Classics faculty member receives NEH fellowship

February 03, 2012

Gonzalo Rubio, associate professor of classics and ancient Mediterranean studies and history and religious studies at Penn State, has been awarded a 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to conduct research about the earliest literary compositions in any Semitic language, a language family that includes Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic.

In his project, "The Earliest Semitic Literature: Ebla and Early Dynastic Mesopotamia," Rubio will pursue a detailed study, editions, and translations of the earliest literary writings in Semitic languages. This literature is found on cuneiform clay tablets from Ancient Syria and Mesopotamia and dates to the mid-third millennium BCE (the Early Dynastic period). These literary texts come from a few ancient sites: Ebla (northern Syria), Abu Salabikh (southern Iraq), and, Mari (on the Syrian border with Iraq). The tablets from Ebla, discovered in 1975, constitute the major share of the project.

To date, this whole body of literary writings is available mostly in copies and photographs, with only a handful having been the subject of preliminary studies or translations by a small group of scholars. Rubio’s goal is to make these compositions available to a much wider audience in a more definitive and comprehensive fashion.

The NEH Fellowship is widely recognized as one of the highest honors for scholars in the humanities. The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal grant-making agency dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. More information is at

Rubio, a College of the Liberal Arts faculty member, teaches about and researches the languages and literatures of ancient Mesopotamia (Sumerian & Akkadian). He has published a number of scholarly contributions on Sumerian grammar and literature, early Semitic languages, comparative Semitic linguistics, and various linguistic, literary, and historical aspects of Ancient Mesopotamia, as well as the Ancient Near East in general.

Rubio joined Penn State in 2003 as assistant professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, and the Department of History and Religious Studies. He was named associate professor in 2008. Prior to Penn State, Rubio was assistant professor at Ohio State from 1999 to 2003. Rubio earned licentiate degrees in semitic philology and classics from the Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain; and a master's of art and doctorate in assyriology from The Johns Hopkins University.

Rubio is senior Fellow of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University; editor-in-chief of the series “Languages of the Ancient Near East” (LANE), published by Eisenbrauns; and general editor of the series “Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Records” published by Walter de Gruyter. He also serves as chair of the Ancient Near East Section of the American Oriental Society and member of its Board of Directors.

  • Literary tablets from Ebla (ca. 2400-2,340 BCE)

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated January 09, 2015