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Hebrew Belles-Lettres


Admission requirements

Regular MA admission requirements.


Phoenician is a Semitic language closely related to Biblical Hebrew. It is attested by numerous inscriptions from ancient city states like Byblos, Tyre, and Sidon as well as their western colonies. Spread by Phoenician traders interacting with many different civilizations (including the Greeks and Romans), it was used all over the Mediterranean world during the first millennium B.C.E. and for some time even adopted as a prestige language in Asia Minor. As a consequence, Phoenician texts aptly illustrate various phenomena of cultural contact.

This course will provide an inductive introduction to the language of the Phoenician inscriptions from the mainland and their cultural background, thereby also giving some hands-on experience with the fascinating world of Semitic epigraphy. At the same time, we will discuss wider-ranging issues of the historical phonology and morphology of Northwest Semitic. However, no prior knowledge of any Semitic language is mandatory. By the end of this course, participants will have acquired a basic understanding of standard Phoenician and have read some important primary sources. The presentation should be accessible not only to Semitists and students of the Bible, but also to Ancient Historians, Archaeologists, and Indo-Europeanists.

Course objectives

Following completion of this course, students are able to independently study and interpret epigraphic texts written in the Phoenician language; they will also have some idea of how to Phoenician within its Northwest Semitic context.


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course load

10 EC = 280 hours

  • Contact hours: 24 h

  • Course preparation: 76 h

  • Paper preparation: 180 h

Assessment method

  • Regular preparation (40%)

  • Paper (60%)


Not applicable.

Reading list

  • H. Donner and W. Röllig, Kanaanäische und aramäische Inschriften, 3 vols., 2nd ed. Wiesbaden 1966–1969 (5th ed. of the texts 2002).

  • J. Friedrich and W. Röllig, Phönizisch-Punische Grammatik, 3rd ed. Rome 1999.

  • H. Gzella, “Phoenician”, in: id. (ed.), Languages from the World of the Bible, Berlin / New York 2011, 55–75.

  • D. Harden, The Phoenicians, Harmondsworth 1971.

  • J. Hoftijzer and K. Jongeling, Dictionary of the North-West Semitic Inscriptions, 2 vols., Leiden 1995.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Prof. Dr. H. Gzella. Tel. +31 71 527 2255.