Epos Arcaico, (2012-) and has been US representative on the UNESCO-affiliated International Committee for Mycenaean Studies (CIPEM) since 1995.

From 2008-2011, he was UT representative on the national Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics. His COIA reports for 2009, 2010 and 2011 can be found by searching the UT Faculty Council Web site.

His article in the March 22, 2010 The Texas Observer surveys the entire history of the harmful effects on higher education of big-time sports and its supporters.

His more recent publications include:

— “The Sorrowful History of The Half-Life of War” on-line essay on the documentary film by Kyle Henry, The Half-Life of War, information on the film and pdf of essay viewable and downloadable at:; direct access to pdf at:

— “Robert Graves at Troy, Marathon, and the End of Sandy Road: War Poems at a Classical Distance?” in A.G.G. Gibson, ed., Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition (Oxford University Press July 2015) 233-254

— “The Mobilization of Labor in Mycenaean Palatial Territories,” in Piotr Steinkeller and Michael Hudson, eds., Labor in the Ancient World (ISLET-Verlag, Dresden 2015) 617-648

—  “Harnessing phusis: The ideology of control and exploitation of the natural world as reflected in terminology in the Linear B texts derived from Indo-European *bheh2u- ‘grow, arise, be’ and * h2eg-ro- ‘the uncultivated wild field’ and other roots related to the natural environs,” PHYSIS, (Aegaeum 37, Leuven 2014) 93-99

— “The Foundations of Violence in Ancient Greek Literature” in S. Peebles, ed., Critical Insights: Violence in Literature (Salem Press 2014) 3-22

— “When War Is Performed, What Do Soldiers and Veterans Want to Hear and See and Why?” in P. Meineck and D. Konstan eds. Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks (Palgrave MacMillan 2014) 261-285

— with William Bibee, “Scribes, Mycenaean” in Emilio Crespo et al., ed., Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and
= EAGLL (Brill) vol. 3, pp. 265-272            

— with William Bibee, “Linear A” in EAGLL vol. 2, pp. 353-355

—  “Pylos Tablet Vn 130 and the Pylos Perfume Industry,” in D. Nakassis et al. eds., KE-RA-ME-JA. Studies Presented
to Cynthia W. Shelmerdine
(INSTAP Press: Philadelphia 2014) 83-90

— “The reception of Aura Jorro’s Diccionario Micénico in Mycenaean studies,” in Alberto Bernabé & Eugenio R. Luján
eds., Donum Mycenologicum, BCILL 131 (Peeters, Louvain-la-Neuve 2014) 87-94.

—with Larry Trittle, “The Legacy of War in the Classical World,” in Brian Campbell and Larry Tritle eds. The Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World (OUP 2013) 726-742

— “Songs of the ‘Hard Traveler’ from Odysseus to the Never-Ending Tourist,” Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 26-27 (2010/2011 [2012]) 189-207

—"Security and Insecurity as Tools of Power in Mycenaean Palatial Kingdoms," Études mycéniennes 2010, édités par Pierre Carlier, Charles De Lamberterie, Markus Egetmeyer, Nicole Guilleux, Françoise Rougemont, Julien Zurbach (Pasiphae; Pisa-Rome, 2012) 345-356

—"Scribes, Scribal Hands and Palaeography," in Y. Duhoux and A. Morpurgo Davies  eds., A Companion to Linear B Texts (Bibliothèque des Cahiers de l’Institut de Linguistique de Louvain 127:2; Peeters: Louvain-la-Neuve, 2011)  33-136

—  “The Lost Art of Listening,” Times Higher Education September 11, 2014

– “Tom Palaima on the Power of Mentors,” Times Higher Education November 14, 2013

– “Enforcing the ‘Double Standard’: Major college sports insanity is entrenched at UT-Austin,” The Austin Chronicle 09/27/13 

—“The Ongoing War in Our Time and in Aristophanes’,” AAS June 25, 2012

—“The First Casualty” Times Higher Education  December 20/27, 2012

—“Time the Revelator” Times Higher Education  May 17, 2012


The Golden Football: The University of Texas' Bad Example, The Texas Observer March 5, 2010, pp. 15-17.

[This article shows how budgetary practices within the NCAA sports program at the University of Texas at Austin, the self-declared Jonese of big-time college sports, have set trends that have had harmful effects upon NCAA programs nationwide. It provides some historical perspective and examples of uncontrolled expenditures that are at odds with the critical educational and cultural missions of a state flagship research university.]


"UT's Byzantine Budget: On $5 Million Coaches and Laid-Off Lecturers," The Texas Observer January 6, 2010.

[This article provides a full analysis of the University of Texas at Austin budget and its funding sources. State appropriations have increased well under the rate of inflation over the last twenty years. Tuition increases have been capped. Now the Available University (endowment) Fund payouts are down.  The amount coming to the University from state appropriations and the permanent endowment fund is well below what faculty and programs bring in in research grants and service fees. This explodes the myth of 'lazy liberal faculty living off the public dole'.

At this juncture, with major layoffs of lecturers and graduate assistants, firing of staff, and cutting back on advising and other student services, the University regents and president approved a $2 million increase for head football coach Mack Brown. 

We dismantle the ludicrous arguments advanced by President Powers and Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds that Mack Brown deserves this level of compensation. Consider:

A prime argument in support of Brown's pay raise cited by Powers and Dodds is the upswing in football revenues from $21.3 million in 1997 when Brown was hired to now $87.5 million, a 410 percent increase. Even if Brown were responsible for this, a 410-percent increase in his 1997 salary would bring it to $3,081,000, right where it was before December's $2 million increase.

Also in 2008, Wayne H. Pace, CFO of Time Warner, Inc., earned $5 million. His company was ranked 49th in the Fortune 500. It had revenues of $26.6 billion dollars and $133.8 billion in assets. At the same salary, Mack Brown is the head football coach and public face of Longhorns Inc. In 2008, his company had $138 million in total revenues.

Worse still the University allows the sports programs to use 90% of trademark and royalty revenues that could and should be supporting academics. 

Bottom line, Longhorns Inc. as the sports program is called, exists for the entertainment of skybox renters, club seat purchasers and the general television and sports-addicted public. Graduation rates and dismissal rates show that, as Prof. of Law Lino Graglia stated long ago, the program is run as a 'fraudulent enterprise'.]

For a video of a debate between Palaima and Graglia, about the viability and value of big-time college football, see:


"Our Wounds, Our Duty" (co-authored with Steve Sonnenberg), Austin American Statesman Insight Section, December 6, 2009

[In this article Dr. Sonneberg and I argue that there is a serious need within our culture to communalize the experience and effects of violence in truly sympathetic ways that acknowledge the pain and trauma experienced by those who fight our wars and those who share in and absorb their pain. We stress that the effects of war radiate out from each individual exposed in primary or secondary ways to the violence and dangers and horrors of war. We cite ancient Athenian practice as a good example of making clear to soldiers and others who have been in the sphere of combat that all members of society are making serious efforts to learn and understand what they have done and will come to terms with the effects of their experience collectively, responsibly and sympathetically.]


The Great Debate: Thomas Palaima and Lino Graglia square off over football Octobr 28, 2009



“1984: It’s Coming,” Times Higher Education September 3, 2009. [In this article, I discuss the ways in which American society resembles Orwell's vision of society in 1984, only twenty-five years later.]


“Continuity from the Mycenaean Period in an historical Boeotian Cult of Poseidon (and Erinys)” in D. Danielidou ed.,  Doron: Timetikos Tomos gia ton Kathegete Spyro Iakobide (Academy of Athens Center for Research in Antiquity Monograph 6: Athens 2009) 527-536 [This paper examines odd features of local Boeotian cults to Poseidon as documented in early Greek poetry and traces them to elements of Mycenaean ritual.]


"The Tools of Power" Times Higher Education (2 April 2009) 32-39. [This article discusses Barack Obama's rhetorical skills and the rhetorical presentation of the Obama inauguration ceremony from an ancient and moden historical perspective. It makes clear that Obama has been influenced not only by Cato and Martin Luther King, but also by Big Bill Broonzy, folk and blues and Sunday church preaching.]


“The Significance of Mycenaean Words Relating to Meals, Meal Rituals, and Food,” in Louise A. Hitchcock, Robert Laffineur and Janice Crowley eds., DAIS. The Aegean Feast. Proceedings of the 12th International Aegean Conference University of Melbourne, Centre for Classics and Archaeology, 25-29 March 2008. Aegaeum 29, Liège and Austin: 2008, pp. 383-389.

[Here I examine the vocabulary for meals in the Mycenaean texts and in early (especially Homeric) and later Greek. It is clear that the control of food production (esepcially high-end meat protien) and banqueting (and associated rituals) was one way the central palace's elites created a sense of palatial beneficence and benevolence. Interesting is that the palace officials who saw to the activities of the 16 different counties or second-order territories within the two provinces of late Bronze Age Messenia were called 'agents of satiety' and 'assistant agents of satiety'.  These palatial coinings disappeared from the later Greek lexicon, but combined with another such term (da-mo-ko-ro or 'he who sates the people')  form a conscious self-presentation that, in realtive historical terms, was not far from the truth. The Mycenaean palatial period brought stability, protection, a rise in imports, and a higher standrad of living for many.]


“ Mycenaean Religion,” in C.W. Shelmerdine, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age (CUP 2008) 342- 355, 358-361. [Here I provide a concise handbook overview of the challenges of reconstructing protohistoric religion from the evidence  of material culture, iconography, architecture, clay economic records, regional survey, later traditions, and comparative anthropology.]


"Civilian Knowledge of War and Violence in Ancient Athens and Modern America." In M. Cosmopoulos (Ed.), Experiencing War: Trauma and Society from Ancient Greece to the Iraq War (pp.9-34). Chicago:2007.

[In this paper I analyze how governments and the military have from World War I to the present made successful efforts to keep knowledge of what is really happening in places where wars are being fought and all related effects away from their civilian populations.  I then describe, historically, the costs this has had for societies as a whole and individuals in them.  I use as a test case from the congressionally authorized presidential use of preemptive force in Iraq, media coverage of the death of Shane Childers, which was inaccurately reported by imbedded reported Gordon Dillow and then led to the heroization or haigiographizing of 2nd Lt. Childers (especially through coverage of his funeral by Rinker Buck. I contrast our situation with that of the ancient Athenians who expressly held public funerary services to communalize grief, had what we would call a full draft, and who created a mechyanism for adult citizen soldiers to re-witness and come to terms with the terrible things they did and experienced while fighting for Athens. Other topics covered: Homer's Iliad, embedded reporting,WW I poets (Sassoon, Owen, Graves) post traumatic stress, and Cpl. Jesse Odom who held Childers as he died and has now written a firsthand account: Through Our Eyes.  This article is dedicate to Col. Ted Westhusing, a former student and colse friend, who died as a conmtractor base camp outside Baghdad on June 5, 2005, after bringing to light serious problkems with contractors and with the security of Iraqi security forces. See T. Christian Miller's book Blood Money.]




Palaima, T. (2007) "Ilios, Tros and Tlos: Continuing Problems with to-ro, to-ro-o, to-ro-wo, to-ro-ja, wi-ro and a-si-wi-ja/a-si-wi-jo. In F. Lang, C. Reiholdt & J. Weilhartner (Eds.), STEFANOS ARISTEIOS Festschrift fur Stefan Hille zum 65. Geburtstager (pp.197-204). Phoibos Verlag Vienna.  [here I survey the words in the Linear B corpus that have been linked to Troy, Ilion and Assuwa (Asia) and show how problematical they are.]


"The Missing Entries from 'A Gaza Diary'," Jerusalem Post  09/25/03

[In this article, I demonstrate how Chris Hedges, then an award-winning war reporter for the New York Times, by his own admission fails to use the high standards of fact-checking, confirming or refuting of hearsay, and corroborating the always problematical memories of what people themselves think they witnessed under the stress of violence. Mr. Hedges' account is widely used as the 'poster child' for the asserted fact that Israeli Defense Force troops in the Gaza strip intentionally lure children into positions where they can shoot and kill them. 

This article was written from a non-partisan perspective and was shopped to Harper's and elsewhere. Mr. Hedges has given three accounts of this incident. These contradict one another on crucial assertions and in one case he even removes a claim about seeing silencers on M-16's  and seeing the children shot.

This account irresponsibly foments hatred in my opinion. This is not good considering Hedges' overall admirable body of work and his important anti-war efforts.]


Palaima, T.  Mycenaean Society and Kingship: Cui Bono? A Counter-Speculative View.   Aegaeum.


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