nl en

Royal Inscriptions from the Assyrian to the Persian Empire


Admission requirements

Students enrolled in the (res)MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations in the track of Assyriology, although students without cuneiform who are interested in the class should contact the instructor for possible enrollment options.


In this seminar we will focus on the genre of Akkadian royal inscriptions in first millennium BCE Mesopotamia and their contemporary and historical value.

Based on a number of selected examples from the Neo-Assyrian (Sennacherib, Assurbanipal), Neo-Babylonian (Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus) and Persian (Cyrus, Darius I) Empires we will first outline their formal and textual characteristics and discuss the context of their original creation and installation as well as modern discovery. In a second step we will analyse the stylistic and narrative content and study the royal or state ideology conveyed through the royal inscriptions. We will deal with questions such as the informative value of the recounted events (e.g. military campaigns, deportations, and building projects) and the expressive means of kings (or their scholars) to raise oneself above the other, be that predecessors (usurpators versus legitimate heirs to the throne) or coevals ruling over other countries.

By looking at sources from Iron Age Empires in the Near East we will deal with a crucial era in terms of transterritorial state-formations. The states involved can be contemplated separately from each other in as much as they should be discussed in comparison to each other. By looking at different periods we will examine the genre of royal inscriptions from a comparative perspective and keep an eye on intertextual references (pro and anti) and on how changes of power are reflected therein.

Course objectives

Students who attend this seminar will:

  • gain a profound knowledge of Akkadian royal inscriptions of the 1st millennium BCE, their stylistic means and formulations;

  • get to know the nature and purpose of royal inscriptions, along with their redaction and installation;

  • learn to critically examine how military events and huge building projects are described in the sources and how modern scholarship reconstructs Mesopotamian history from them;

  • reflect on state formation and power changes over the longue durée;

  • reflect on ideological traditions of old rivals (Assyria and Babylonia) and new political players (Persia);

  • learn about the significance of Iron Age Empires in Mesopotamia and how they contribute to Empire Studies in general.

Furthermore, students will acquire or expand general skills such as:

  • the critical reading and evaluation of primary and secondary sources;

  • the participation in oral discussions, through critical remarks and questions;

  • the critical and constructive approach to specific research matters;

  • the conduct of original research (research paper),


The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

The course load of 280 hours (= 10 ec) is put together as follows:

  • weekly seminar (26 hours = 2 x 13);

  • class preparation: reading primary and secondary literature (78 hours, = 6 x 13);

  • final exam (66 hours);

  • research paper (110 hours).

Assessment method

The grade consists of:

  • 30% class participation, incl. preparation;

  • 30% final exam;

  • 40% research paper (5,000–max. 6,000 words).

The requirements for MA and ResMA students 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.


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


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

Exam review

Students will be invited to discuss their research paper and their other grades for this seminar (participation/preparation and the final exam) individually with the teacher, as soon as the results have been published.


Blackboard will be used:

  • to upload powerpoints, handouts and papers;

  • secondary literature will be available via the NINO and University Library.

Reading list

A detailed reading list will be supplied on Blackboard.

Editions of primary sources (in selection):

  • Borger, R. 1996: Beiträge zum Inschriftenwerk Assurbanipals. Die Prismenklassen A, B, C = K, D, E, F, G, H, J und T sowie andere Inschriften. Wiesbaden;

  • DaRiva, R. 2013: The Inscriptions of Nabopolassar, Amēl-Marduk and Neriglissar. Boston/Berlin;

  • DaRiva, R. 2013: “Nebuchadnezzar II’s Prism (EK 7834): A New Edition,” ZA 103/2, 196–229;

  • Frame, G. 1995: Rulers of Babylonia. From the Second Dynasty of Isin to the End of Assyrian Domination (1157-612 BC). RIMB 2. Toronto/Buffalo/London;

  • Grayson, A.K. and Novotny, J. 2012 and 2014: The Royal Inscriptions of Sennacherib, King of Assyria (704–681 BC). Part 1 and 2. RINAP 3/1-2. Winona Lake;

  • Schaudig, H. 2001: Die Inschriften Nabonids von Babylon und Kyros’ des Großen samt den in ihrem Umfeld entstandenen Tendenzinschriften. Textausgabe und Grammatik. AOAT 256. Münster.


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

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M.M. (Melanie) Groß