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Ancient Near Eastern Law


Admission requirements


The legal tradition of the ancient Near East is not only the oldest but the best attested legal tradition from antiquity. Tens of thousands of legal texts have come down to us from the third to
the first millennium B.C. In this course we will examine the key features of this evolving tradition using a range of sources including the royal law “codes” (including Hammurabi’s laws) as well as
practice texts and lawsuits covering topics such as sale, loans, marriage and divorce, and inheritance. Translation of these sources – almost all of which were written on clay tablets in
cuneiform script – will be provided prior to each class. Students who take Ancient Egyptian Law in Semester 1 will be able to compare common elements and differences between the two major
pre-classical legal traditions. However, no prior knowledge is assumed and this course can be taken on a stand alone basis.

Course objectives


  • learning key aspects of the legal tradition(s) of the ancient Near East (i.e. modern Iraq) during the 3-1 millennium B.C. and their pertinent scholarship.


  • demonstrated understanding of the key aspects of the legal tradition(s) of the ancient Near East based on the use of translations of legal documents from the third to first millennium B.C.


  • ability to present the results of research to peers.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 10
    Following an introduction by the lecturer students will each give a 20
    minute peer-reviewed presentation on a specific subject.

  • Required preparation by students: Students are expected to study the
    translated texts that will be issued prior to each class as well as the
    additional literature.

Assessment method


  • Attendance, preparation and participation in class discussion (10%)

  • Presentation (20%)

  • Final written exam (70%)
    Only the written exam can be retaken (100%). Partial grades only remain valid
    during the current academic year.
    Areas to be tested within the exam The examination syllabus consists of the
    required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the
    subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are
    part of the course.

Regulation retake passed exams
In this course it is possible to retake an exam that has been passed (cf. art. and further of the Course and Examination Regulations) on the condition that this course is not part of the minor. Students who have passed the exam may retake the final written assessment (test) of the course if they meet certain requirements. To retake a passed exam, students need to ask the Student Administration Office (OIC) for permission. For more information, go to 'course and exam enrollment' > 'permission for retaking a passed exam' on the student website.

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. NB: The information in the e-prospectus is binding and cannot be changed after August 31, 2020.

Reading list


  • Charpin, D. Writing, Law and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010 (especially chapters 3-5).

  • "Mesopotamia". In A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, 361-617. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2003.

  • Roth, M.T. Law Collection from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Writings from the Ancient World, no. 6. Atlanta, Ga: Scholars Press, 1995.

Course information guide:

  • Digital copies will be provided prior to each class.


  • Digital copies will be provided prior to each class.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

Check the website under “course and exam enrollment” for information on how to register for the course.

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


In case of (corona)restrictions imposed by the government, this course description is subject to change.