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The Society of Mesopotamia and Anatolia


Admission requirements

No extra admission requirements.

Course description

This year’s topic is HELLENISTIC BABYLONIA. Each session will deal with a different aspect of Babylonian society under the Seleucid Empire, focusing both on continuity and change in Babylonian cultural traditions, religion, scholarship and socioeconomic relations, as well as on the forms of cultural exchange between Greeks and Babylonians, the Greek presence in Babylonia, Seleucid imperial policy and the question of Hellenization in the Near East.

The course is available for students of Assyriology as well as Ancient History. Students will read translated source texts and academic articles in preparation for each class, suggest questions for the discussion and write short essays about the literature. Each student will lead the discussion once (together with the instructor), and everyone will give a presentation about a subject of their own choice. The presentations will be given at different moments during the semester and will allow the students to provide each other with the background information necessary to understand Babylonian history and culture on the one hand and the political and cultural developments in the broader Mediterranean world on the other.

Course objectives


  • gain insight into the history of the Seleucid Empire from an ancient Near Eastern perspective, the continuity and development of Babylonian society in one of the last periods of its history and the points of contact between Hellenistic Greek and Late Babylonian culture.

  • become acquainted with the latest academic theories and opinions regarding those topics.

  • become familiar with the available source material, learn to approach the sources with criticism and understand the methodological problems involved in their interpretation.


See Timetable Classics and Ancient Civilizations: Assyriology

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Coarse load

280 hours, of which ca.:

  • 30 contact hours,

  • 150 hours of reading the literature,

  • 60 hours of writing the essays

  • 40 hours of preparing the presentation.

Assessment method

Every other week, students will write a short summarizing essay (800-1000 words) about the literature, for which they will receive a grade and personal feedback from the instructor. Throughout the course, students will each give one 15-20 min. presentation and receive feedback from their peers.

The final grade will be composed of:

  • the combined grades of the essays (60%)

  • the grade for the presentation (40%)

In case of a failing grade, student may write an additional essay of ca. 3500-4000 words about a subject chosen by the instructor, which will count for 100%.


Blackboard used for handing in essays and posting discussion topics.

Reading list

Reading material will include, but not be limited to:

  • P-A. Beaulieu, ‘Official and Vernacular Languages: The Shifting Sands of Imperial and Cultural Identities in First-millennium B.C. Mesopotamia’: in: S. L. Sanders (ed.), Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures (OIS 2, Chicago 2006) 187-216

  • T. Boiy, Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Babylon (OLA 136, Leuven 2004)

  • G. de Breucker, ‘Berossos between Tradition and Innovation’, in: K. Radner, E. Robson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture (Oxford 2011) 637-57

  • P. Clancier, ‘Cuneiform Culture’s Last Guardians: The Old Urban Notability of Hellenistic Uruk’, in: K. Radner, E. Robson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture (Oxford 2011) 752-73

  • Downey, S.B., Mesopotamian Religious Architecture: Alexander through the Parthians (Princeton 1988)

  • Invernezzi, A., ‘They did not write on clay: Non-cuneiform documents and archives in Seleucid Mesopotamia’, in: M. Brosius (ed.), Ancient Archives and Archival Traditions. Proceedings of the Symposium of Oxford (1988) (Oxford 2003) 302-22

  • Joannès, F., The Age of Empires. Mesopotamia in the First Millennium BC (Edinburgh 2000)

  • A. Kuhrt and S. Sherwin White (eds.), Hellenism in the East: the interaction of Greek and non-Greek civilizations from Syria to Central Asia after Alexander (Berkeley/Los Angeles 1987)

  • A. Kuhrt and S. Sherwin White, ‘Aspects of Seleucid Royal Ideology: The Cylinder of Antiochus I from Borsippa’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 111 (1991) 71-86

  • A. Kuhrt and S. Sherwin White, From Samarkhand to Sardis. A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire (Berkeley/Los Angeles 1993)

  • Oelsner, Joachim, ‘Hellenization of the Babylonian Culture?’, in: A. Panaino, G. Pettinato (eds.), Ideologies as Intercultural Phenomena (Melammu Symposia III. Milano 2002) 183-196

  • Spek, R.J. van der, ‘The astronomical diaries as a source for Achaemenid and Seleucid history’, Bibliotheca Orientalis 50 (1993) 91-101

  • Spek, R.J. van der, ‘Palace, temple and market in Seleucid Babylonia’, in: V. Chankowski and F. Duyrat (eds.), Le roi et l‘économie (Paris 2005) 303-32


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.


Mw. J.H.E. Krul