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Languages of Mesopotamia



Theme for this academic year: Old Akkadian

Old Akkadian is the Semitic language of Mesopotamia during the 3rd millennium B.C. Most of the sources date to the period of the Akkadian Empire with such famous kings as Sargon and Naram-Sin (ca. 2350-2150). In this seminar we will read texts written in the Old Akkadian dialect. The texts contain royal inscriptions, letters, and also a literary text. They can be quite difficult, because the orthography is not as sophisticated as in the second millennium. A number of sounds of the Old Akkadian dialect cannot be expressed in the Sumerian script. Consequently, knowledge of later dialects such as Old Babylonian is required.

Course objectives

  • The ability to decipher, transliterate and translate cuneiform texts from the selected period.

  • Knowledge of the historical development, function and cultural context of the selected texts.


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Workgroup

Course Load

Total study load: 280 hours

  • Class: 28 hours

  • Translating independently: ca. 42 hours

  • Reading literature: ca. 40 hours

  • Writing essays: ca. 56 hours

  • Writing the final essay: ca. 114 hours

Assessment method

The final grade will be composed of:

  • essays (60%)

  • grade for the presentation (40%)

Reading list

  • To be announced in class


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Contact information

Prof.dr. W.H. van Soldt