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Chronographic Documents Concerning Bagayasha (BCHP 18 A/B)

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The Bagayasha Chronicle, combined. Photos Bert van der Spek. BCHP 18: Bagayasha Chronicle, fragments A and B combined
(British Museum).
The Babylonian Chronographic document concerning Bagayasha ("Bagayasha Chronicle"; BCHP 18) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It describes a punitive action by a Parthian prince against the city of Babylon, and its consequences.

On this website, a first 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).

Philological commentary

[ .. mB]a-ga-a-a-š-a [l]N[UN .., “Bagayasha, the prince”. Actually only the head of the lower horizontal wedge of NUN is preserved. Cf. line 9. See also A21' and the general commentary.
Babylonian Chronicles

Text and translation
General commentary
Philological commentary
Summary of events

Fragment C


The Bagayasha Chronicle, fragment A. Photo Bert van der Spek. BCHP 18: Bagayasha Chronicle, fragment A
(British Museum).

lpe-li-ga-na-a-n[u .., “peliganes” is a Macedonian word with Babylonian plural for the council of elders. The word is derived from the Macedonian word pelioi meaning “old men” (gerontes, cf. Strabo 8.329, fg. 2 [epitome Vaticana]). It is attested in a Greek inscription from Laodicea ad Mare, dating to month Audnaios 138 of the Macedonian Seleucid Era = Kislev 137 of the Babylonian Seleucid Era = November/December 175 BC = the first regnal year of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, containing a decision of the peliganes (Roussel 1942/3: 21-32, lines 22-3). The name is also found in the corrupted form Adeiganes in Polybius (5.54.10), which describes measures taken by Hermeias in Seleucia-on-the-Tigris after the suppression of the revolt of Molon against Antiochus III the Great.

NG./X\. One would expect NG.B[A], NG.Š[U] or NG.Š[ID], but the traces do not allow this. Nk-/ks\ seems possible, but is an exceptional reading for nikkassu, “account”, but also “property, assets”. Cf. AHw 789, s.v. nikkassu and CAD NII s.v. nikkassu A. If so the elders of the city had to render account.

lGAL ERN.MEŠ š-nu-t. The plural “generals” seems odd, but Babylonia had one general who was in charge of four generals. They must have been mentioned before. See the general commentary.

SAR-su SAR-ma šil-lat-su IR-ma = hubutsu ihbutma šillatsu išlulma = “he looted his booty and  he plundered his plunder”.  The two expressions are synonyms. The booty (hubtu and šillatu (= šallatu)) can in both expressions refer to material spoil as well as to human beings, captives (cf. CAD Š1, p. 248 s.v. šallatu A; CAD H, p. 215, s.v. hubtu). When both expressions are used, one may expect that goods and captives are both at issue. “He looted his booty” means “he looted booty from him.” Unfortunately it is difficult to say in our context who looted from whom.

UN.MEŠ š-nu-t š ina .GAL.MEŠ LUGAL? [š-bu-, “These people who live in the palaces”. The expression indicates that they had been mentioned before. See also above in the general commentary.

lpu-li-te-e u lERN.MEŠ š-nu-[t?. Alternative: lpu-li-te-e u lERN.MEŠ-š-nu, “the politai and their army,” but an army of the politai is otherwise not attested, although they carried arms in 78 BC: AD III, p. 502/3, no. -77, r. 16'.

MU-a-tim LAL-: The sign LAL represents many verbs:
  • kam, “to capture or defeat an enemy” (especially as regards princes and individuals, rather than whole armies: cf. CAD K p. 129, s.v. kam A);
  • nahāsu, “to retreat”; ihhisū, “they retreated”: cf. CAD N p. 128, s.v. nahāsu;
  • maţ, “to be short a given quantity, to be missing, to become smaller,” etc. (CAD M I p. 429).
The subject of the verb is unknown, but plural; possibly the politai and/or “these troops”, mentioned in line 7'. It is unclear to what or whom “aforementioned” refers. One possible reconstruction is: “[the troops of the] aforementioned [prince] retreated,” cf. AD III, p. 160, no. –137 A obv. 16'. [X] | MU-a-tim, “the aforementioned [X]” might also be object of the sentence. If so, the transitive verb kam is to be preferred. Note this verb written syllabically in line 25' below.

l <UN.MEŠ> GAL-a u TUR, “people, great and small.” Same expression in AD III, p. 214, no. -132B: 29, in the diary concerning the prophet where they all say: “The goddess Nanaya has entered Borsippa (and) Ezida” (September/October 133 BC).

i-dag-g[al .., “he looks”, from dagālu, “to look, to look at, to look on with indifference.” The present (= durative) tense and the third person sg. is problematic in the context. The subject cannot be “the people great and small”, it is rather likely that the prince or someone else was mentioned in the gap. The durative tense, however, can in the contexts of chronicles and astronomical diaries refer to events in the past. See also išemmū and ibakkū in line 15' below. The durative expresses the fact that the person in question stood by watching for quite some time.

lNUN, rub, “prince” probably refers to Bagayasha.

UKKIN ERN.MEŠ. In the Hellenistic period (and probably earlier as well) lUKKIN represents Akkadian kiništu, “temple council”, not puhru “assembly” (cf. Van der Spek 1987: 61; 1993b 101, pace CAD P, p. 493a,  s.v. puhru). There is ample evidence for a syllabic writing of kiništu (lki-niš-t or lki-niš-tum) in contracts from Uruk and the astronomical diaries (OECT IX 61: 30; ADART no. -245B 4' and no. -132B Left Edge 1) in a context where in other texts lUKKIN is written. In this context (UKKIN without L) the old reading puhru may be preferred in the sense of “totality, all”.

The traces defy a proper translation and interpretation.

ana SAR HUL-tim = ana habātu šalputtim.  The phrase may either refer to the plundering of  the destroyed palace or to an order to rob and destroy at the same time. Cf. CAD Š1, p. 261, s.v. šalputtu, “ destruction, desecration; destroyed, desecrated state”; AHw III, p. 1150, s.v. šalputtu, “Ruin(ierung)”

/e\-re-eb as it is written is a construct case, but this is impossible since no substantive follows. I assume that the infinitive erēbu, “to enter”, is meant here. The final vowel, not pronounced in Late Babylonian, is not written.

URU? na?-du?-mar?-bi? KUR M[a?-da-a. A city in the land of Media seems to be mentioned, but the traces are difficult to read.

x -su-ur-su-di may be a name. x may be a personal determinative, Usursudi some Greek or Iranian name.

-maš-ši-ru-. It is uncertain who was the subject of umašširū, “they relinquished”. We suggest that “the people of the land” is subject. They are attested a lot of times in the diaries, but it is uncertain if people of the countryside are meant, or people of Babylonia in general.

išemmū, “they hear, they listen” (from šem, CAD Š,  277ff) and ibakkū, “they wail, they mourn (over a dead person)” (from bak CAD B 35ff), are verbs in the present tense 3rd person plural. The present tense poses problems like the idaggal in line 8'. Note that the Akkadian present, also called durative, renders an action protracted in time, mostly translated with present of future tense in English. The continuous wailing in past and present might be the issue here. Note references to wailing and mourning in lines B12', B14', A7', B15' and A8'. Solutions to the wailing seem to be announced in line  B17' and effected in line B20', accompanied with offerings.

A5' cf. B20'
a-na šu-zu-ub-bu. a- is written over an erasure. The form šuzubbu is grammatically incorrect (the status constructus šuzub is expected), but can be explained by the fact that the final vowel was not pronounced in late Babylonian. Another possible reading would be a-na šu-zu-ub BU x x, but we could not find any acceptable noun in this context beginning with bu- or pu-.

as-ra-a-t pa-ši-ra-a-t: an enigmatic phrase which also occurs in B20.' Due to the fact that the context is lost it is difficult to find a satisfactory interpretation.

asrātu can be the plural form of asirtu, “captive woman”. The masculine form is asīru, “prisoner of war, captive foreigner used as worker”. Cf  CAD A1 331a. The word is derived from esēru, “to shut in, to enclose, to confine; to channel water”, in D-stem “to take captive” Cf. CAD E s.v. esēru B, p. 334-5.

paširātu can be fem. plural of  pāširu, fem. pāširtu, “undoer, exorcist,” cf. CAD P, p. 253, s.v. pāširu A; pāširu B, “peddler” (ibid.) is only attested in Old-Assyrian and does not make much sense and pāširu C (ibid.) is attested in OB and Mari, but its meaning is unknown. Quite another option would be pāširtu, a kind of container; cf. CAD P, p. 252 s.v. *paširtu, attested in one Neo-Assyrian with the determinative GIŠ for a wooden object.

The word derives from pašāru (BR), which has the basic meaning “to loosen,” then “to release from obligations, to undo by exorcism.” It can also simply mean “to sell” (cf. CAD P, p. 236-45, s.v. pašāru; AHw III 842 “lockern, (auf)lsen”, 8) “jmd. lsen, befreien”). In omens it is used in the apodosis “people will sell their children for silver” and in astronomical diaries in the same sense: “there was famine in Babylonia; people sold (BR.ME) their children for silver” (Diary concerning SEB 38 = 274/3 BC, ADART I, p. 346-7, no. -273B ue 1).

As the context deals with people who are in distress and who are locked in the palace, we would suggest that it concerns women or people (nišū is feminine), who were captured or locked in and destined for selling into slavery. Their fate may have got a favourable turn in line B21'.

B13' + A6'; cf. B26'
DU]MU.MEŠ E.KI and A.MEŠ E.KI, “sons of Babylon”, i.e. autochthonous Babylonian citizens. In most other texts the term is written as DUMU.MEŠ E.KI.

UN.MEŠ KUR, “people of the land.” Probably people from the countryside, but it may also simply concern people of the land of Akkad in general.

lR.MEŠ LUGAL, arad šarrāni, “royal slaves”, probably is the Babylonian rendering of the Greek term laoi basilikoi, dependent people living and working on royal domains. For the politai: see BCHP 13 and BCHP 14. We see here again some overview of population groups in Babylonia: “Babylonians”, “politai” = Greek or Hellenized citizen; people of the land; royal slaves = laoi basilikoi. See: Del Monte 1997: 38-9 and 86-7; Van der Spek, Ethnicity, 2005, passim. The pāhatu apparently was the supervisor of the politai as was the šatammu of the “Babylonians”. See also Boiy 2004, 204-9.

kar-ri-i la-ab-š[- .. , “wearing mourning” (stative, pl.). Cf. CAD K, s.v. karru B, “a ragged or dirty piece of apparel worn as sign of mourning.”
A7'; cf. B6', 17'-18', 28'-29'

U]N.MEŠ š-nu-t š ina !.GAL.MEŠ LUGAL a[š-b]u-, “these people, who live in the palaces of the king”. See the general commentary.

AB-har-ri-išnapharriš?. The tablet has clearly AB, not NAP. Since AB does not make sense, we assume a scribal error, since the signs AB en NAP are nearly identical. This word is thus far not attested, but we assume that it is the adverbial form derived from the substantive napharu, “all, whole, totality”, meaning “all together.”

nāșiru, “clamor, wailing,” CAD N II 48b.

SAR-hu d[UTU ...= niphu d[Šamaš = the rising of the Sun. cf. CAD N2, p. 242, s.v. niphu A, “rising (of celestial bodies)”, especially of the sun.

uš-te !-mi-iq-qu-: From: šutēmuqu, “to pray, supplicate” (CAD Š III, p. 400).

EN.NUN š LUGAL, mașșartu ša šarri, “the garrisson of the king.” The diaries make more often mention of this garrison, which was perhaps instituted after the Parthian conquest. In September  127 BC Timarchos, the garrison commander (lGAL EN.NUN), arrived in Babylon with troops from Media (AD III, p. 254-5, no. -126: 7'). Cf. also AD III, p. 284, no. -123A: r6'-7', where it is recorded that the garrison commander was murdered (28 IV SEB 188 = 27 July 124 BC).

-ša-an-nu-: D-stem (šunn) of šan B (CAD Š1, 403, 4. “to change (trans.), to alter” 5. (with ţēmu, libbu) “to change one's mind, to put confusion into one's mind, drive someone insane”. The verb is plural; it is unclear who the subject is.

i. The i is problematic. It is an interjection, “let us”, usually in combination with a verb in the first person singular (CAD I/J, p. 1, s.v. i). It may be an error for i-<na> or one should assume that ina was assimilated to the first consonant of the second word, like in illibbi = ina libbi.

GALGA HU[L-u]t?-tim, milik lemuttim, “evil plan”. Cf. Lie, Sargon, 66. The ideogram GALGA (GAxGAR) renders the verb malāku, “to give advice, to ponder, to deliberate” etc. (cf. CAD M1, 154) or the substantive milku. See CAD M II, p. 68-9, s.v. milku 2 c) “intellectual capacity, mood, spirit – referring to the mood of a country”  constructions with ušann! But the first meaning given by the CAD, “advice, instruction, order” and here “evil plan” better fits the context.

da-ba-ba!? sur-ra-a-t. dabābu, “speech, words, statement, agreement” etc. cf.CAD D p. 2 s.v. dabābu s.;  surrātu, “lies, treason”; dabāb surrāte, “treacherous talk, treasonous words”; cf CAD S, p. 409, s.v. surrātu.

a-mat kit?-ri? DG.G[A.. ..]. The signs are difficult to read. It seems to be the opposite of the two expressions before, but it may mean that words of good expectations were expressed with treacherous intent. Note that these expressions return in a positive way in B17'.

labīru has a variety of meanings. As an adjective it means “old, ancient, former” referring to buildings, cities, historical persons from remote times. It is not used for elderly people; see CAD L p. 26, s.v. labīru adj. There is also a substantive labīru, “old copy, original” of a clay tablet; see CAD L 32 s.v. labīru s.

da-ba-bu ki-[i-nu. Cf. ša ihmuțu da-ba-bi ki-i-nu Streck, Asb., 208: 11 (CAD D,  p. 2, s.v. dabābu).

iq-bu-. It is hard to establish who the subjects are.

ip-ţ?-ra-ma, strange form, possibly preterite tense of paţāru, “to release” with ventiv ending, used among other things of chains (cf. AHw II 849a). It may refer to the release of people by the opening of gates.

lGAR, šaknu, “governor”. A šakin ša šarri is mentioned a few times in the reign of Antiochus V Eupator (see BCHP 14). A šaknu of Uruk is attested once as the title of Anu-uballiţ Nikarchos in 244 BC (YOS I 52; Falkenstein 1941, p. 4-5 [read: GAR-nu, not š-nu; cf. Doty 1977, p. 21-22]). Finally a šaknu is mentioned in chronicle BCHP 9 (ABC 12) : 7' without context, but probably referring to Babylon: Esagila is mentioned in the next line. It is difficult to decide what the office was. It probably was a kind of city governor, possibly identical with the pahatu, in any case a representative of the king. The context of this chronicle is very unclear.

ana ba-ki. The geese are probably destined for a lamentation ritual. Cf. CAD B, s.v. bak, “to wail, to mourn” also regarding rituals for dead persons.

m?x]x-'?-nu. Probably a personal name, possibly also mentioned in A18', although the traces suggest a different spelling: m?x]x-'?-a?-nu. It is tempting to see in this name an alternative writing of a personal name mentioned in astronomical diary AD III, p. 312, no. -119C 12':

 ]-x-na-a A š mBa-ga-a-a-'-š /š ana\ muh-hi 4 lGAL ERN-nimeš mUr-ra-ah?? lGAL -qa TA lGAL ERN-ni[meš ....,

“[...]-nā, son of Bagayasha, who is in charge of the four generals and Urrahšu, the general, (one) from the generals [...”.

Both persons may be subsumed in A13': “he and his generals with him.” “These generals” are also mentioned in B4'. Lines A11'- A18' describe how this son of Bagayasha enters Babylon, makes a lot of offerings among other places before the statue of the king  and departs again to is camp.

UZ.TUR.MUŠEN šu-ku-u[l-ti . CAD Š III, p. 230 b. s.v. šūkultu B fattening shed(?). Said of sheep. Sheep of the fattening shed. Here apparently ducks of the fattening shed.

ţu-ub lb-bi ina KUR [] UN.MEŠ GAR, “Joy of heart was established in the land and among the people” is a well known element in omen apodoses.

as-ra-a-t u pa-ši-ra-[a-t. See A5'.

šu- u lGAL.ERN.MEŠ-š KI-š, “He and his generals with him.” See comments on A11'.

D.MEŠ. May represent bantu, “beautiful” (adjective plural) or the verb epēšu, “they made, the performed”, used for performing sacrifices. This may be the case here.

š GIM -[şur-t] lIa-'a-man-nuki. For offerings and rituals in the Greek fashion: see A15' and commentary at BCHP 6: obv. 6'-7'.

PAD!.INNIN ana dEN. The sign PAD looks a bit abortive as the first wedge looks more like an horizontal wedge than a Winkelhaken, but this is also the case in B24'

GUB.M]EŠ.niš-š, uštezzizuniššu, see for the same expression B30'. Of the sign MEŠ the lower part of the vertical wedge and traces of the oblique wedges are preserved, exactly as in line B30'. For a syllabic writing see AD III, p. 254, no. -126A r.1' (ul-te-zi-zu-ni-š) and p. 256, no -126B r.6' (ul]-te-zi-zu-ni-š). Cf. AHw I, p. 410, s.v. izuzzu Š I. 8) “(Opfertier) aufstellen.” Cf. Racc. 24, 8; 10, 14; 20, 6. The functions of the one who provides the offering animal (GUB, šuzzuzu), in later texts often the šatammu and the kiništu of the Babylonians, and the one who performs the offering (D, epēšu), usually some high official, are always clearly distinguished.

B22', 23'
For references to the “Sikilla Gate, the Great Gate of Esagila” commentary at BCHP 2: 9'.

ina IGI ALAM LUGAL. “The statue of the king” may have been used for ceremonial purposes. It can be used as evidence for the existence of a kind of ruler cult under the Parthians. For the latest discussion of Seleucid ruler cult in Babylon, see the commentary on BCHP 12 (= ABC 13b).

[...lGAL] /ERN.MEŠ KUR URI.KI\ lE.KI is restored on the basis of line A20'

m]a?-'-du ina kin-şi-š ik-mi-i-š ana  i-di [..... š is written over a small hole in the tablet. The sentence is difficult to understand. One would expect ik-mi-is, “on his knees he bowed down” (cf. CAD K, p. 375, s.v. kimșu, 1 b c'), but this is definitely not written. Hence, the verb kam, “to capture, to defeat; to ensnare (in transferred meanings)”; cf. CAD K p. 128-131, s.v. kam. The subject is probably the person who performed offerings and the knees may refer to his own knees, or to the knees, shins or calves of the offering animal.

..] x -'-a-nu. See comments on A11'.

[lš].tam .sag.gl 5 la.meš E.ki lpa-hat E.ki 5-ta l[ pu-li-te-e (///)
This phrase is again good evidence for the theory that in Babylon two political communities lived side by side: the Babylonians, headed by the šatammu, and the politai (Greek or Hellenized citizens), under the control of the pāhatu (“governor, epistates). See Van der Spek 1986, 45-68; 1987; Del Monte 1997, 86-7; Boiy 2004, 193-214. The phrase may concern a delegation of six persons of both communities who were summoned by the general of Babylonia and then returned. Or the general himself also returned (GUR). This general then gave orders that Parthian troops were led into the garrison “with him”, which would mean that this general was also in the garrison.

GUR and GUR-ra are both singular verbal forms, the second with ventiv case ending. In the second case, however, the subject is pulitē (politai) is plural.

A19', B28'
ERN-ni Su-bir4ki, “Subarian troops.” Subartu is an old geographical name for people or a region in the North. In Assyrian royal inscriptions it is used for lands far to the North, when for instance Esarhaddon calls himself “king of Subartu”  in a range of other archaic geographical names for far-away lands: “king of Subartu, Amurru, Gutium, the outstretched lands of Hatti, [...], king of the kings of Dilmun, Makan and Meluhha, king of the four Quarters of the World” (Borger 1956, p. 80, 53 AsBbA:27-29).

Esarhaddon expresses here the notion that he was a universal ruler, that he reigned over regions far to the North (Subartu), West (Amurru), East (Gutium) and South (Meluhha). In Neo-Babylonian texts the name Subartu is often used as a pejorative for Assyria, as in Nabonid's Babylon Stela, Schaudig 2001, p. 516+523, no. 3.3 I 35' (LUGAL Su-bir4ki) and p. 516+523, no. 3.3 II 18' (DINGIR KUR Su-bir4ki). In omen texts it also represents “the North”, especially Assyria (Koch-Westenholz 1995: 104-112; Van der Spek 2003: 293). In Astronomical Diary AD III, p. 371, no. –107C rev. 16' it is stated that on 14 March 107 BC  “a certain Subaraean, who had been made representative of Orodes, the chief controller? (rab kumarri) of the temples and all [...]s, arrived from Media in Babylon.”  It seems likely that Subarian in these contexts represents Parthians, who came from Hyrcania on the Caspian Sea.

The Bagayasha Chronicle, fragment B. Photo Bert van der Spek. BCHP 18: Bagayasha Chronicle, fragment B
(British Museum).

20 šu-rib?-t is-suh. šuribtu or šurubtu means “terror”; cf. CAD Š III, p. 344, s.v. šuribtu. That does not make sense here. Perhaps it is a verbal adjective from erēbu Š and would refer to twenty people (nišū (fem.)) who were just brought into the garrison (cf. šuriba)  and were now removed and deported. But this must remain speculation.

A20' cf. A23' and B31'
URU š]-INIM-dIM, “the city Ša-pī-Adad”. This represents the name of a hitherto unknown village or city Ša-pī-Adad  in analogy with Ša-pī-Bēl; cf. Zadok 1985, p. 287.

iş-bat KASKAL. The subject of the verb, işbat harranu, will be the same as the subject of the verbs ušerib and issuh in B27' and the man in question probably is the general of Akkad, named [PNxx]-a'-nu, son of Bagayasha.

lGAL.ERN.MEŠ KUR URI.KI, “The general of Babylonia”. The fuller title is: “The general of Babylonia who is in charge of the four generals”. See comments at B4' and B11'.

A21', B2'
.. .. .. ..] /m\ Ba-a-a-ga-š-a UD?.DU?.MEŠ. Suggested restorations: “to / at the command of (the son of)] Bagayasha they went out.

d.kur-ri-tum d.sur-ri-tum u DINGIR.MEŠ URU š-K[A-dIM. For the goddesses Ekurritu and Esurritu being mentioned together see Cavigneaux 1981, p. 98-99, line 240 (d-kur-ri-tum) and line 241 (d-su-ri-tum). The reference we owe to W.G. Lambert. It now appears that these goddesses were important in the city of Ša-pī-Adad.

lNUN?, “the prince.” If read correctly it will refer to Bagayasha or his son. The word is often used for high officials, like Xanthippos in BCHP 11

The Bagayasha Chronicle, edge. Photo Bert van der Spek. BCHP 18: Bagayasha Chronicle, fragment B, edge
(British Museum).

..]x d?Na?-bi?-um seems to be the end of a personal name with the theophoric ending -Nab. The syllabic writing is exceptional. 

iš-šal. cf. CAD Š I, p. 282, s.v. šlu IV, “to be questioned, to be called to account.”

šu- a-na de-ke-e ERN-ni-š. Probably referring to levying of troops in Babylonia by the general of Babylonia.

Though few traces survive, it looks as though Bagayasha, who had gone to Borsippa (21'-22') now went to Babylon. The beginning of this line may be B2' where Bagayasha is mentioned.

x x-' ia šu-bi-i. It is uncertain whether ia belongs to the end of the preceding word or is the beginning of jašub. šu-bi-i: pl. of šub = ašibu, “battering ram”. Cf. CAD A2, p. 428, s.v. ašibu. Or:  ia-šu-bi-i: jašub = ašubu = = ašibu (CAD A II, p. 428) = šub = battering ram. x x-' probably constitutes the end of a plural verbal form.

to part five (summary of events)

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