Classical Ethiopic has a long academic history. It is taught traditionally at all major universities in Europe and North-America where there is a focus on Semitic languages. Its study has always profited from the steady influx of theology students with an interest in the Ethiopian Christian Church (approximately 16 million believers). This explains why Classical Ethiopic also functions as one of the options within the study of Eastern Christianity at Leiden University.
Classical Ethiopic has a rich literature of a predominantly religious inspiration, comparable, in content and quantity, to Syriac, Coptic, Armenian literature. Besides works of religious nature we find works that can be placed in a wider context of early Middle Eastern literatures. For instance the Kebra Nagast, "the greatness of Kings", the national epic of Ethiopia, the story of the liaison of the Queen of Sheba with King Solomon, a story of which we find references in the Old Testament and in the Koran; or the cycle of Alexander the Great with is Syriac, Coptic and Arabic parallels.
A course in Classical Ethiopic is given at Leiden University by Dr. Ahmad Al-Jallad. The course is intended for Arabists, Semitists, theology students, etc and comprises the following elements:
- an introduction to Classical Ethiopic language.
- an introduction to the Ethiopice Church institutions.
- linguistic analysis of Classical Ethiopic texts.