Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East

Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila

Within this project, Prof. Hämeen-Anttila studies the transmission of Assyrian and Greek heritage into Islamic culture, especially in literature, historiography and science. The main research questions relate to how this heritage was transmitted to the Arabs, what changes occurred during the transmission and, most importantly, how it was harmonised with the Islamic culture. Such harmonising also necessitates a detailed study of how the ancient nations were seen by Muslims.

Prof. Hämeen-Anttila’s material consists of mediaeval historical works, such as Kitab al-Bad’ wa’l-ta’rikh by al-Maqdisi (d. after 966) and Tabaqat al-umam by Sa’id al-Andalusi (d. 1070). Both works contain ample material about the ancient nations. Another important group of sources comes from the belles lettres, including Arabic debate poems (munazarat), wonder tales and the tales of The Arabian Nights (especially the Sindbad cycle).

In this group of sources, the most important question is how the Arabs, nationalistically proud of their own poetic heritage, received this alien material and shaped it into an important part of their own national literature.


Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila in the TUHAT research database