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Western Asian History of Religions

In the history of religion, Western Asia in its diverse historical periods has a fundamental importance. On the one hand, this region constitutes a dynamic multiethnic and multilingual field in which several cultures were always in exchange with each other, and these contacts led to the emergence of many religious ideas and some widespread religions such as Zoroastrianism, Eastern Christianity, Manichaeism and Islam. On the other hand, the region acted as a link between the Indian, Central Asian, and Chinese cultural regions on the one hand and Europe (or the cultural region that was becoming Europe) on the other. Geographically, the region we call West Asia stretches from the Hindu Kush in the northeast to the Arabian Peninsula in the southwest, and from the Sindh region in the southeast to the Black Sea in the northwest.

The History of West Asian Religions at CERES consists of two foci: Iranian and Mesopotamian religious history. The Iranian history of religion focuses on antiquity and late antiquity (12th century B.C. – 10th century A.D.) and deals with Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism and their contact with Islam in the early Islamic period. The history of religions in Mesopotamia deals primarily with the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures (4th-1st century B.C.) and studies various religious aspects of these cultures. The two concentrations are primarily philological and deal with sources in many different languages: Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Avestic, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Arabic, and New Persian.

Our courses provide our students with a basic knowledge of the religious history of this region in its various historical periods – and with a broad philologically based approach.

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