Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module CLAS40730: Akkadian

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS40730: Akkadian

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • Some work in an ancient language and/or literature at Level 3 is normally required.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • In accordance with the general aims of the MA in Classics, the aim of the module is to promote self-motivated and self-directed research. More specifically, the module aims to enable students to carry out independent research in an area which has been of growing importance to the field of Classics.
  • It is now generally accepted that Greek literature has close links with the literature of ancient Babylon (e.g. Homer, Iliad; the Poem of Gilgames). It is also clear that Greek law, science, religion, history and historiography can all be illuminated with the help of cuneiform sources (e.g. law codes; medical and mathematical texts; omens; Alexander the Great; Herodotus). Research that combines Greek and Akkadian sources is among the fastest-growing areas of classical scholarship, yet few graduate students in the UK currently have the linguistic skills to carry out such research.
  • The module is designed to enable independent and competent use of Akkadian-language materials. It aims to give students a solid grounding in Akkadian and the cuneiform writing system, to foster a good understanding of the history of Akkadian literature, its major texts and genres, to familiarize students with the relevant research tools, and to enable them to engage successfully with Akkadian sources in their chosen field of study. Where relevant, the course draws on the collection of cuneiform tablets in the Oriental Museum, Durham.


  • Language work: Akkadian as a Semitic language; Old Babylonian and other dialects; the cuneiform writing system; transliteration and normalisation; the cases of the Akkadian noun; adjectives and pronouns; the construct state; the strong verb and its stems; weak verbs; irregular verbs; numbers.
  • Textual work: The history of Akkadian literature, its major texts and genres; research tools (e.g. CAD, CDA, AHw, GAG, Huehnergard, Grammar of Akkadian, Borger, Mesopotamisches Zeichenlexikon); identifying a suitable text for study; formal features of the target text (e.g. script, dialect, style, genre); significance of the target text in its historical, cultural and literary context.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, students will have gained a good knowledge of the Akkadian language and the cuneiform writing system; and of the history of Akkadian literature in its broad outlines.
  • They will also have acquired the knowledge necessary to make full use of the specialised literature and the standard research tools in the field.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will have developed the linguistic, philological and interpretative skills that are necessary to make competent use of Akkadian-language sources in their own chosen area of research.
Key Skills:
  • The linguistic and interpretative skills required for the successful completion of this module are transferable to any field which demands a capacity for handling difficult languages and unlocking unfamiliar and often alien modes of thought. It also requires the effective use of library and IT resources; and good written and oral presentation skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be through a combination of language classes, seminars and tutorials.
  • Weekly language classes throughout the year (shared with CLAS 3331 when this module is running) will introduce the grammar and syntax of Akkadian and the basics of the cuneiform script. The core grammar will be covered in Michaelmas term; the language classes in Epiphany will introduce more advanced concepts to support students’ reading of the set text(s) chosen for the summative commentary.
  • Sixteen seminars (specific to CLAS 40730) will develop students’ interpretive skills and their understanding of Babylonian literature. In Michaelmas term thematic seminars will introduce key contexts and works of Babylonian literature, including for example the royal libraries of Nineveh, Late Babylonian temple scholarship and compositions such as EnÅ«ma Elish and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In Epiphany term the seminars will focus on close reading and critical discussion of the text(s) chosen for the summative commentary. The seminar format is intended to ensure active participation and stimulate exchange of ideas within the group.
  • Each student will also have one individual tutorial to receive feedback on their formative commentary and discuss plans for the summative with the module convenor.
  • Students will be required to submit formative language work throughout the year, ensuring that appropriate standards of linguistic attainment are met. A formative commentary of 1,000 words will act as preparation for the summative commentary. Students are also expected to lead or co-lead seminar sessions (one per term). This will ensure that individuals engage in independent research, and that they gain practice in articulating their conclusions.
  • The summative assessment will consist of:
  • - A two-hour language examination which tests linguistic knowledge of Akkadian (40%).
  • - A commentary of 3,500 words (60%) which tests students' language skills as well as their ability to engage constructively with Akkadian-language sources. Texts for commentary will be chosen by or in consultation with the course instructor. Where relevant, they may be drawn from the cuneiform collection of the Oriental Museum, Durham.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Language Classes 22 Weekly 1 hour 22
Seminars 16 Eight times per term 1 hour 16
Tutorials 1 One in Epiphany Term 1 hour 284
Preparation and Reading 261
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written Examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Commentary Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Commentary 3,500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Weekly formative language work. Leading or co-leading seminars. Formative commentary (1,000 words) in Epiphany Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University