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Hellenistic Religions: The Lives of Mani, prophet of a world religion


Admission requirements

No specific requirements are needed for this course.


Manichaeism was the first religion that was designed by its founder as a religion destined to replace all others. It originated in third-century Mesopotamia but spread all over the ancient world at lightning speed. Wherever Manichaeans went, they took with them a narrative of the life of their prophet, Mani. Their Christian opponents also wrote lives of Mani, with a completely different message and content. Many scholars have been optimistic about the chances of learning something of the “real” life of Mani by a careful analysis of the oldest Manichaean version of his life, preserved in the Cologne Mani Codex. This claim will be tested by a close contextual study of the various lives of Mani.

Course objectives

  • contextual reading of ancient religious texts – historiography of religion and of scholarship in religion – knowledge of Manichaeism, a hugely successful religion that did not make it – new avenues in the study of late antiquity



Mode of instruction

Seminar with readings and presentations.

Assessment method

Participation in class
Final paper



Reading list

I. Gardner & S.N.C. Lieu, Manichaean Texts from the Roman Empire, Cambridge 2004
M. Vermes, Acta Archelai, Turnhout 2001

(Further readings will be discussed in class)


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

Contact information

Prof dr A.F. de Jong.