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An Astronomical Diary mentioning Gaugamela

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Bust of Alexander the Great, from Delos, now in the Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Bust of Alexander the Great, from Delos, now in the Louvre.
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
TRANSLATION / Obverse: BM 36761 (left part) || BM 36390 (right part)
1’ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] x [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ] || /x x\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
2’ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] /x\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] || The 13th (20 September 331),  moonset to sunrise: 32 minutes .. /x\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
3’ [.. .. .. .. lunar] eclipse, in its totality covered. 40 minutes of the night  [totality? .. .. .. .. ..  .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]||broken Jupiter set; Saturnus /(blank?\
4’ [.. .. ...] During totality the west wind blew, during clearing the east wind. [.. .. .. .. .. .. ..  .. .. .. .. .. ..] ||  fourth?; during the eclipse deaths and plague? in [.. .. ..]
5’ [occurred. All] day clouds were in the sky. Night of the 15th, sunset to moonrise: 64  minutes; cl[ouds were in the sky; the moon was] 7 1/3 [below Alpha Arietis*,] the moon  having past [.. .. .. .. .. ..] to the east; a meteor which [.. .. ..]
6’ [.. ..] ... flashed, its light was seen on the ground; very overcast, lightning fl[ashed, .. .. ..  .. .. Night of the 17th, .. .. .. .. ..] broken rain DUL; last part of the night, the moon was [n]  behind [Alpha Tauri.]
7’ [Clou]ds were in the sky. Night of the 18th, a stroke of lightening in the district KU SI?  [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]|| KI entered, opposite the temple of Nab (it) occurred [.. .. ..]
8’ [.. a d]og? was burned. Night of the 19th, first part of the night, a stroke [of lightning  occurred in .. .. .. .. .. .. ..; last] part of the night, the moon was 1 2/3 behind Gamma Geminorum; Venus was [n] above [Beta Virginis,]
9’ [Venus] having past [n] to the east. Night of the 20th, last part of the night, the moon  was [n]/\ below Beta Geminorum, the moon being 1 1/3 back to the west. The 21st (=28  September 331), equinox; I did not watch. Ni[ght of the 22nd, last part of the  night,]
10’ [the moon was] 12 [below] Epsilon Leonis, the moon having passed 1 to the east. Night of  the 2[3rd, (.. .. .. .. .. .. ..) last part of the night, the moon was] 1/2 behind Alpha Leonis.  Night of the 24th, clouds were in the sky. Night of the 25th, cl[ouds were in the sky.]
11’ [. . . .] thick rain DUL. The 25th, in the morning, clouds were in the sky. Night of [the  26th, last part of the night, the moon was n below Gamma Virginis, the moon] being 1 1/3?  back to the west, it stood 2 1/3 behind Venus to the east. [(.. .. ..)]
12’ Night of the 29th (6 October 331 BC), solar eclipse which was omitted; (it was expected  for) about the 4th  minute of the night after sunset. Night of the 30th, last part of the  [night, .. .. .. .. .. . That  month, the exchange value (of 1 shekel silver) was: barley: ... ,  dates:] 180? litres; mustard: 540 litres, at the end of the month /720?\ [litres; cress: n  litres;]
13’ sesame: 36 litres; wool 5 pounds. At that time, Jupiter was in Scorpius; Ve[nus was in  Leo, at the end of the month, in Virgo; Saturn was in Pisces; Mercury and Mars, which  had set, were n]ot visible. That month, the ri[ver level .. ..]
14’ That month (VI = Ululu), on the 11th  (18 September 331 BC), panic occurred in the camp before the king. [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. The Hanaeans]
15’ encamped in front of the king. On the 24th (1 October 331 BC), in the morning, the king of the world [erected his] standard [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
16’ Opposite each other they fought and a heavy defeat of the troops [of the king he inflicted. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
17’ The king, his troops deserted him and to their cities [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
18’ [to the l]and of the Gutians they fled.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
19’ [Month VII, the 1st (of which followed the 30th of the preceding month);] sunset to  moonset: 54+x minutes. Night 
of the 2nd, the moon was above Jupi[ter.. .. .. .. .. ..  .. .. .. ..     .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
20’ [.. .. Night] of the 7th, beginning [of the night .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
broken off

 
TRANSLATION / Reverse: BM 36761
1’ [.. ..] x [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. That month  (= VII = Tashritu, the exchange value]
2’ for 1 shekel of [silver was: barley: ...; dates: ...; mustard: ...; cress: ...; sesame: ... wool:  ...]
3’ That month (= VII = Tashritu), from the 1st until [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  . On the nth day messengers]
4’ came to Babylon (saying) as follows: "Esagila [will be restored .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
5’ and the Babylonians [will give their tithes] to the treasury of Esagila [ .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
6’ On the 11th day (18 October 331) in Sippar an order of Al[exander, the king of the world, to the Babylonians (...) was sent]
7’ [as follow]s: “Into your houses I shall not enter.” On the 13th day (20 October 331)  [Greeks entered]
8’ [the Sikil]la gate, the Outer gate of Esagila and [they prostrated themselves. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
9’ [.. .. ..]. The 14th day (21 October), these Greeks a bull, [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
10’ [n] short [ribs, n] fatty tissues (of the intestines as sacrifice) [sacrificed  .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
11’ [On the nth day] Alexander, the king of the world, entered Babylon [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
12’ [Hor]ses and equipment [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
13’ [The šatammu?] and the Babylonians and the people [of the land? .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]
14’ [.. .. ..] a parchment letter to [the Babylonians  .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]
15’ [.. .. ..] as follows: [“.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]

*
Names of stars: According to a system proposed by Johannes Bayer in 1603, the brightest star in a constellation is called alpha, the second-brightest is called beta, et cetera. However, many stars already had proper names that are still popular: e.g., Alpha and Beta Gemini are called Castor and Pollux. In the scientific edition of the AD, the Bayer system has been used.





to part three (commentary obverse)




 
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