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Simo Parpola

Simo Kaarlo Antero Parpola
Born July, 4, 1943, Helsinki

Bachelor of Arts 1963, Master of Arts, 1965, Licentiate 1969 and PhD 1971 (Assyriology), University of Helsinki

Professor extraordinary of Assyriology 1978–2009, University of Helsinki

Senior Epigraphist, Ziyaret Tepe expedition of the University of Akron, 2002–03
Research Fellow 1999, Institute for Advanced Studies, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Professore contratto 1995, University of Padova
Associate professor with tenure 1977–79, University of Chicago

Docent in Assyriology 1973–76, University of Helsinki

Scholarship for exceptionally talented young scientists 1972–76, University of Helsinki

Research Assistant, 1969–72, Heidelberg University

Research themes

Assyrian language and culture, history, religion, ideology of monarchy, rituals, cuneiform, literature, art, astronomy, medicine and magic, economy, administration, chronology, climate and geography; Jewish mysticism, gnosis; Sumerian language, lexicon and phonology; Indus script; Mesoamerican writing systems

Academic publications

122 academic monographs and articles on Assyrian Language and culture

Awards and special achievements

Honorary member of the American Oriental Society 2001

Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland 2001

The Assyrian American National Federation Award “Non-Assyrian Man of the Year” 2000

University of Helsinki J. V. Snellman Prize 1996

First Class Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland 1993

Finnish Union of Professors’ Professor of the Year 1992

Best Master’s Thesis Award 1965, University of Helsinki

Best Classic Award, Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper 1961

Photo: Juri Ahlfors
Written by Simo Parpola and Olli Siitonen (ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My Best Memories from the University of Helsinki

For decades the University of Helsinki was a place where I felt at home, a place of which I could be proud. I had many inspiring teachers, among them Armas Salonen, Jussi Aro, Henrik Zilliacus, Holger Thesleff and Heikki Palva, all of whom I respected and admired. I also had good friends, such as Jaakko Frözén, Paavo Hohti and Jorma Kaimio. It was a pleasure to counterbalance studying by spending time with them on excursions, in the student nations and at the student association Symposion.

An invitation to the spring meeting of Symposion at Floralia in May of 1967. Photo from the home archive of Simo Parpola.

I was glad to return to the University of Helsinki from Chicago when I was offered a professorship in Assyriology in the spring of 1978, although it meant losing a Chicago professorship with a much higher salary. For the next 20 years I was able to work in an excellent academic environment that encouraged fundamental research in the discipline. The most memorable moments from my time as a professor were being awarded the J.V. Snellman Prize and directing a team that became a Centre of Excellence in 1996.

Simo Parpola (third from the right) as a “high priest” at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in the spring of 1978. Photo by Sisko Parpola, from the home archive of Simo Parpola.

Nevertheless, for the sake of honesty, it has to be stated that I have been disappointed in my University and the new values it has displayed in the 21st century. I cannot accept the idea of the University as an assembly line whose results are measured in money, or decisions made for financial rather than scientific reasons. From the point of view of my own field, it seems incomprehensible that the professorship in Assyriology I vacated when I retired is apparently in real danger of remaining permanently vacant. Should that happen, Finland would lose the only discipline in the world that can restore events to the collective memory of mankind that happened thousands of years before the ancient Greeks, and the University of Helsinki would lose an almost 130-year-old research and educational tradition in Assyriology that is among the best in the world. If that is the path we have chosen, why not just abolish all professorships in the Classics, history, exegetics and theology at the University of Helsinki as redundant and unproductive?

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