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Priests and Temples: Babylonian Religion in Practice


Admission requirements

Students of the MA and ResMA program Classics and Ancient Civilizations are admissible.


How did Babylonian religion work in practice? In this course we will study the role of priests (and priestesses) in Babylonian religion, society and politics. What did it take to become and remain a priest in a Babylonian temple? We will investigate a wide variety of sources (archival, legal, ritual, literary, architectural, pictorial) in order to understand the ideological underpinnings of the priesthood, the various obligations and privileges that came with the job, the social and economic position of priests, their role in the production of knowledge and archives, and their changing relationships to state power. Our focal point will be on Babylonia in the period from 600 to c. 150 BC, when the area went through dramatic political changes, from an empire in its own right to a subject territory of foreign rulers. Against this background, we will investigate long-term continuities and punctual as well as slow-moving changes affecting the priesthood at various levels: in the cult, in society, and in the state.

Course objectives

Students are invited to reflect upon the strengths and weaknesses of the available sources for the study of Babylonian history, and to design their own research project (based on these sources) about the intersection between religion, society and politics by focusing on the role of the priesthood. Our methodology will combine a variety of approaches and perspectives, including philology, text criticism, manuscript study, sociology of religion, performance studies, the use of space and place, etc.

In addition to writing a scholarly paper, students will set up a blog and supply weekly entries on the topic under discussion.


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:

  • Lectures: 13 × 2h = 26 hours;

  • Preparation: 12 × 6h = 72 hours;

  • Weekly blog: 12 × 8h = 96 hours;

  • Essay (5.000 words) = 86 hours.

Assessment method

Students will be assessed as follows:

  • Each student will write a (max.) 500 word blog/week (x12) – 50% of the final grade;

  • Final essay (5.000) – 50% of the final grade.


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


If the weighted average is below 5.5, the student will have to write an essay of 7.500 words (on a new topic), which will account for 100% of the final grade.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • course material, communication.

Reading list

The literature will be posted in due time on Blackboard.


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

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.




mw. J.H.E. Krul