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Akkadian Literary Texts


Admission requirements

Knowledge of Akkadian required.


Writing in ancient Mesopotamia was not only used to count grain, send letters, and produce manuals for interpreting sheep livers. The Akkadian textual inheritance includes many texts that are frequently categorized as “literary.” These texts are among the most engaging of the entire Akkadian corpus, offering vivid expressions of Mesopotamian culture and making artful use of the Akkadian language. In this seminar, we will read from numerous lesser known Akkadian texts (from cuneiform copies and transliteration) to get a better sense of Akkadian literature beyond Gilgamesh and Enuma Elish. We will be exposed to different kinds of Akkadian literary production and the various uses of literary texts.

But what does it mean to categorize a text as “literary,” anyway? What distinguishes a literary text from other texts? Our reading of Akkadian texts will be complemented by a discussion of what marks Akkadian texts as literary. This discussion will build on previous efforts by scholars to define the category. We will question whether there is any rational basis for distinguishing between the literary and non-literary, and if so, whether this distinction is useful.

Course objectives

  • Students will gain broad familiarity with Akkadian literary texts, the culture that produced them, and the purposes they served. Students will also gain insight into how scholars categorize texts and the problems that can arise from such categorization.

  • Students will become acquainted with literary Akkadian and be able to read and translate Akkadian literary texts.

  • Students will develop their philological skills, practice their ability to process and discuss primary and secondary Assyriological evidence, and produce a research paper.


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:

  • Seminar meetings: (13 x 2h) = 26 hours

  • Preparation for classes: (13 x 5h) = 65 hours

  • Supplementary readings: (13 x 2h) 26 hours

  • Research paper (6,000 words): 163 hours

Assessment method


  • 60% research paper;

  • 40% participation in and preparation for seminar meetings.


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


If the overall grade is unsatisfactory, the paper may be revised following consultation with the instructor.

Exam review

Students will be invited individually to discuss their grades with the instructor upon publication of the results.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Providing course materials;

  • Communication.

Reading list

A list of scheduled readings will be provided at the beginning of the course. All readings will be available via Blackboard.


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. Jonathan Valk