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Historians of Babylon from 750 to 100 BCE


Admission requirements

Students who wish to enrol in this class should have intermediate or advanced knowledge of the Akkadian language and cuneiform script. If you are interested in taking this course but are not sure whether you fulfill the entry requirements, please, contact the instructor.


Historians of Babylon from 750 to 150 BCE

In the course of the first millennium BCE, a dynamic historical culture emerged in the cities of southern Mesopotamia. Authors wrote about the recent and distant past in a variety of genres, e.g. chronicles, king lists, epics, ‘frauds’, and fictive letters and autobiographies of ancient kings. These texts were created outside the ‘stream of tradition’ but in close interaction with it. In this seminar, we will examine the emergence of this historical culture as a distinctly urban phenomenon. Our main questions to explore are: Who wrote history, why, how, and for whom? We will study the shape(s) of history, the circulation of historical knowledge in society, the geographical distribution of texts, the identity of authors and readers, the archival contexts of manuscripts, the methods of historical inquiry, and the uses of the past. Moreover, we aim to understand how the practice of history-writing developed in tandem with large political transformations, from the Assyrian to the Parthian period. We will read texts in the original (cuneiform text) and in translation, a.o. the Sun God Tablet, Verse Account, Babylonian Chronicle, Letters of Nabopolassar, Dynastic Prophecy, Babyloniaca of Berossos. In order to contextualize these compositions, we will examine evidence from legal, administrative and epistolographic texts.

Course objectives

Students who attend this seminar will:

  • acquire a profound knowledge of Babylonian historical culture of the 1st millennium BCE;

  • be able to identify and reflect on developments in intellectual history;

  • situate the production of (historical) knowledge in its social, political and archival contexts;

  • reflect on the relationship between knowledge, power, and identity;

  • critically engage with Assyriological scholarship on the topic of historiography and place this within broader trends in the history of historiography;

  • develop their philological skills, practice their ability to process, discuss and evaluate primary and secondary Assyriological evidence

  • be trained to participate in discussions on complex topics;

  • be trained to conduct original research and to report results clearly, in oral and written form.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method


  • Research paper. The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated: ResMA students are expected to write an original research paper; MA students may write an overview of the history and state of scholarship on a given question.

  • Oral presentation. This will be an initial presentation of each student’s proposed paper topic for development with the group.

  • Participation in and preparation for seminar meetings

The requirements for MA and ResMA students Classics and Ancient Civilizations are differentiated: ResMA students are expected to come up with their own original research topic, find literature, and write a scholarly report; MA students may expect more help in choosing their topic and their papers may consist of an assessment of the status quaestionis on a given question.


  • Research paper: 60%

  • Oral presentation: 20%

  • Participation: 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the Research Paper must always be sufficient.


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, the paper can be repeated after consultation with the lecturer. The marks for the oral presentation and the class participation will still count in such a case.

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 announced via Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. C. Waerzeggers


Not applicable.