Archibald Henry Sayce

Professor of Assyriology, Oxford

The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia

In his two series of ten lectures, Sayce examines the ancient religions of Egypt and Babylonia through previous systematic historical study, making conclusions on their compatibility with religious beliefs and ideas of our modern times. His first series covers the basis of Egyptian religion, its lack of any philosophical system, and its regard for the past, and his second series identifies primitive animism as resting at the core of Babylonian religion.


Archibald Henry Sayce was born on 25 September 1845 in Bristol, England. Best known for his work on the Assyrians and the first to hold a chair in the subject, he was instrumental in founding the Alexandria Museum in Cairo. Despite many periods of illness throughout his life, Sayce was Deputy Professor of Philology at Oxford from 1876 to 1890, eventually relinquishing this role to explore Egypt. A year later, however, he returned to Oxford to take up a professorship in Assyriology. 

Writing in more than twenty ancient and modern languages, he gave the prestigious Hibbert lectures on Babylonian religion in 1887, and in 1919, he was elected a member of the Institut de France. In addition to important developments in Assyriology, Sayce also contributed to the fields of oriental philology and archaeology. His prominent works include Assyrian Grammar for Comparative Purposes (1872), Principles of Comparative Philology (1874–1875), Babylonian Literature (1877), Introduction to Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther (1885), Patriarchal Palestine (1895), Israel and the Surrounding Nations (1898), and Babylonians and Assyrians (1900). He also wrote an autobiography, Reminisces (1923).

Published/Archival Resources