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Michèle Meijer, MA


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    Michèle L. Meijer, doctoral candidate in Ancient History, 4-year, full-time position.

    I obtained my BA in Classics and Art History from VU Amsterdam (2013) with additional courses in Akkadian cuneiform. I pursued my interests in Ancient History in the MA (research) Classics and Ancient Civilizations, also at the VU (2015). The following year I spent partly abroad as an external doctoral candidate, doing research at the Dutch institute in Istanbul and studying Sumerian at the University of Innsbruck. 

    Since September 2016 I am employed as doctoral candidate in Ancient History at the Department of Arts and Culture, History and Antiquity at the VU. My dissertation project, which I plan to finish mid-2020, is funded by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (PhDs in the Humanities). It is concerned with religious similarities between the ancient Near East and the Graeco-Roman world and enables me to engage with Classics, Ancient History and Assyriology in an interdisciplinary way.


    During my two-year Research Master, I acquainted myself with comparative studies of Graeco-Roman and Near Eastern literatures and religions, in order to continue with both Classics and Near Eastern Studies. This has developed into what has since been my main research question: how can we account for the many cultural similarities between the Graeco-Roman world and ancient Near Eastern cultures, especially Mesopotamia? Think for example of the literary parallels between the Akkadian Gilgamesh epic and the epics of Homer, or of the striking similarities between the Greek and Mesopotamian anthropomorphic pantheons. Are these similarities caused by cultural transmission or should we attribute them to similar, but independent developments? 

    My PhD research is concerned with the methodological and theoretical aspects of these questions, and focuses in particular on religious, cultic similarities between Mesopotamia and the Graeco-Roman world. My aim is to develop a method which helps to identify which elements were borrowed and which have developed independently in any future comparison between these cultures. This method will be extrapolated from an interesting case study: a comparison between the Mesopotamian cult of Inanna/Ishtar and the Graeco-Roman cult of Cybele. In the cults of these goddesses we encounter striking parallels such as cultic personnel belonging to a third category of gender who perform ecstatic rituals featuring drums and weapons.

    My dissertation is supervised by Prof. Kristin Kleber and Prof. Bas ter Haar Romeny.

    My other research interests are (in random order) comparative religion, Mesopotamian myth, Early Greek literature, literary parallels between ancient Greek and Near Eastern epics, cross-cultural interactions in general, the history of the east-west dichotomy, and orientalism.  


    In blocks 2 and 3 of 2017-2018 I teach the 2nd- and 3rd-year BA-level course Akkadian Literary Texts A in which we read the Babylonian classic Enuma Elish. While concentrating on reading from the cuneiform and making correct normalisations and translations, we also discuss the historical and literary contexts of Enuma Elish, especially the parallels we see with other ancient texts such as Genesis I and Hesiod's Theogony


    4-year PhD project, full-time, 2016-2020, NWO PhD in the Humanities

    Research and educational stay at the Institut für Alte Geschichte und Altorientalistik, Universität Innsbruck, March-July 2016 (one semester), NWO Aspasia funding granted by the Humanities Research Committee of the VU, Faculty of Humanities: €5000

    Research stay at the Netherlands Institute in Turkey, Istanbul, 22 November-19 December 2015, Fellowship

    Summerschool Ideology, Power and Religious Change in Antiquity, Göttingen, 20-24 July 2015, Travel bursary by OIKOS

    Conference Wandering Myths. Transcultural Uses of Myth in the Ancient World, Oxford, 14-16 April 2014, Travel bursary by the University of Oxford

    Prizes and Awards

    The VU Faculty of Humanities Research Master Thesis Award (between 2015-2017), 1 February 2017

    Ancillary activities

    • Stichting Zenobia | Amsterdam | Bestuurder | 2019-07-01 - present

    Ancillary activities are updated daily

    Academic qualification

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

    1 Sep 201331 Aug 2015

    Award Date: 31 Aug 2015


    • D051 Ancient History
    • Classics
    • Assyriology
    • Greek Religion
    • Roman Religion
    • Mesopotamian Religion
    • Cultural Interaction
    • Comparative Religion
    • Mesopotamian Literature


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