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The Epic of Erra: Text and Context


Admission requirements

Knowledge of Akkadian required.


In this seminar, we will undertake a close reading of an understudied masterpiece of Akkadian literature, the Epic of Erra. This substantially preserved text is divided into five tablets and concerns itself with the age-old problem of theodicy: why do bad things happen in a world presided over by a just god? The Epic of Erra tells the story of what happens when Marduk sets himself against his people, giving free reign to the forces of destruction personified by Erra. In a series of dialogues, the Epic recreates an entire theological worldview and presents a colorful portrait of Babylonian life in the throes of violence.

The seminar will approach the Epic of Erra in the spirit of producing a text edition. We will examine the various extant manuscripts of the epic and their contexts, as well as the philological features of the text and its intertextual connections. In the process, we will produce an annotated translation of the text and formulate our own view of the epic’s message, purpose, and compositional history.

Course objectives

  • Students will become experts in the Epic of Erra, a great work of Akkadian literature. They will understand the text philologically, historically, culturally, and through the lens of the existing secondary literature.

  • Students will hone and apply their philological skills and practice their ability to process and discuss primary and secondary Assyriological evidence.

  • Students will produce an edition and commentary of a section of the Epic of Erra, gaining experience in how to produce good text editions.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours:

  • Seminar meetings: (13 x 2h) = 26 hours

  • Preparation for classes: (13 x 5h) = 65 hours

  • Supplementary readings: (13 x 2h) 26 hours

  • Text edition with commentary of selection from Erra: 163 hours

Assessment method


  • 60% text edition and commentary;

  • 40% participation in and preparation for seminar meetings.


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


If the overall grade is unsatisfactory, the text edition and commentary may be revised following consultation with the instructor.

Exam review

Students will be invited individually to discuss their grades with the instructor upon publication of the results.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Providing course materials;

  • Communication.

Reading list

A list of scheduled readings will be provided at the beginning of the course. All readings will be available via Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about registration in uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. Jonathan Valk