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The Antiochus Cylinder (2), the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder **
The Cylinder of Antiochus I Soter from the Ezida Temple in Borsippa (Antiochus Cylinder) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It describes how the Seleucid crown prince Antiochus, the son of king Seleucus Nicator, rebuilt the Ezida Temple and prays for divine protection. For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.
The cuneiform text itself (BM 36277) is now in the British Museum.

On this website, a new reading is proposed by 
Marten Stol and Bert van der Spek of the Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). Please notice that this is a preliminary edition. This web publication is intended to invite suggestions for better readings, comments and interpretations (go here to contact Van der Spek).

The first page is here.
Previous editions
Description of the tablet
Text and translation

Antiochus I Soter as crown prince. Coin from the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara (Turkey). Photo Marco Prins.
Coin of Antiochus I Soter
(Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara)

General Commentary

Antiochus I Soter (c.324-261 BCE) was the eldest son of Seleucus I Nicator and the Bactrian princess Apame. He became co-ruler with his father in 294 and at the same time married his father's second wife, Stratonice I (daughter of Demetrius Poliorcetes, whom his father had married in 298).

The last record of Seleucus as sole king is MLC 2654 (Doty 1977: 41) 9.II.17 SE = 13 May 295; the first tablet dated to both Seleucus and Antiochus is BM 109941 1.VIII.18 SE = 18 November 294 (Oelsner 1986, 271). The name of the queen is preserved in the Antiochus cylinder as Astartanikku (fAs-ta-ar-ta-ni-ik-ku, ii 26), perhaps a word play on Astarte. The news of her death in Sardes is recorded in Astronomical Diary no. -253 A110; A23 ([fAs-t]a-rat-ni-q-e), Sep/Oct 254.

Antiochus was put in charge of the so-called upper satrapies, including Mesopotamia and Babylonia. Thanks to the Babylonian chronicles we have a great deal of information about his actions in Babylon. He probably lived for a considerable time in the palace in Babylon, while the new royal city Seleucia on the Tigris was being built. Antiochus is called "crown prince" in the Antiochus and Sin Chronicle (ABC 11 = BCHP 5; DUMU LUGAL š -tum, mār šarri ša bīt ridti), settling Macedonians from Babylon in Seleucia and making offerings in two temples of Sin (Egišnugal and Enitenna). The Ruin of the Esagila Chronicle (BCHP 6) is illuminating for Antiochus' interest in the rebuilding of Esagila. He used elephants and wagons for the clearing of the site of  Esagila, apparently the temple tower Etemenanki (cf. Van der Spek 2005a). The Antiochus, Bactria, and India Chronicle (BCHP 7 = ABC 13A) and the Juniper Garden Chronicle (BCHP 8) probably also date to this period.

King Seleucus meanwhile turned his attention to the west. In 281 he defeated Lysimachus, king of Thrace and western parts of Asia Minor, at Corupedium in Asia Minor, so that he acquired the greater part of this region. But Seleucus apparently wanted more: he took the opportunity to try to return to his homeland, perhaps because he was homesick (so Memnon 12.1 FGrH 434, F. 8.1; cf. End of Seleucus I chronicle [= BCHP 9]: r. 3’: Seleucus went ana KUR Ma-ak-ka-du-nu KUR-š, "to Macedonia, his land"). He crossed the Hellespont, but was murdered by Ptolemy Keraunos, the son of King Ptolemy I Soter of Egypt (satrap 323-306, king 306-283), who, when in disgrace, had sought refuge with Seleucus. The last months of Seleucus are treated in the End of Seleucus Chronicle (ABC 12 = BCHP 9). The murder is also mentioned in the Babylonian King List (BM 35603: 9; RlA VI 98f, Del Monte 1997, 208) "in the land of Han" in month VI of year 31 SE (26 August-24 September 281).

Antiochus' first great exploit as sole king (281-261) was his defeat of the Galatians, who had invaded Asia Minor, in the 'Battle of the Elephants' (275) and penned them in beyond the Halys (Galatia). 274-271 he fought the First Syrian War with Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283-246), partly described in an Astronomical Diary (Sachs/Hunger 1988, no. -273B r. 29’-39’, upper edge 1-4). The diary mentions how troops were levied and resources gathered in Babylonia, elephants moved from Bactria through the province; so much silver was collected that exchanges were paid in Greek bronze coins. Citizens of Babylon were summoned to Seleucia on the Tigris to receive orders concerning taxation and land policy. This information has been linked with the later classical report that citizens of Babylon were deported to Seleucia (Pausanias, Guide to Greece, 1.16.3 referring to Seleucus), but the new readings of Sachs and Hunger have made this interpretation untenable (Van der Spek 1993, 97-98). Land that was given to the Babylonians in Antiochus' first year was now confiscated again or made subject to royal taxation (see the discussion in Aperghis 2004, 109-110).

The end of the war is only tentatively dated at 271 BC by douard Will (Will 1979: 146f). In 271/0 BC (SEB 41) the king was encamped in Syria (Astronomical Diary I 354/3, no. -270 r. 18). Not much is known about the end of Antiochus' reign. In 268 BC he was in Babylon, as this cylinder testifies.

For an excellent historical commentary on this cylinder, see Kuhrt & Sherwin-White 1991.

Philological Commentary: Column 1

The titulary conforms to Babylonian and Assyrian patterns. The phrase LUGAL E.KI LUGAL KUR.KUR, "king of Babylon, king of all countries" has Persian precedents. Cf. ANET3 317, n.1: CAD M s.v. mātu, “land, country,” p. 417b, 1g “in pl., referring to all countries; p. 418a, sub 2’ “in divine and royal epithets”. The title LUGAL KUR.KUR, "king of all countries", is used by Alexander the Great and mutatis mutandis also by Antigonus in CT 49, 34: 24 lGAL.ERIN KUR.KUR, which must render his title "stratēgos of Asia". Cf. Del Monte 1997: 17ff.

DA in .ZI.DA written as KU+DU.
za-ni-in .SAG.IL .ZI.DA, "caretaker of Esagila and Ezida". This phrase is frequently used in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian inscriptions; cf. CAD Z 46, s.v. zāninu, b2' "provider" in royal titulary, referring to temples.

IBILA written DUMUxUŠ (cf. 16). SAG.KAL = ašaridu, "first in rank, foremost" CAD A II, s.v. ašaridu 1 b) (p. 417b).

lMa-ak-ka-du-na-a-a, "the Macedonian". Cf. RlA s.v. and Zadok 1985: 217. Note that "the Macedonian" concerns Seleucus, not Antiochus!

The geographical name Macedonia (KUR Ma-ak-ka-du-nu) occurs in three chronicles:

  1. the Alexander chronicle, BCHP 1 = ABC 8 r. 13;
  2. the Diadochi Chronicle, BCHP 3: 27+32+36 (=ABC 10: 8’+13’+17’)
  3. the End of Seleucus Chronicle, BCHP 9: r.3’ = ABC 12: r. 3’).

It probably also occurs in the Antiochus and Sin Chronicle (BCHP 5 = ABC 11: rev. 7; Antiochus, the crown prince, moves Macedonians to Seleucia).

Macedonia (or the Greek world) is sometimes referred to as the land Hani, which is the name of a people and a kingdom (Hana) of the Old and Middle Babylonian periods situated on the middle Euphrates. It is also mentioned in the Agum-kakrime Inscription (Agum returns Marduk and Zarpanitum from the grasp of the Hanaeans II: 1-11); Longman assumes this composition to be Neo-Assyrian and Han to be the literary equivalent of Hatti (Longman 1991: 86-7), but Podany takes it simply to be the Middle Babylonian kingdom of Hana (Podany 1991-3). In the Hellenistic period the term is apparently a metaphor of Macedonia, or by extension Greeks and Macedonians (Cf. Briant 1994).

The land of Hani or Hanaeans with the meaning "Macedonia(ns)" occur in Babylonian chronicles (BCHP 1: 6’; 2: 4’; 3: 36 (= ABC 10: 17’ ([l]Ha-ni-i š LUGAL, "the Hanaeans of the king", possibly referring to the Macedonian elite troops of the "Silvershields"); 7: 12’; 11: 6’, 11’, r.7’, 13’. The Babylonian King List (BKL: 8) mentions the death of Seleucus I Nicator ina KUR Ha-ni-i, "in the land of Han". In a date formula in the Astronomical Diaries Alexander the Great is referred to as LUGAL š TA KUR Ha-ni-i, "the king, who is from the land of Han", apparently to underline that the year number (8) was reckoned from Alexander's accession in Macedonia (336) and not his capture of Babylon (331) (AD I 190/1, no. -328, left edge). In this same chronicle it is reported that the chief of troops (lGAL ki-șir, probably Mazaros, garrison commander (phrourarchos) of Susa (Arrian, Anabasis, 3.16.9; Justin V  was sent from Susa to the land of Han (ibid. no. -328 r. 27’). In AD I, p. 210/1, no. -322D: 22 the Greek and Macedonian colonists in Bactria, who revolted after Alexander’s death, are indicated as lERN Ha-ni-i, "Hanaean soldiers."

Note that Antiochus is presented here as the builder of both Esagila and Ezida. In the Ruin of Esagila Chronicle (BCHP 6) 7-8 Antiochus is portrayed as active in the removal of the debris of Esagila ("The son of the king, his [troop]s, his wagons, (and) <his> elephants removed the debris of Esagila"). Cf. Ellis 1968: 26, 184.

libbī ublam: CAD A I, 21-22, s.v. abālu A 5 d): "to want, desire, to yearn for, to determine (with libbu, kabattu as subject)". –ma is incorrect here; it is the end of the subordinate clause.

SIG4 = libittu, "mud brick" (as opposed to agurru, kiln-fired brick). Cf. CAD L 177b, s.v. labānu 1c2’ for the use of (first) bricks in foundation rituals. The ritual of the laying of the first brick is already attested in the third millennium BC. Like Antiochus Salmaneser III mixed the clay of the first brick with fine oil (Lackenbacher 1982: 130-2).

Unusual ha in KUR Ha-at-ti; cf. 22.
KUR Ha-at-ti, "the land of Hatti" refers in first instance to the Hittite empire, which flourished in the late Bronze Age, secondly to the area of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms in northern Syria in the early Iron Age. In chronicles and astronomical diaries of the late period it is also used to indicate "Syria." See for instance the Chronicle concerning the early years of Nabuchadnezzar, Grayson 1975, 99-102, ABC 5 (= Glassner 2004, 226-30, no. 24): 12, 13, 16, 17, r. 3, 4, 5, 9, 11 (Judah as part of Hatti in 12), 14, 23, 26. In the same manner the land of  "Han", originally the name of an old Babylonian people at the Middle Euphrates, is used for Macedonia (and the Greek world) in the Hellenistic period.

Qātu elletu, "pure hand(s)" is an unusual expression. Cf. CAD E 105a, s.v. ellu 2) two references referring to gods. This passage is quoted in CAD Q 186a s.v. qātu 1b2’ in the context of washing of purifying the hands for cultic purposes; cf. Nebuchadnezzar, Langdon 1912: 158 A vi 18.

Unusual ru.
Rūštu, a fine quality of oil. CAD R 430a, s.v. rūštu a) "qualifying oil ( and .GIŠ)"; cf. b4’c’: for consecrating buildings.

Al-bi-in-ma: cf. CAD L 10a s.v. labānu, 1. "to make bricks", 1b) this passage quoted. One would expect conj. albinuma after inūma (line 6).

cf. Lackenbacher 1982: 130-132.

Passage quoted CAD N I, 83a, s.v. nad 2 1’: "to lay the foundation of a building, to lay bricks for a foundation": with uššu, "foundation".

ub-bi-il: probably mistake for -bi-il, preterite of (w)abālu; cf. CAD A I 10ff, s.v. abālu A 1. "to bring, transport (staples, materials, finished objects, etc.) to their destination." Note that the king in person brings the bricks to Ezida and that he laid the brick in Ezida in person.
It may be significant that the 20th of each month the day is of sun god Šamaš. Cf. Lambert 1960 (19962): 136: 156; J. Nougayrol 1947: 333 r. 3; 334, n. 26; Landsberger 1915: 137-8.

uššu, "foundation," repeated in line 16 (uššišu). Similar construction in II 24 and 28 with SIG5-tim = damiqtim, repeated by da-mi-iq-ti-šu-nu.

bītu () kīnu, "true/legitimate house/temple" is a literal Akkadian translation of Sumerian E-zida. Cf. CAD K 393a s.v. kīnu 3c3’; George 1993: 159 no. 1236.

IGI.GL.LA = igigallu, "wise person". Said of Marduk and Nab in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian royal inscriptions (CAD I-J 40a, s.v. gigallu 1a).
Muštarhu, vainglorious, proud person, a) said of enemies in a pejorative sense, b) said of gods with a positive connotation; cf. CAD M II, 286b s.v. muštarhu b); from šarāhu A, "to become laden with glory, pride" (CAD Š II 36-40).

ta-na-da-a-ti < tanattu (pl. tanādātu), "praise, renown, glory," from ndu, "to praise." Cf. CAD T 169a, s.v. tanattu a2’ this passage quoted.

šitkunu. Gt-stem of šakānu, "to place". Cf. CAD Š I 151a s.v. šakānu 8. šitkunu, same manings as šakānu, in poetic style or with emphasis; in stative: "to wear, to be provided with", ibid. 8 f), p. 152b.

dE4-ru6--a (dA.EDIN--a; cf. Borger, MZ no. 839 and 300). Era was the alternative name of Zarpānītu, the wife of Marduk. Era was the name of the goddess of childbirth, a name traditionally associated with Akkadian er, "to be pregnant."

i.25; i.27.
Note that "country" and "enemy" (twice) are expressed in the singular form. Hence a specific enemy may have been intended. We know that Antiochus was encamped in Syria in 270/1 BC, possibly still because of the First Syrian war with Egypt (Astronomical Diary I 354/3, no. -270 r. 18; see above). We also know that Antiochus was in Syria when he made the first stone for Ezida (this cylinder i.10). We suspect that this prayer to Nab was first of all a prayer for a victory over Ptolemaic Egypt. The fact that the first brick was laid by Antiochus only in 268 BC need not alter this supposition.

lītu, "victory." Cf. CAD L 222a.

pa-le-e, < pal, "reign." Cf. II 14. 

bu-a-ri. Bu’āru, "health, prosperity," CAD B 297-8.

še-b-e lit-tu-tu. Šeb littūtu, "to have its fill of a very old age"; a common desire mentioned in many Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian royal inscriptions; cf. CAD Š II, 253a, s.v. šeb 1b, “to have one’s fill of, to enjoy fully, to have the full benefits of”. See also CAD L 220a, s.v. littūtu, "extreme old age", from littu D, "old man" (ibidem).

širiktu. Cf. CAD Š III 104a, s.v. širiktu 2 (grant, gift, offering) b) given by gods to rulers – 2’ long life, reign, personal qualities; this passage quoted: "may years of contentment (and) the reaching of old age be the gift (bestowed) on the kingship of Antiochus and his son Seleucus."

Philological Commentary: Column 2

DUMU ru-b-e, "son of the Prince". Rub, "Ruler, prince" is an epithet of  gods, esp. Marduk. Cf. CAD R 399 a, s.v. rub A 1e 1’: mār ru-b-e (var. NUN) Nab, "Nab, son of the Prince" (Marduk), VAB IV 160 vii 50; 158 vi 48 (Nebuchadnezzar). In Babylon was a "Gate of the Son of the Prince", K.DUMU.NUN.NA. Cf. Gate List BM 35046: 19 (George 1992: 92), K.DUMU.NUN.NA bāb dIštar (15) ka-mi-i, "The gate of the Son of the Prince, the outer gate of Ištar." It was a gate of the Esagila temple complex connecting Eturkalamma, temple of Ishtar, and Enitendu or Enitenna, temple of Sin in east Babylon (George 1992: 308, 397). This gate very often occurs in the Astronomical Diaries especially as the place where the šatammu and the kiništu provided sacrificial animals for the performance of sacrifices by kings or high officials in Esagila. For references see: Boiy 2004: 82, note 52.  In 93 BCE 1 shekel of silver was spent for repair at the east side of the gate (CT 49, 155: 8, where to be read: š K[.DUM]U.NUN.N[A š ] .SAG.GIL (so George 1992: 397, contra Van der Spek 1998: 227).
Moon god Sin is also called DUMU ru-b-e, cf. CAD R 399a s.v. rub A 1e 2’ (Nabonidus).

bu-kr dASAR.RI reš-tu-, "eldest son of Marduk."  The word bukru, "son," is used chiefly in poetic contexts and it rarely refers to human beings. Cf. CAD B 309-10.

dASAR.RI refers to the god Asar(luhi), son of Ea. As Marduk was also regarded son of Ea, he became associated with Asarluhi and used especially in incantations and prayers.

dA-nu-ti-ka, "the house of your Anuship." Anu was the god of heaven, the highest god of the Sumerian and Babylonian pantheon. Anūtu, "function, rank of the highest god (i.e. Anu)," CAD A I 150b – 151a. This passage quoted p. 151a sub b). Eanna (temple of Ishtar in Uruk) similarly described, Borger Esarh. 74: 30.

li-ri-ku, precative of arāku, "to become long, to last long" often in prayers for long life. CAD A II 224a, s.v. arāku 1b1' this passage quoted. Cf. also in the duplicate of the "Lehmann text," a cuneiform document concerning a land grant made by Antiochus II Theos (261-246) in favour of his wife Laodice and his two sons Seleucus and Antiochus Hierax, who in turn donated it to "the Babylonians, Borsippaeans and Cuthaeans" (tablet in New York, MMA 86.11.299, first partly published by Lehmann 1892 and a duplicate in London (BM 47926, unpubl.). The document is dated to SE 139 (173/2) but refers to a declaration made by the šatammu of Esagila in 8.XII.75 SE = 21 March 236 concerning the land grant (not dated!) in which it is stipulated that the land was distributed to the Babylonians, Borsippaeans and Cuthaeans in perpetuity (Lehmann 1892, 330 + n. 1 and 2 (p. 330-2); Van der Spek 1986, 241-8, Text No. 11. Partial English translations and commentaries in: Sherwin-White & Kuhrt 1993, 128-9; Van der Spek 1993a, 69 and 76;  full publication now by R.J. van der Spek and R. Wallenfels, "Copy of record of entitlement and exemptions to formerly royal lands" in: Spar, I. & Jursa, M. eds., The Ebabbar Temple Archive and Other Texts from the Fourth to the First Millennium B.C. Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. IV (CTMMA IV; 2014),Text no. 148, 213-227.

BM 47926, iv.
2    …. li-rik
3    [UD.MEŠ]-š lil-bir pa-lu-š
4    [ina SIG5].MEŠ dEN dGAŠAN-i dAG
5    [dU.GU]R U DINGIR.MEŠ GAL.MEŠ D.A.BI (=gabbi!)
6    [ana š]-šu  u pi-ir-me-š ana SIG5.M[EŠ]
7    [KIN.KI]N ….

Whoever will distribute what has been given to us (sc. the land donation of Antiochus II to the Babylonians), may his [days] last long, his reign [endure], may for blessing Bel, Beltia, Nab, [Nerg]al and all the great gods strive for the good for him and for his offspring." (KIN.KIN = še’ = to strive for the good, CAD Š 360b)

uš-tam-sa-ku, Nt stem of nasāku A (CAD N II, 20b, 7.), "to be rejected, to be cancelled." Said of the command of Marduk; this passage also quoted.

DA = le'u = wooden writing board of Nabu, fitting instrument for the scribe god Nab. For this reading see Kathryn Stevens (2012).

pl-lu!-uk-ku!. Pulukku, "boundary marker, boundary stone," CAD P 510a-511b. Used in cosmic sense: Nab … ina lē’ika kīni mukīn pu-lu-uk šam u erșeti ibi arāku ūmīja, "Nab, decree long life for me with your reliable tablet which establishes the boundary of heaven and earth," VAB IV 100, no. 11 ii 23 (Nebuchadnezzar). This passage also quoted.
Cf. also AHw 816b, s.v. pa(l)lu(k)ku II, "Doppelnadel, -pfahl," Sumerian loanword gišbulug/bulg,  and 879a, s.v. pulukku(m), "Nadel; Grenzpfahl; Grenze." This passage quoted sub 4c as "(pal?-lu?-uk-ku?  Fehler?)." Cf. Seux 1976: 525, n. 8: "BAL-ku-uk-lu, corriger en pal (ou pl)-lu!-uk-ku!."

liš-tak-ka-nu. Gtn of šakānu, "to place something for a particular purpose; to establish." Cf. CAD Š I 151, s.v. šakānu 8. šitkunu (same meanings as šakānu, in poetic style or with emphasis). Seux 1976: 525 n.10: "parfait Gtn actif alors que le contexte rclame un passif (que soient mis). "Qu’il y ait sans cesse en ta bouche pure des propos en ma faveur."

lik-š-du!. Dual or likšudā is expected, but the last sign should indeed be read du. Collated by Kathryn Stevens (2012).The subject of the sentence is qātāja, "my hands". Cf. CAD K 276b, s.v. kašādu 2a). "to conquer a country, a city" with qātu as subject.

man-da-at-ti-ši-nu lu-us-ni-iq-ma, "that I might inventory their tribute (and bring it to complete Esagil and Ezida)," cf. CAD S 138a, s.v. sanāqu A 4, "the check weight, etc." this passage quoted.

man-da-at-ti-ši-nu is erroneous; one would expect –ši-na. šinu is a conflation of masculine -šunu and feminine –šina, "their."

Whole passage quoted in CAD Š II, 73b, s.v. šarratu  1. "queen," a. "wife of the king", 4’, translated as: "may you (Nab) decree the good fortune of Antiochus (I), king of all lands, of his son, King Seleucus, (and) of Stratonice, his consort, the queen (corr. to Stratonice’s title basilissa)", and in CAD D 65a s.v. damiqtu, 1. "favour, good will, luck, fame, recommendation" 2’ "may the good (fate) of Antiochus, of Seleucus, his son (and) of Stratonice, his wife, be established by your command."

SIG5-tim = damiqtim is repeated by the da-mi-iq-ti-šu-nu in line 28.

"King Seleucus, his son". Antiochus I appointed his son Seleucus as co-ruler at the very beginning of his reign. He is mentioned as "king" in cuneiform documents from 279. In spite of this prayer for his life he was executed by his own father two years later (Justin, 26, Prologus ll. 7-9: Ut in Syria rex Antiochus cognomine Soter altero filio occiso, altero rege nuncupato Antiocho decesserit). One tablet from 266 mentions two sons (Seleucus and Antiochus) as co-ruler, but in the same year there is already a tablet with only Antiochus (II) as co-ruler. References: Boiy 2004: 144-5.

hi-rat-su, “his consort.” Cf. CAD H 200-1 s.v. hīrtu, “wife of equal status with the husband.” The ususal word for “wife” is aššatu. Hīrtu is said of humans in the Old Babylonian period and in literary texts. In speaking of the wives of gods hirtu is preferred to aššatu.
Bert van der Spek and Marten Stol for
Livius.Org, 2008
Revision: 24 Feb 2015
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