Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

CAMS 115: Literature of the Ancient Near East

CAMS 115: Literature of the Ancient Near East


Rubio, Gonzalo


Tues, Thurs


3:05 - 4:20 P.M.




Spring 2022

Reading and study of literary works from the Ancient Near East, especially from Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

This course is designed to provide the student with both a basic knowledge of Ancient Near Eastern literature and the tools to appreciate it. It will present a wide sample of literary compositions from Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, along with some parallels from Ancient Anatolian and Syro-Palestinian traditions. Although mythology is not the main focus of the course, some mythological compositions will be read because of their literary fabric and epic structure.

The course will be divided into two main sections: Mesopotamian and Egyptian literatures. Students will read some of the most famous literary compositions from the Ancient Near East (such as Gilgamesh and the Babylonian story of creation), as well as a representative sample of works from a wide variety of genres (love poetry, mythological narratives, laments, religious hymns, tales, wisdom literature). These compositions will be approached from a literary and aesthetic point of view, without neglecting the inherently problematic relation with their historical context (as in the case of compositions that mention actual historical characters, such as the legends of the Sargonic kings in Mesopotamia). Moreover, the works related to both official cult and popular religion (hymns, prayers, incantations, prophecies) will be read in their political, social, and religious context. In the limits between sacred and profane, our approach to love poetry will address some issues of ritual, gender, and sexuality. More strictly mundane genres (wisdom literature and humor) will show that some basic human concerns have remained unchanged.

The course will provide students with a detailed overview of the main literary traditions and genres from the Ancient Near East, which played an essential role in the origins and shaping of the Bible as well as in some aspects of the Greek literary tradition Ci.e., the foundations of the Western understanding of literature and religious discourse.