Myths – narratives in which gods and goddesses are the principal characters – provided an explanation for the human condition and the relationship between the divine and the human world. This class will provide a general introduction to the mythology of key civilizations of the ancient Near East – Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine – and the Hebrew Bible. The evidence for myths differs widely across this region – in Egypt, we have ample visual representations of myths and mythological motifs, Mesopotamia has left us extensive texts. Different again is the case of the Hebrew Bible – can we at all speak about a ‘biblical mythology’? Throughout the course, we will analyze in detail a number of myths and their purpose within religion and society – creation and flood myths, solar myths, myths about the underworld, myths about specific deities. We will discuss the problem of Biblical mythology and specific examples (myths of creation and destruction; historical myths). Finally, throughout the course, we will also assess cases of the reception of ancient Near Eastern myths in modern movies and popular culture (e.g., “Gods of Egypt”, 2016).

Prerequisites: None