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Research Seminar: Persia and Babylonia


Admission requirements

Students enrolled in the (res)MA CAC or (res)MA Ancient History


For two thousand years, empires in the Near East achieved only limited territorial control until Persia established a super-size empire. How the Persians achieved this still eludes scholarship. Many of the most-used sources on Persian history were produced by ancient “outsiders” about the Empire, e.g. in Greece, Judea, and Rome. While this literature tells us about perceptions of the Empire, often long after its existence, it cannot be used to reconstruct internal historical processes. Moreover, the approach to the Persian Empire to date has been mainly one-dimensional and state-centred - an approach at odds with recent insights from historical sociology.

Students are invited to join the research team of the ERC-funded project PERSIA AND BABYLONIA. This project draws on thousands of cuneiform texts as a means of studying the emergence of the Persian empire in context. The texts, covering a period from the 7th to the 4th centuries BC, stem from Persia’s most important periphery - Babylonia. Both the great density of information and the long temporal sweep will allow for an informed evaluation of Persia’s achievements within the long history of the region.

In the seminar, students will design a number of research lines that compare Persian interactions within Babylonia with those of the Assyrians, who were unable to establish control of Babylonia a century earlier. By combining a long-term with a deeply contextualized perspective, it is expected that they will be able to draw out the distinctive efficiency of Persian rule, within the long history of this particular region. In addition to their research activities, students will participate in the "life" of the project, including dissemination and valorisation activities, as well as, depending on their philological expertise, developing our state-of-the-art prosopographical database of Persian period Babylonia.

The best research paper(s) will be elected for presentation at the yearly Neo-Babylonian Network meeting; in 2018, this will be held in Venice.

Course objectives

In this seminar, students will:

  • gain in-depth knowledge of the primary sources, research problems, recent literature and current issues in the study of Persian-period Babylonia;

  • learn how to set up, structure, and execute an academic research project;

  • carry out comparative historical research

  • conduct individual as well as collaborative research and learn how to work in a team;

  • gain insight in how high-ranking research is conducted;

  • participate in the generation of new knowledge;

  • engage in valorisation and outreach activities (webpage; blog);


Please consult the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

The course load is as follows:

  • attending weekly seminar (13 x 2h): 26h

  • preparing weekly seminar (13 x 6h): 78h

  • setting up and carrying out a research line in the comparative study of Assyria and Persia: 80h

  • write research paper: 60h

  • dissemination activities: 36h

Assessment method

Students will attend weekly seminars hosted by the Persia & Babylonia team. Participation will count for 20% of the final grade. They will also be asked to write a research paper (8,000 words) which will count for 50% of the final grade. 30% of the final grade will consist of outreach activities (writing content for webpage, blog or vlog, newspaper article, conference paper etc).


The resit will consist of an extended research paper (10,000) on a different topic than the first paper.

Exam review

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.



Reading list

  • To be communicated


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Mw. Prof. dr. C. Waerzeggers