Introduction to ancient Near Eastern literature (m) (2019/2020)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Simonetta Ponchia
Simonetta Ponchia
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem 1A dal Sep 23, 2019 al Oct 31, 2019.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course is meant as an introduction to the study of a complex culture where writing had its origin, and various expressive forms were created – such as mythological compositions, devotional and wisdom literature, heroic and historiographic narrative, etc. The wide spectrum of Near Eastern literatures includes different languages spoken in the various areas where cuneiform script spread and was used since the III millennium BC. Phenomena of transmission are evident in contemporary and successive cultures during the II and I millennia BC. The course aims at providing a general introduction to the genres and main literary works of Near Eastern literatures with particular reference to the Mesopotamian (Sumero-Akkadian) tradition and to illustrate the contexts of production and reception of the most representative texts, the dynamics of their transmission, canonization and innovation. Through the illustration of the characteristics of Sumero-Akkadian literature and its relationships with other cultures, the course also provides an important complement to the study of ancient literature of the Mediterranean area.


The course is organized in two parts. The first consists of a general introduction to Syro-Mesopotamian history, from III to I millennium BCE, from the perspective of scribal and literary activity and production, and of the development and spreading of the Sumero-Akkadian literary tradition. The second part focusses on a major and emblematic literary work: the Gilgamesh epic. The lessons are devoted to illustrate and analyse the various texts and redactions of the tales that were composed on Gilgamesh from the beginning of the II millennium BC - in Sumerian - till the unitarian and most complete redaction in literary Babylonian, which dates from the first half of I millennium BCE. Selected examples of themes and language of the various redactions, as well as their spreading beyond Mesopotamia are illustrated and commented upon.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Foster B. Before The Muses: An Anthology Of Akkadian Literature 2005
L. Verderame Letterature dell'antica Mesopotamia 2016
A. R. George The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic Oxford University Press 2003 0198149220

Assessment methods and criteria

Final oral assessment. Purposes of the assessment are to verify the acquired knowledge; language skills; ability of connecting knowledge; analytical and discussion skills.
The assessment will consist of questions on the topics treated during the course, on chapters of the reference books and synthesis provided in slides. The evaluation is expressed in thirtieths.
Not attending students and Erasmus students are kindly requested to contact the teacher at the beginning of the course in order to agree on the programme and assessment modalities.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and in accordance with the University of Verona guidelines, during ​the 2020 summer session the assessment modality will be modified as follows: online oral exam.