ATS3230 - Sex, gender and power in the ancient Near East - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Centre for Ancient Cultures

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Hilary Gopnik


Dr Hilary Gopnik

Not offered in 2019


Twelve credit points of second-year Arts units.


This unit explores the tension between sex, gender and power as it played out in the literature and art of the Ancient Near East through such artefacts as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the love poems of the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Israelites, coupling images from Babylon, texts detailing the intimate domestic life of the inhabitants of an ancient Egyptian town, and the records of the female Egyptian king Hatshepsut. We examine accounts of female and male sexuality -as well as the ambiguously gendered images of eunuchs- and attempt to untangle the cultural mesh that is formed by the intersection of sexuality and power. We explore how our own assumptions about sexuality, gender and power might be challenged by a close examination of the different perspectives encountered in the ancient world.


Upon successful completion of the unit, students will:

  1. be familiar with a range of literary and visual cultures of the ancient world;
  2. be aware of contemporary theories about gender and sexuality;
  3. recognize the different attitudes toward gender and sexuality displayed by the communities of the Ancient Near East;
  4. distinguish the varying status of women in ancient Near Eastern societies;
  5. understand the relationship between sexuality and power in the ancient world and contrast it to our modern view of this relationship;
  6. construct arguments about cultural contexts using ancient textual and visual sources.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study