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Personal information

Curriculum Vitae

1976 - 'Doctoraal examen' (c. MA-degree) History at the University of Leiden. Major Ancient history, minors Assyriology and modern history.


1986 - PhD at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU University Amsterdam). Disstertation: grondbezit in het Seleucidische Rijk [Land Tenure in the Seleucid Empire]. Promoters: prof. dr. P.W. de Neeve and prof. dr. M. Stol.


1974-5 - History teacher at Christelijk Lyceum Zandvliet, The Hague.


1975-9 - History teacher at Pieter Groen College, Katwijk aan Zee.


1976 - Lecturer in Ancient History VU University Amsterdam (1976-9 halftime, afterwards fulltime).


1979-84 - Part time lecturer in Ancient History at teacher training college "De Vrije Leergangen" (evening classes).


1982 - Initiator of academic discipline "Ancient Civilizations" (Oudheidkunde) at VU University, now BA Oudheidkunde (Ancient Studies) and part of MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations (programs in Classics, Ancient Studies and Ancient History).


1993 - Professor of Ancient Mediterranean and West Asian History, VU University Amsterdam.



Research interests

Ancient History of the Mediterranean world; The history of the Ancient Near East, in particular the history of Western Asia in the so-called Hellenistic period (Alexander the Great to the first century BC); Economic History and the history of the interaction between Greeks and Babylonians. 


Two projects:

1. The efficiency of markets for agricultural products in pre-industrial societies: The case of Babylonia c. 400 – c. 60 BC,a research programme, financed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). 

The research aim of this programme is to examine the functioning of the Babylonian market in raw foodstuffs and wool (i.e. surplus agricultural produce) from the end of the Achaemenid to the early Parthian period (404-60 BC). This aim will be achieved by analysing the exogenous shocks which influence prices and by comparative study of price data of other periods. The programme is carried out by two PhD students and a postdoctoral researcher. The research is carried out in cooperation with Prof. J.L. van Zanden (University of Utrecht).
The basis of the research is the collection of the so-called Astronomical Diaries from Babylon. These diaries not only report celestial events, but contain information about political events as well. Furthermore they give monthly prices of barley, dates, cress, dodder, sesame and wool. Thousands of prices are preserved in this way, for Ancient History an unrivalled dataset. Analysis of the prices in comparative perspective is part of the project. The dataset is published on the website of the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam: http://www.iisg.nl/hpw/data.php#babylon

Publication of R.J. van der Spek, B. van Leeuwen, J.L. van Zanden eds., A History of Market Performance from Ancient Babylonia to the Modern World. Routledge Explorations in economic History (London: Routledge) is scheduled for March 2014. 

2. The edition of Babylonian Chronicles of the Hellenistic Period in transliteration, translation and commentary, in collaboration with dr. Irving Finkel, Department of the Ancient Near East, British Museum, London. The edition will contain new editions of published and unpublished chronicles, written in cuneiform script and housed in the British museum. The chronicles report about events of local interest in Babylon, as well as facts about international politics. They give invaluable new information on the empires of Alexander the great, the Seleucids and the Parthians and give a remarkable insight into the daily life in Babylon, where Babylonian and Greeks lived side by side. The texts are a welcome supplement to the Greek sources. Publication of the historical sections of the astronomical diaries is also envisaged (with dr. R. Pirngruber, University of emptyVienna)

Most of the chronicles are published now on Internet: http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/chron00.html

Ancillary activities

No ancillary activities

Ancillary activities are updated daily

Ancillary activities

  • Board member of the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO)
  • President of the Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap (Société Orientale) "Ex Oriente Lux"
  • Board member section Ancient History of the research school OIKOS
  • Member advisory board Studi Classici e Orientali (Pisa University Press)


Academic qualification

PhD, Grondbezit in het Seleucidische Rijk (Land tenure in the Seleucid empire), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Award Date: 7 Nov 1986


  • D History General and Old World
  • ancient history
  • Assyriology


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