Benjamin Foster

Benjamin Foster's picture
William M. Laffan Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
(203) 432-6715


Benjamin R. Foster is Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature. His research interests focus on cuneiform literature and the social and economic history of Mesopotamia. In the field of literature, he is author of Before the Muses (1993, 1996, 2005), an anthology of annotated translations from Akkadian poetry and prose of all period. An abridged version of this work appeared as From Distant Days (1995). He translated the Sumerian and Akkadian Gilgamesh epics for the Norton Critical Editions series, The Epic of Gilgamesh (2001, 2018), and is author of Akkadian Literature of the Late Period (2007), as well as studies of different aspects of cuneiform literature and Mesopotamian intellectual endeavor. In the area of general history, he is author of The Age of Agade: Inventing Empire in Ancient Mesopotamia (2015) and, with Karen Polinger Foster, of the award-winning Civilizations of Ancient Iraq (2010). His studies of society and economy include Umma in the Sargonic Period (1982) and Administration and Use of Institutional Land in Sargonic Sumer (1982), as well as numerous individual essays and articles. He is particularly active in the publication of primary source material, including Sargonic Tablets from Telloh in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum (1982, second volume in press) and various individual text studies. He has edited and translated two volumes in the series Writings from the Ancient World, including J.-J. Glassner’s Mesopotamian Chronicles (2004), and produced the first modern study of the Arab traveler Elias ibn Hanna, Un Arabo en el Nuevo Mundo (1668-1683) (1989). His other interests include the history of Oriental scholarship in Europe and the United States from Late Antiquity to the present, on which he has published several researches; the scientific analysis of cuneiform tablets (Scienze d’Antichita [2011], with Giovanna Biga); and antiquities and cultural property issues (Iraq beyond the Headlines: History Archaeology, and War [2005], together with Karen Polinger Foster and Patty Gerstenblith). He has written extensively for encyclopedias and collective works and more than 85 book reviews.