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An Astronomical Diary mentioning Gaugamela

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Astronomical diary describing the battle of Gaugamela. British museum, London (Britain).
BM 36390, rev.: Astronomical diary describing the battle of Gaugamela (British Museum)
Its official title "Astronomical Diary concerning month VI and VII of the fifth year of Artašata who is called Darius" may not sound very exciting, but this is one of the most important cuneiform sources for the eastern campaign of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great. Not only does this Astronomical Diary describe the omens before the battle of Gaugamela and the fight itself (on 1 October 331), but it also tells how the "king of Asia" entered Babylon.

The cuneiform tablets (BM 36761 + BM 36390) are in the British Museum. On this website, a new reading is proposed by Bert van der Spek of the Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Irving Finkel of the British Museum. Please notice that this is a preliminary version. This web publication is therefore intended to invite suggestions for better readings, comments and interpretations (go here to contact Van der Spek).

Babylonian Chronicles
Earlier editions
Description
Text
Translation
Commentary (obv.)
Commentary (rev.)
Reader's edition
Literature
 

Earlier editions

The Diary concerning month VI (= Ululu = 8 September - 7 October) and month VII (= Tashritu = 8 October - 6 November 331 BCE) has been published before:
  • A. Sachs and H. Hunger, Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylon (Vienna 1988-1996)  I, p. 179, No. -330 ‘Obv.’ 14’-15’ and ‘Rev.’ 3’-15’ (BM 36761 + BM 36390). Photo (full-size): Pl. 29. Copy: Wiseman 1985: 121
  • Last edition: Van der Spek 2003: 297-299
Astronomical diary -331, BM 36390 obv. British museum, London (Britain)
BM 36390, obv: Astronomical diary describing the omens related to the battle of Gaugamela (British Museum; **)

Description of the tablet

The diary consists of two tablets, which do not join.
  • BM 36390 provides the right-hand part of the first 13 lines of the obverse. Only the upper half of the obverse is preserved.
  • The part on which the historical information is written (BM 36761) is the left part of a larger tablet of which at least half is lost: the thickness of the tablet at its left edge is 22 mm. rising to 30 mm at the right edge. This means that only half or even less of the left part of the tablet is preserved.
It is difficult to compute the gap between the two tablets. Hunger completes a lot more signs in line 11’, than in lines 9’ and 10’, which means that too much was completed in line 11’ or vice versa.

Line 12’ may also give a clue. In the gap an astronomical record must have been presented, probably about the moon, which must have taken at least five signs; secondly the price of barley must have been reported. In addition, we cannot be sure whether the scribe mentioned different prices of barley for the beginning, middle and end of the month, or mentioned only one price, and we do not know if he added the formula a-na 1 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR, "for one shekel of silver" (as in line r. 2’). But even if only one price was recorded, the gap needs at least 15 signs. On the basis of line 11’ I suggest that a line could contain at least 40 - 42 signs. The actual amount of signs depends of course to the size of the signs used in a particular line and the possible existence of blank spaces with the information he-pi (= "broken" (on the original tablet)) in superscript, as in ll. 3’, 5’ and 6’; cf. rev. 10’.

I have collated the historical sections only; in the astronomical section I follow the edition of H. Hunger with minor alterations.

TEXT / Obverse: BM 36761 (left part) || BM 36390 (right part)
1’ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] x [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ] || /x x\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
2’ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] /x\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] ||13 8 ŠÚ /x\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
3’ [.. .. .. ..] /GE6\ gab-<bi->šú ŠÚ 10 UŠ /GE6\ [GIN .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] ||he-pí  MÚL.BABBAR  ŠÚ /GENNA\ /(blank?)\
4’ [.. .. ..] ina ÍR MAR ina ZALÁG KUR GIN.ME x [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] || 4 Ú  KAxŠID ina AN.KU10  NAM.ÚŠ.ME u šip-&i ina? [.. .. ..]
5’ [.. .. kal] U4 DIR AN ZA GE6 15 16 GE6 DI[R .. .. .. .. .. .. sin SIG MÚL ár šá SAG  HUN] || 3 2/3 KÙŠ sin he-pí ana NIM DIB MÚL GAL š[á .. .. ..]
6’ [.. .. A]N ŠUR UD.DA-su ina KI IGI ŠÚ.ŠÚ GÍR G[ÍR .. .. .. .. .. GE6 17 .. .. .. .. ..] || /x\  he-pí v AN DUL ina ZALÁG sin ár [is le10 NN MM]
7’ [DI]R AN ZA GE6 18 IZI.ŠUB ina KI KU SI ? [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ] || KI KU4-ba  a-na  tar-@i É dAG GÁL [.. .. ..]
8’ [.. U]R? KU IZI KÚ GE6 19 USAN IZI.Š[UB .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. in]||a ZALÁG sin ár MAŠ.MAŠ šá SIPA 20 SI dele-bat e [GÌR ár šá A NN MM]
9’ [dele-bat nn] SI  NIM DIB GE6 20 ina ZALÁG sin SIG MAŠ.MAŠ á[r (.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  .. ) NNKÙ]||Š sin 2/3 KÙŠ ana ŠÚ LAL 21 LÁL-tim NU PAP G[E6 22 ina  ZALÁG]
10’ [sin SIG SA]G UR-A 6 KÙŠ sin ½ KÙŠ ana NIM DIB GE6 2[3 (.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..) ina  ZALÁG sin á]||r  LUGAL 1 KÙŠ GE6 24 DIR AN ZA GE6 25 D[IR AN .. .. ..]
11’ [.. ..] AN kab-bar DUL 25 ina še-rì DIR AN ZA GE6 [26 ina ZALÁG sin SIG DELE šá IGI ABSIN NN MM]|| /2/3\? KÙŠ ana ŠÚ LAL ár dele-bat 1 KÙŠ 8 SI ana NIM  GUB [.. .. ..]
12’ GE6 29 AN.KU10 šamáš šá DIB in 1 GE6 GIN GE6 30 ina ZAL[ÁG .. .. .. .. .. ITI BI  KI.LAM (a-na 1 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR) še-im .. || .. .. .. ZÚ.LUM] /1?\ GUR ka-si 3 (g)  GUR ina TIL ITU /4\?[.. .. ..]
13’ ŠE.GIŠ 1 PI SÍG.HI.A 5 MA i-nu-šú MUL.BABBAR ina GÍR.TAB dele-[bat ina A ina  TIL ITI ina ABSIN GENNA ina zibme GU4.UD ||u AN šá ŠÚ-ú N]U IGI.MEŠ ITI BI  I[LLU .. .. .. .. ..]
14’ ITU BI U4 11.KAM hat-tu4 ina ma-dàk-tu4 ina qud-me LUGAL GAR-m[a .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
15’ ana tar-@i LUGAL ŠUB-ú <U4> 24.KAM ina še-rì LUGAL ŠÚ za-qip-t[u4 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
16’ GABA a-ha-meš im-ha-@u-ma BAD5.BAD5ERÍN.MEŠ kab-t[u4 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
17’ LUGAL ERÍN.MEŠ-šú ú-maš-šìr-ú-ši-ma ana  URU.MEŠ-šú-nu [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
18’ [ana K]UR Gu-ti-i ZÁH-it-u’ (blank) 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
19’ [DU6 1] /13\,30 + [x] na GE6 2 sin e /MUL\.[BABBAR .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
20’ [.. .. GE6] 7 /SAG\ [GE6 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
broken off

 
TEXT / Reverse: BM 36761
1’ [.. ..] x [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ITI BI  KI.LAM]
2’ [a]-na 1 GÍN K[Ù.BABBAR še-im .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  .. .. .. ..]
3’ [I]TU BI TA 1 E[N .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
4’ ana E.KI GIN-ku um-ma /É.SAG.ÍL\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
5’ u DUMU.MEŠ E.KI a-na NÍG.GA É.SAG.ÍL [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
6’ /U4\ 11.KAM ina URU UD.KIB.NUN.KI &è-e-mu šá mA-l[ek-sa-an-dar-ri-is .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
7’ [um-m]a?a-na É.MEŠ-ku-nu ul er-ru-ub U4 13.KA[M .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
8’ [KÁ.SI]KIL.LA KÁ ka-mi-i šá É.SAG.GÍL ù .. [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
9’ [.. .. ..] U4 14.KAM Ia-ma-na-a-a MU-tim GU4 [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
10’ [.. TI] (blank)  LUGÚD.DA.MEŠ uzuME.HÉ.ME[Š .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
11’ [U4 ..-KAM m]A-lek-sa-an-dar-ri-is LUGAL ŠÚ ana E.KI K[U4.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
12’ [ANŠE.KU]R.RA.MEŠ ù ú-/nu-ut\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ] 
13’ [ŠÀ.TAM?] u DUMU.MEŠ E.KI u UN./MEŠ\ [KUR? .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
14’ [.. .. .. KU]Š ši-piš-tú ana [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] 
15’ [.. .. .. .. ..]x um-ma x[ .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
to part two (translation)
 
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