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Chronicle concerning Antiochus and the Sin temple (BCHP 5)

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The Antiochus and the Temple of Sin Chronicle, upper part. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BCHP 5: the upper left part ofthe Antiochus and Sin Chronicle (British Museum).**
The Babylonian Chronicle concerning Antiochus and Sin ("Antiochus and Sin Chronicle"; BCHP 5) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It describes how the Seleucid crown prince Antiochus, the son of king Seleucus Nicator, sacrificed to the moon god Sin and resettled Europeans living in Babylon in Seleucia.

The cuneiform tablets (BM 32440 + 32581 + 32585 and others) 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 edition. This web publication is intended to invite suggestions for better readings, comments and interpretations (go here to contact Van der Spek).

Babylonian Chronicles
Text and translation
Commentary obverse
Commentary: reverse


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)

Commentary: obverse

The left upper part of the tablet (picture) is damaged. Yet traces are left. Traces of MU, KAM and ITI are fairly clear, but the most important sign, the year number, is difficult to recover. In view of the fact that Antiochus was made co-ruler with the title "king" in Seleucus’ 20th year (292 BCE), and Antiochus is named "crown prince" rather than "king", one would suspect that the tablet predates 292. However, the traces of the year number show fairly clearly two angle bars (Winkelhaken) + a number of (5?) vertical wedges, which means that the chronicle describes events of his period as co-ruler. In any case,  it  postdates the foundation of Seleucia, since the city probably is mentioned reverse 8’ and certainly 20’.

It must be kept in mind that this was the first time in Babylonian tradition that a co-ruler was appointed, where the co-ruler was clearly subordinate to the real king. It could not be compared with Šamaš-šuma-ukin and Kandalanu who were really kings of Babylonia next to Aššurbanipal, or Cambyses who was king next to Cyrus the Great, who are recorded as such in Babylonian king lists. In the Seleucid king lists Seleucus Nicator remained the king of Babylon until his death in 280 to be succeeded by his son as such only after that date. Hence, the Babylonians found the solution in choosing a title which was expressly used for crown princes, who had been designated as successors: mar šarri ša bīt redūti, "the son of the king of the succession house" (AHW I 134 s.v. bītum B; II 981 s.v. ridūtum 4b). While in a dating formula Antiochus could be named "king" next to his father, this did not seem appropriate in a running text where the real reigning king was not mentioned.

The second point that leads to the supposition that the chronicler refers to Antiochus' period as co-ruler, is that he acts as a ruler. He visits temples, performs offerings, orders the removal of the dust of Esagila, functions as arbitrator in conflicts. He seems to have been the actual ruler in Babylonia.

Bašī: an unknown village, possibly upstream of (AN.TA) Babylon.

(not) removed: In view of  the Diadochi Chronicle (BCHP 3 = ABC 10) rev. 13’ we cannot be sure whether a negation was added or not.

BAR-tum can be a rendering of ahītu(m) or (w)uššurtu(m). Ahītu means inter alia "outside, outskirts, side", in plural: "outlying regions" (CAD A1, 190-1). The phrase, however, occurs normally with a substantive (e.g. ālu, "city") or with a verb (e.g. asū, "to go outside"). Hence we opt for (w)uššurtu(m). The word is a substantive derived from (w)uššuru(m), "to release", which, among many other meanings, is used for putting out to free pasture of sheep and horses (cf. AHw III, p. 1486b, s.v. wašārum 11h.). The adjective (w)uššuru(m) or muššuru is used for sheep, which are put out to free pasture (AHw III, p. 1498b, s.v. (w)uššuru(m) 5)

umāmu means in the first place "wild animals", but the meaning "cattle" is also attested, though in Middle Assyrian only; cf. AHw III p. 1412, s.v. umāmu(m), "Tiere, Getier", B1) mA "Vieh". If wild animals are concerned the message of the chronicle would be that wild animals were driven to outlying regions on the east or west side of the Euphrates. The west side is then the most probable option. In view of the fact that a shepherd and Bit-Gurā are mentioned in obv. 4 and animals on the east or west bank in obv. 5, one is led to the assumption that the animals were first driven to Bit-Gurā, where they were put out to pasture.

The use of this exceptional term may be explained by the assumption that elephants were involved. It is known from Ruin of Esagila Chronicle (BCHP 6) that Antiochus used elephants for the removal of debris of Esagila.

9, 10, 12.
Egišnugal is one of the two temples of Sin in Babylon (George 1993, p. 114, no. 654; cf. George 1992, p. 24 (map) and p. 319ff, text no. 1 = Tintir IV 24; 3, rev. 5’-6’; 4, 24). In view of the Bagayasha chronicle, the temple lay probably more close to the Marduk Gate.

Enitenna (É.NĶ.TE.EN.NA or É.NĶ.TE.EN.DU10), "House of (pleasant) rest", temple of Sin in East Babylon. Cf. George 1993, p. 132, no. 870 and George 1992, No. 1 = Tintir IV 9). The peculiar writing in this chronicle, EN.TE.[(EN?).NA] is probably a phonetic spelling. A comparable deviant writing with EN occurs in the context of goddesses who attended Marduk at the Akitu house in Babylon, VAS 24 109 // 110, ed. Pongratz-Leisten, BaF 16 no. 10 (though she could not read the temple name in question): [dNIN.GAL] É.GIŠ.NU11.GAL dNIN.GAL É.EN.TA.NA. A good parallel for Sin and his two temples! (personal communication A.R. George).

It is difficult to understand, why Antiochus paid this special attention to the moongod.

uš-kin-nu, "he prostrated himself". Note that this verb seems plural. Nevertheless, the meaning is apparently singular, as in the next line. The verbal form uškinnu, however, occurs more often in the Astronomical diaries, and is used there for high officials who come to the temple and make offerings to the Babylonian gods, just as in our chronicle.

  • In AD II, p. 330, no. –187 A Rev. 8’ and 10’ (Antiochus III subject);
  • AD II, p. 440, no. –171 B Rev. 7’ (the general (stratźgos) of Babylonia subject);
  • AD III, p. 370, no. –107C Rev. 18’ (a representative of king Orodes subject).
So there can be no doubt that uškinnu must be considered singular. The explanation of the verbal form is that in Late Babylonian final short vowels were not pronounced anymore, so that uškinnu sounded like uškin. When a Babylonian scribe wanted to express a plural ending he indicated that by adding an aleph (-’) [which in Late Babylonian actually is no aleph, but a sign to indicate a long vowel] or the sign ś. These signs are not used in any of the passages here mentioned.

[.. .. uš-ki]n-nu. Another option would be ś-ki]n-nu, "they established as an offering" (CAD K, p. 165, s.v. kānu A 3e). The problem is again the plural ending, since it seems very likely that the crown prince made the provision.

Bīt Gurā. Possibly identical with the place Bit Gira’  in the neighborhood of Nippur. Cf. Stolper 1985, p. 273, no. 98: rev. 18 (URU É Gi-ra-’).

Commentary: reverse

The name must be Greek and looks like *Polyteudas, but that name is unattested. We are looking for a better solution.

This statement is of the utmost importance. It means that Antiochus, the crown prince, deported the Macedonian colonists and/or soldiers, who lived in Babylon, forced to settle in Seleucia on the Tigris. This sets the policy of the old question of the settlement of Babylonians into Seleucia into a new light. The classical text in this is Pausanias 1.16.3 in which the author enumerates examples of Seleucus' piety:

Secondly, when he founded Seleucia on the river Tigris and brought to it Babylonian colonists, he spared the wall of Babylon as well as the sanctuary of Bel, near which he permitted the Chaldaeans to live.
This passage has often been used to underline the decline of Babylon, in combination of other passages which stress the fact that Babylon declined after the foundation of Seleucia (Strabo of Amasia, Geography 16.1.5; Diodorus of Sicily, Library, 2.9.9; Pliny the Elder, Natural history 6.121-122. 

The other text which is often mentioned as a testimony of the forced migration of Babylonians to Seleucia is Astronomical Diary I, p. 345, no. –273 B : 35’-36’ (12. XII. SE 37 = 26 March 274 BCE). 

Hunger's edition made clear that a migration was not at issue, rather the sending of an embassy of Babylonian members of the Temple Council, three days after messages of the king form Sardes arrived (cf. Van der Spek 1993b: 97-98).

It cannot be denied that Babylonians moved to Seleucia, since this is attested by the finds of several cuneiform tablets in Seleucia (Doty 1978/79; Oelsner 1986: 236-7; 501). The tablet published by Doty concerns the dedication of a temple slave by a person with a Greek name dated to 87 SE (= 225/4 BCE) to the Nergal temple of Cuthah. The place name is lost in the dating formula, but it may well have been Cuthah. Oelsner assumed that the dedicator was a Greek on the basis of his name. This conclusion is not necessary. Many Babylonians with Greek names are attested in Hellenistic Babylonia.

Now it seems more likely that it was Seleucus' first intention to found a primarily Macedonian city, to which end all (mala ša) Macedonians who lived in Babylon were forced to move to Seleucia. After this date Macedonians and Greeks were not encouraged anymore to settle in Babylon, and as I have argued earlier (Van der Spek 1986, 68-78; 1987, 65-70), Babylon remained a primarily Babylonian city. It was only Antiochus IV Epiphanes who again started a Greek colonising policy in Babylon, as is now confirmed by the Greek Community Chronicle (= BCHP 14). 

The Macedonians in question will have been the soldiers, who were established there by Alexander the Great. Alexander had left a garrison in Babylon when he arrived there (Arrian of Nicomedia, Anabasis 3.16.4; 7.18.1; Quintus Curtius Rufus 5.1.43; Diod. 17.64.5) led by Apollodoros of Amphipolis and Menes of Pella. Agathon of Pydna was in charge of the 700 Macedonians who guarded the "citadel" of Babylon (Diod. 17.64.5; Curtius Rufus 5.41). The garrison still existed in the days of the rule of Antigonus Monophthalmus (315-311 BCE): Diphilos was appointed garrison commander (Diodorus 19.91.3). During the Babylonian War between Antigonus and Seleucus (311-307), described in the Diadochi Chronicle (BCHP 3 = ABC 10), the garrison was still there (see above).

miksu dannu, "heavy taxation". CAD M2, p. 63-64, s.v. miksu: "1. share of the yield of a field (due to tenant and owner or paid to the palace as owner of the field), 2. customs dues." The pressure of taxation may have increased because of the departure of the Macedonians. The city’s fixed taxation sum (phoros) may not have been reduced. 

A tautology. KU4 is the ideogram of ś-she-ri-bu.

Due to the lacunary state of the tablet the interpretation is difficult. The gift of ten purified offering sheep to the temple service of Bel in Esagila seems to be at issue. Note the interest for Sin on the obverse of the tablet.

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