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Core Course: Cultural Contact in the Hellenistic World


Admission requirements

This course is open to and compulsory for Research Master students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (all specializations).


Following the conquest of Alexander the Great in the 4th c. B.C.E., and continued by the Roman Empire for another number of centuries, contacts between the various civilizations of the Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, Egypt, Syria/Palestine, Asia Minor) with the farther Middle East (Parthia, India, Mesopotamia) led to a high degree of cultural interaction throughout and formed what is now – for better or worse – called “Hellenism”. “Old” traditions met new challenges and developed strategies of resistance and adaptation (e.g., Egypt, Judaism). The seminar offers presentations and discussions of key phenomena guided by experts in the respective fields and reflects on forms and foundations of “Hellenization and Romanization of the East” and the “Orientalization of the West”.

Course objectives

  • The student will be made familiar with various regional variants of contacts between “Greek” and “Oriental” cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean;

  • The student will be able to critically assess modern scholarly interpretations of such “Hellenisms”;

  • The student will have the opportunity to connect his or her own expertise from previous studies to come to a better understanding of the ancient world as a world of cultural contacts and exchange;

  • The student will be made familiar with fundamental sources (texts, inscriptions, elements of material culture) as examples of cultural contacts and learn how to critically use them in order to form his or her own explanations of the problem;

  • The student will be encouraged to compare the phenomenon of ancient cultural contacts with other forms of blending cultures in history;

  • The student will have the opportunity to work out and present a case study of her or his choice.


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

Mode of instruction

Seminar style classes with individual study of scholarly literature, student presentations and end paper.

Course load

10 EC = 280 hours:

  • attending lectures: 24 hrs

  • course preparation: 52 hrs

  • preparation oral presentation: 64 hrs

  • preparation paper: 140 hrs.

Assessment method

  • active participation in class work (60%).

  • end paper of ca. 5000 words (40%).


Blackboard will be used to distribute course materials and exchange information.

Reading list

Will be made available by individual session chairs via Blackboard.


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.

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


Prof. Dr. Jürgen K. Zangenberg (LUIRS, course coordinator)

Students are also advised to be in contact with their respective MA track leader and a member of the academic staff who can function as supervisor for the end paper (further information will be given in the first meeting)


The seminar (common course) is obligatory for all Research Master students.