Temple Life in Assyria and Babylonia


Temples were at the economic, social and intellectual heart of urban life in Assyria and Babylonia in the first millennium BC. Although they were in many ways highly conservative institutions, we shall see that they were also the drivers of fundamental intellectual innovation, through observation, calculation and prediction of natural phenomena, whose impact is still felt in mathematics and science today. This module will draw on a wealth of architectural, material and textual evidence to investigate the people, gods and animals whose lives and livelihoods depended on these enduring institutions. We will explore the following major questions. How were the gods conceptualised and to what ends? Who served as priests and what constituted priesthood? What was the theology behind their activities? How did temple communities support themselves economically? How did they manage relationships with the palace, and what happened when things went wrong? How did temples engage with wider urban society, through public ritual, charity and personal devotion? How did they negotiate the major historical changes of the first millennium BC, and with increasing religious plurality?

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module codes:

  • HIST0549 (HIST3109): 30 credits
  • HIST0098 (HIST9109): 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

  • HIST0549: 3-hour examination (100%)
  • HIST0098: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)