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The Gilgamesh Epic in Context


Admission requirements

The course is open to MA and ResMA students. There are no additional admission requirements.


The epic of Gilgamesh is without doubt the most famous literary work of the ancient Near East. In the last decades this composition, which is considered to be the first masterpiece of World Literature, has experienced revived attention and its importance for the study of classical works such as the Homeric epics is more and more recognized.

The Gilgamesh epic is more than a gripping story about the heroic adventures of king Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu, as it also includes reflections on friendship, mortality and the meaning of life, topics which are as significant today as they were 4,000 years ago.

In this course, various aspects of the Epic of Gilgamesh and its rich (reception) history will be addressed. It will among other discuss the origins and the meaning of the epic as well its literary style and (folkloristic) motifs. Other themes include the iconography related to Gilgamesh, the (oral and written) transmission of the epic, its historical and archeological context and its Nachleben.

Students are expected to give an oral presentation and write a paper about a topic or theme related to the Gilgamesh epic.

All texts will be read in translation. Students who want to read (parts of) the epic in the original language Akkadian, are recommended to follow this course in combination with the BA seminar Werkcollege Akkadisch: Het Gilgamesh epos.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • gain insight into the origins, themes and structure of the Epic of Gilgamesh as well as its historical and archaeological context;

  • become familiar with discussions and literature about the interpretation and reception of this epic;

  • gain insight into recent theories about orality, oral tradition and the transmission of epic poetry;

  • enhance their presentation and writing skills;

  • be able to independently formulate a research question and conduct research about a topic related to the epic of Gilgamesh.


The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture.

Course Load

Total course load 10 ec x 28 hours= 280 hours;

  • contact hours: 26 hours (13 × 2h);

  • class preparation: 72 hours (12 × 6h);

  • oral presentation: 30 hours;

  • writing paper: 152 hours.

Assessment method

  • Oral presentation: 30%;

  • Paper (ca. 4-5,000 words): 70%.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, only the paper may be re-written. The mark for the oral presentation will still count in such a case.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • course material, communication.

Reading list

To be announced on Blackboard in due course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
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.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs.
Studeren à la carte not applicable.




Mw. Dr. W.J.I. (Willemijn) Waal (coordinator)