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The Ancient Near Eastern Royal Court in Diachronic Perspective


Admission requirements

This course can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations in the track of Assyriology but also its other tracks. MA students of other programs are also welcome and are asked to contact the instructor about necessary background knowledge.


This seminar deals with the history of the royal court in the Ancient Near East. The royal court pertains, on the one hand, to the royal residence, and, on the other, to the extended household of the king, in the sense of the German word “Hofstaat”. The royal court was directly tied to the persona of the king and his manifold functions. As the seat of the sovereign, it was the administrative and political centre of the state. The royal palace was the physical manifestation of the court and of the king's supremacy and prestige.
On the basis of primary sources (in translation) and secondary literature as well as lecturers of invited experts, we will look into palace architecture and the different functional units of palaces. We will discuss the composition of the court, starting with its top—the king and his family, court officials, and courtiers—down to the common household personnel and servants. We will study court protocol, palace administration, and state economy. This will also lead us to the question of how the “private” sphere of the king and his family related to his role as “public” or “imperial” head of state.
This course adopts a diachronic perspective to the Ancient Near Eastern royal court. Our case-studies are drawn from Old-Babylonian Mari and the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Seleucid Empires. In addition, we will look into theoretical studies about courts.

Course objectives

Students who attend this seminar will

  • learn about the concept of royal courts in the ancient Near East on a theoretical and practical basis;

  • learn about the different aspects of royal courts and what they can tell us about ancient states as a whole;

  • learn to compare different court cultures and work out their similarities and differences;

  • get acquainted with a variety of primary sources (from Greek historical literature to Akkadian state correspondence) which give insight into court life;

  • become aware of how and on the basis of what kind of sources ancient royal courts have been reconstructed in scholarly literature.

Furthermore, students will acquire or expand general skills such as

  • the reading and understanding of primary sources;

  • the critical engagement with secondary literature;

  • the comparative approach to specific research matters;

  • the preparation and performance of an oral presentation;

  • the conduct of original research (research paper).


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


The grade consists of

  • 40 % class participation, incl. preparation

  • 15 % abstract, oral presentation

  • 10 % written examination with essay questions

  • 35 % research paper

The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated: ResMA students are expected to come up with their own research topic. MA students may expect more help in choosing their topic.


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, the paper may be revised after consultation with the teacher. The marks for the written examination, the oral presentation and the class participation will still count in such a case.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized. 

Reading list

A reading list will be provided at the beginning of the seminar.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.

Not applicable.


Dr. M.M. Gross


Not applicable.