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Ancient Near Eastern Law


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


The legal tradition of the ancient Near East is not only the oldest but the best attested legal tradition from antiquity. Tens of thousands of legal texts have come down to us from the third to the first millennium B.C. In this course we will examine the key features of this evolving tradition using a range of sources including the royal law “codes” (including Hammurabi’s laws) as well as practice texts and lawsuits covering topics such as sale, loans, marriage and divorce, and inheritance. Translation of these sources – almost all of which were written on clay tablets in cuneiform script – will be provided prior to each class. Students who take Ancient Egyptian Law in Semester 1 will be able to compare common elements and differences between the two major pre-classical legal traditions. However, no prior knowledge is assumed and this course can be taken on a stand alone basis.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course To acquaint students with the key aspects of the legal tradition(s) of the ancient Near East using translations of legal documents from the third to first millennium B.C.

Achievement levels The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • demonstrated understanding of the key aspects of the legal tradition(s) of the ancient Near East based on the use of translations of legal documents from the third to first millennium B.C.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 10

  • Names of lecturers: S.A. Moore

  • Required preparation by students: Students are expected to study the translated texts that will be used prior to each class.

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: Visit to The Liagre Böhl cuneiform collection (Leiden)

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Attendance, preparation and participation in class discussion (50%)

  • Final written exam (50%)

The final grade should be at least 5,5 in order to complete the course successfully. Only the written exam can be retaken. Partial grades only remain valid during the current academic year.

Areas to be tested within the exam The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials Literature:

  • Charpin, D. Writing, Law and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010 (especially chapters 3-5).

  • "Mesopotamia". In A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, 361-617. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2003.

  • Roth, M.T. Law Collection from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Writings from the Ancient World, no. 6. Atlanta, Ga: Scholars Press, 1995.

Course information guide:

  • Digital copies will be provided prior to each class.


  • Digital copies will be provided prior to each class.


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.
Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.

Contact details

  • Co-ordinator: S.A. Moore

  • Work address: Matthias de Vrieshof 4, 2311 BZ Leiden, Room number 2.05c

  • Telephone number: 071-527 1136

  • Email:


  • Institute: Leiden Institute for Area Studies

  • Department: Assyriology

  • Room number secretary: Not applicable

  • Opening hours: Mondy-Friday 09.00-17.00

  • Telephone number secretary: Not applicable

  • Email: Not applicable




Not applicable.