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Arsacid King Chronicle (BCHP 19)

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Head of a bronze statue of a Parthian prince, found at Shami, Khuzistan (SW Iran). Archaeological Museum of Tehran (Iran). Photo Marco Prins.
Head of a bronze statue of a
Parthian prince, found at
Shami, Khuzestan.
(Archaeological Museum,
The Chronicle Concering an Arsacid king, or Arsacid King Chronicle (BCHP 15), is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. The tablet can be dated to Parthian period (141 BCE - 224 CE) and offers fairly stereotypical information. For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The cuneiform tablet (BM 34124 = Sp. 226) is in the British Museum. On this webpage, a 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 of what will be the chronicle's very first 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




The date of the document is lost. The only thing we know is that the document comes from the Parthian period. The information is fairly stereotype, so that information from the Astronomical Diaries does not help very much.

The appointment of a new pahatu (epistates) of Babylon is mentioned in Astronomical Diary -129A2 Obv. 16’-19’ concerning month II of SE 182 (11 May-9 June 130 BCE). In that case, offerings are provided for this governor too, but they are performed in the Sikilla Gate, not in the Gate of the Son of the Prince. In addition, it happened between the 10th and 17th of the month, not on the 26th.

The appointment of a pahatu is also mentioned in Astronomical Diary AD III, p. 488, No. –77 A Obv. 26’- 27’ concerning month II SE 234 = 7 May-4 June 78. In this case too offerings were brought in the Gate of the Son of the Prince. The days of the arrival of the new governor and the offerings are lost, but it was probably before the 16th (cf. l. 28’). The appointment of new epistatai will have been a regular occurrence and the rituals will have been roughly the same at all times. Offerings for the life of the king are also mentioned more often and the gathering of troops by a general is also a normal job of generals.

More specific information is preserved in lines 11’-16’, but it does help us much. The only information we have is that a messenger of the general of Akkad arrives in Babylon, that this general conscripts or commands a royal army and goes on campaign in the Sealand, i.e. the marshy region around the Persian Gulf. Some information of the same kind is transmitted in the astronomical diaries.

  • Diary AD III, p. 147, no. 140 C obv. 34-44 (month IX 171 SE = December 141; i.e., seven or eight months after the Parthian conquest of Babylonia), it is described how the newly appointed general of Akkad, Antiochus, son of Ariobarzanes, departed from Seleucia on the Tigris for a campaign against the Elamites in the south. "In that month, the people, their sons, their possessions and their wives [they .. .. .. .. ..;]| [the m]agnates of the king, who had entered Babylon, and a few people they led to the sea" ( ...| [x l]GAL.MEŠ š LUGAL š ina E.KI KU4.MEŠ u lUN.MEŠ i-@u-t ana Š ti-amat -še-ri-d[u? ....]). 
  • In Diary AD III, p. 168-171, no. –137 D (month IX 174 SE = December 138) obv. 10’ mention is made of  “royal troops” and in line 13’ and rev. 1’ of the “lower Sealand” (KUR ti-amat šap-lit). The diary concerns fighting between Hyspaosines of Mesene against “the Elamite enemy”, but the General of Akkad does not seem to take part. 
However this may be, we have not enough clues for establishing a date for this chronicle.


PN-ni. A personal name is involved. Perhaps mdEN.UD-ni.


K DUMU.NUN.NA š .SAG.GL = “The Gate of the Son of the Prince of Esagila.” George (1992, p. 397) assigns this gate to Eturkalamma, on the basis of BTT 6 : rev. 19 where it is called “the outer gate of Ištar.” George assumes that “Esagila” in the late documents refers to the entire temple complex of the temple district of Babylon. Cf. Boiy 2004: 81-83.

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