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Northwest Semitic Epigraphy


Admission requirements

Regular MA admission requirements.

A working knowledge of Biblical Aramaic (or indeed any other ancient variety of Aramaic), Biblical Hebrew, or another ancient Semitic language (e.g., Akkadian or Classical Arabic) would be very advantageous. If in doubt about sufficient background knowledge, please contact the lecturer.


The subject matter of this course changes every time it is offered. It is usually devoted to an in-depth study of epigraphic material in a Northwest Semitic language. A detailed philological analysis is combined with wider-ranging cultural-historical issues (such as religion, society, etc.).
In the academic year 2015-2016, we will study Aramaic texts from major sites of the Roman Near East, such as Palmyra, Hatra, and Edessa, which furnish important (and often unexpected) insights into the interaction between indigenous Aramaic-speaking civilizations and the Graeco-Roman matrix culture.
For Research MA students Classics and Ancient Civilizations, this class also offers the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the material discussed very briefly in the two meetings devoted to the Roman Near East in the Common Course.

Course objectives

Following completion of this course, students are able to independently study and interpret epigraphic texts written in the respective Northwest Semitic language; they will also have some idea of how to make responsible use of comparative Northwest Semitic evidence.


Timetable to be arranged between student(s) and instructor.

For further information see the timetables on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load is 280 hours, of which:

  • Contact hours: 24 h;

  • Course preparation: 76 h;

  • Paper preparation: 180 h.

Assessment method

  • Regular preparation (40%);

  • Paper (60%)

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average. Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the teacher.


Yes, for providing access to study materials.

Reading list

  • Texts and further bibliography will be distributed during class.

  • However, participants should also make a thorough study of H. Gzella, A Cultural History of Aramaic: From the Beginnings to the Advent of Islam, Leiden 2015, 212-280.

  • For a grammatical précis, see id., Late Imperial Aramaic, in: S. Weninger (ed.), The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook, Berlin/New York 2011, 598-609.


Please contact the study advisor.

Students are required to register for this course via uSis (5864KHA07R), the course registration system of Leiden University.


Prof. dr. H. Gzella


The course will be taught in Dutch or English, depending on the first language of participating students.